Follow by Email

Thursday, November 5, 2009

An Artist on the River


Artist Katie Roberts by the Yarra River at Warburton.
Photo by Emma Belyea 2009

If you see an artist down by the river, with a canvas or a big roll of paper, it might just be Katie Roberts. She has been mapping its course, making art along the Yarra River, or Birrarung to use its traditional name, for nearly four years now.

Katie Roberts has lived in Melbourne near the Yarra River for over 25 years. She has always been aware of the river's presence snaking its way slowing and silently through Melbourne.

Deciding to be an artist at age four, while living in England, Katie Roberts has been dedicated to that dream ever since. She studied Painting and Drawing at RMIT University, receiving Honours in 2000. Following this, she when on to start a community art gallery in Northcote in 2001. Now 36, Katie Roberts works from her studio at home and sometimes on the banks on the river itself.

Kate Roberts in her home studio 2008.
Photo by Emma Belyea 2008

Katie felt compelled to return to physical mediums of ink and oils and the pleasure of 'making a mess' with materials, after completing her Masters of Fine Art in 2006, which focused on projection installations and light as a medium. After walking along the river one morning the idea of the Yarra Series emerged, a theme she felt had important personal and community resonance. "Over the last few years there has been a great awareness and appreciation of the river and its place at the heart of Melbourne."

A major exhibition at Montsalvat will show the whole body of work. It will open on Sunday 20th December 3-5pm and will continue through January 2010.

Katie Roberts at the Upper Yarra Arts Centre in Warburton
Photo by Emma Belyea 2009

Katie Roberts’ drawings and works on paper were at the Upper Yarra Arts Centre in Warburton in an exhibition entitled The Yarra Story –Drawing from the Birrarung through October. This show was part of a series of exhibitions on this subject, planned for venues along
the river. This chapter of the exhibitions showed the works on paper from the series.

These ink, pastel and pencil pieces explore the river and its layered history, as it winds its way through Melbourne’s urban and natural surrounds. “The Yarra holds a special place in the heart of Melbourne. Even if most people are not unconscious of it all the time, it is central to our lives, and our history” Katie says.

Katie Roberts has developed distinctive map like technique, for works on paper, that evoke the subtleties of satellite images and old documents. They raise ideas about the way maps, deeds and other documents have been imposed on one culture by another. The catchment of the Yarra River, which includes most of the area around Melbourne, is the traditional land of the Wurundjeri People, part of the Kulin Nation. Indigenous people are custodians of the land, a concept which challenges Western ideas of land ownership.

Katie Roberts Division 2006
Ink, pastel, collage mixed media on paper.

The artist is responding to both the history and the contemporary context, her works include modern and historical references, text and images. A juxtaposition that reflects her own sense of the layers of stories, buildings and ghosts of the past. One she is very aware of after years of research , reflection and 'listening' to the landscape.

“I like to work out in the environment, so I can incorporate a deep sense of place into the piece” says Katie Roberts.

By walking along the Birrarung and working within our environment Katie seems to have a real and deep feeling for this land, one that resonates strongly within these highly original works.

(Please contact me if you wish to publish any of this article)