Katie Ewles had a longtime love affair with music — and then a paintbrush intervened.
A composer, vocalist, pianist, lyricist and visual artist, she’s hoping to redefine what it means to be a “creator” by “actively engaging with synergy between art forms and styles”.
Her work is now on exhibit as part of the Charman Prize at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art, the Bermuda Society of Arts Winter Members’ Show and the Annual Smalls Show at Gallery One Seventeen.
On permanent display is her massive mural outside Par-la-Ville car park; every weekend she’s at Beau Rivage Restaurant where she sings and plays piano.
Music, of course, is where it all began.
“I started as a music composition major,” said the 24-year-old, who graduated from Johns Hopkins University’s Peabody Institute in 2017. “At some point I started to delve more into art. I found composition quite frustrating on its own and I’d loved art as a kid.”
She particularly enjoyed that art allowed her to express herself more freely than her music studies did.
“[It was different] from studying composition and music — which I took as a hobby and it turned into a rigid exercise,” she said. “I picked up art to feel that freedom again and it fed into my music making. I think they very much go together for me.”
While studying at the Baltimore conservatory she was introduced to classic jazz, which further fuelled the partnership.
“It had the biggest influence on me,” she said, describing the sounds of the Forties as her “sweet spot”.
Since graduating she’s worked as a freelance artist, dividing her time between Bermuda and Maryland. In October, she held her first solo exhibit at BSoA. Called Refractions of Mankind, it explored “the human experience through paper collage”; 30 works expressed themes of “identity, nature, time, community and existentialism”.
Inspiration came from Andy Warhol, who believed that art could be created through a mechanical, repetitive process.
“While my pieces reflect the fragmentation of the individual human experience, they are also intended to reflect the fragmentation and, by extension, the coming together of individuals within a community/organisation/shared reality, etc. [In other words, they emphasise] the necessity of every piece within oneself or within society,” she said.
Her collages were created from 20,000 individual squares she worked on by candlelight through Hurricane Humberto and its aftermath.
“I spent days cutting and stamping squares,” she said. “It felt like an assembly line — all the painting, all the cutting and then assembling the pieces and transferring them to the surface. I loved it from a conceptual point; that when looking at these paintings you are only seeing about half. Half are hidden under the pieces of paper.
“It was great to work on one piece at a time, and it took the stress out of it for me. I liked that each piece doesn’t have meaning until you place it in context of all the other pieces. It’s a very mechanical process.”
She continued: “[Similarly,] a lot of times we don’t experience the full person. A lot is hidden, but it is still there whether you see it or not. I love it as a symbolism for ourselves. I look at life experience as a summation of lots of different pieces — days, hours, minutes — and how that adds up to an understanding of who we are and our experiences.”
Her art was accompanied by poetry penned as part of her creative process.
“A lot of my work is very conceptual,” she said. “I rarely write a piece of music that isn’t about something. My journals are full of what I’m thinking when I’m making my art even if it doesn’t have words. I spend a lot of time writing before I create whether it’s my music, an art concept or drawing.”
Her dream is to create a workflow that allows her to be authentic and also provides an income.
“I find that here I’m much more business-minded and I use Baltimore to help me balance that. I spend a lot of time there collaborating and that really pushes me creatively.
“I’m trying to push my vulnerability. It has been very hard for me although I find it easier with art than my music where I am much more guarded. I am formally trained so maybe it’s because I have a higher expectation of myself, but I am trying to be more vulnerable, more authentic with myself. If it flops I can take something from that but it does hurt a bit when people don’t like it. Unfortunately,all I can do is create work that is me.”
Source: Royal Gazette