African artist Kate Conway exhibiting in Eastbourne
Sussex based artist Kate Conway is showing her work in the Eastbourne Festival Open Studios this year
You were born in Zimbabwe, what brought you to England?
I came to the UK initially for one year, but during that year things in Zimbabwe became very unstable and as I had a very young family and I had British citizenship, I thought it best to stay here. I try to get home every year as a large part of my heart remains in Africa!
What were your earliest creative influences?
My mother is an artist, her work was hugely popular in Zimbabwe, and she was Curator of the National Gallery there for a time, so I had art and artists of all nationalities in my life from day one! I had a private art tutor from the age of 8 whom I worked with until I was in my mid-20s. She had trained in Paris and Switzerland under people like Salvador Dali. She remains a huge influence to this day.
How did your artistic education effect your creative style?
At university I was told to loosen up, let go of detail and make art that would ‘shock’. I hated that, it stifled my creativity and so they told me to quit Fine Art and do Illustration! I had to find a way forward, which I did in drawing.
One of my BA tutors was a Nigerian artist who was doing his PhD. His work resonated with me and he became my mentor. I worked with him in his studio in Cambridge for a couple of weeks and the diversity of his practice, whilst staying true to his personal experience, helped me find my own trajectory. He taught me not to hesitate or over-think, and to keep going when a piece is not going according to plan!
What do you feel you are trying to accomplish with your art?
I spent years making political art, and saw myself as a political activist telling the world about the atrocities taking place back home and the suffering of the Zimbabwean people… it was hard to present that narrative with sensitivity, but I found a way though my ‘Zimbabwe Series’. I blended images I had taken in Africa of animal skulls rotting in the sun, and ancient stone ruins, to represent something once proud and beautiful, now broken and on its knees… a direct reference to the sad demise of a country and its people. Since my MA in 2011 my more serious work has been about displacement, exile, resettlement and loss.
What are your plans as an artist for the future?
I would like to exhibit back home in Zimbabwe again, but I would probably be arrested for my political work, as other artists have been, so I am waiting until the time is right. For now, most of my creativity goes into teaching for both adults and children. I will be exhibiting alongside my students in the Eastbourne Festival Open Studios this year, and there are plans for a permanent ongoing show at a local restaurant in town.
Kate lives in East Sussex and has a Masters degree in Fine Art, B.A (Hons) in Fine Art, FdA in Fine Art Contemporary Practice, Foundation Art Diploma, Certificate in Art & Design and a City and Guilds Certificate in teaching.