Betsey Kilpatrick grew up in the wilds of Ireland and Scotland, visiting relatives in these habitats of untamed beauty. During this time in her youth, Betsey was watching the way the water moved, how the clouds formed, and how the paintbrush could replicate. She went on to study at the prestigious RCA in London, in which she gained a Master’s degree in painting, but also gained an acute appreciation of the sharing of ideas between her peers, discussing in length the inner workings of art. This is eminently visible in her artistic process, which as a consequence of Covid has been slowed down, but is now greatly appreciated by the artist to be a time in which she can freely express herself and enjoy the art making itself. This calmness is evident in the work she produces, which displays moments that can be linked to the natural environment that she grew up with. The pieces lie at the point in between order and chaos, a balance upon which nature is founded, showing the movement of water in the form of swirls and curls.
SG: Could you just tell us a little bit about your artistic journey and how you got to where you are now as an artist?
BK: I started when I did my BA in painting at the Wimbledon College of Art. After completing that, I had a break for a couple of years. I was working in London, had a studio and continued to like slowly make work, but then I got accepted into the Royal College of Art for a MA in Painting. I was then able to really progress my work, as a consequence of being around other students again, which I found really helpful. I’ve gone through so many different styles, which has been really good for me as it’s kept me interested!
SG: The idea of like going to the RCA and having other ideas and people around, acting as a catalyst for creativity, and in doing so form a kind of collaboration, which of course is a core principal of SuperGlue. What does collaboration offer do you think, and what do you think you can gain from working with other?
BK: I think it’s really important. To able to get artists to have their works talking to each other, like nonverbally as well as verbally. I think it helps everyone, especially for inspiration. Listening to artists and hearing other people’s ideas and what they’re thinking at the moment serves as a great source of inspiration. Obviously in this last year, collaboration has been pretty hard considering, which is a shame.
SG: How has the last year affected you as an artist? Do you think your practice has changed as a consequence of the lockdowns?
BK: I think I slowed down the pace of making, which actually has been good for me. I felt no pressure to create. I didn’t have things lined up in the pipeline, shows etc., so I was just able to come in and just make whatever I felt like and actually a few surprises happened. I was quite pleased with just having that time. During lockdown I was also reading a book by the astronomical scientist, Frank White. I found that really interesting as in the first lockdown, I was watching so many space videos and nature videos because I felt like that’s all I wanted to watch. I didn’t want to watch anything that would freak me out even more. I felt like it kind of relates to my work because my work is abstract, but not completely abstract, existing in a boundary in between.
SG: Yes, and being able to appreciate the process of making, slowing everything down. When you create your art, do you feel as though you can appreciate the actual process of making, rather than just the end product?
BK: The process is definitely the enjoyable bit and that’s why I think, especially in the way that I’m making now. When I start painting, it’s quite fluid and quick, then I just will add more colors. I don’t overthink it and I don’t really know how it’s going to turn out. I don’t like try and force anything. I work quite instinctively and I don’t plan; I don’t do too many pre-sketches, so it’s all about the moment, having surprises, making mistakes, and learning new things. Sometimes I feel strongly like I don’t like something or I do, but it’s not as important.
SG: I like the idea of kind of living in the moment because you know, your pieces are so charged with movement, much like the movement of water, or some kind of natural entropy where it looks like things could or might happen, at this point of intersection
BK: Yeah, I think that there is a balance between order and chaos. Chaos is really relevant for me wanting to make work which has a theme or an essence of nature. I feel like that’s quite reflective of nature because it is sometimes quite ordered and sometimes it’s completely chaotic and, you know, crazy. I think maybe people are drawn to nature during a stressful time, like a pandemic, that’s sort of like a place where they can go to relax, in contrast to like city life. Growing up I spent a lot of time in nature. My grandparents lived in Ireland and Scotland, so I spent a lot of time in nature, and for me it’s my happy place. I feel like I try and replicate that feeling through painting. For me, painting is more Zen like, I’m not like stressed and angry. I feel like it’s relaxing because I can come back to myself and slow down. With regards to the form, I feel like if I’m like capturing an essence of movement or like trying to get a water like feeling, I feel the swirls are more natural for me. I’ve never been somebody to like draw straight lines, so I don’t know why. I’m definitely like a curly swirly person.
SG: How do you relate to glue?
BK: I see it as a binder. I see it as something that is quite fixing in how it will hold together. I actually really like that, you know, talking about collectivity and collaboration. I think it’s really nice and where she is.
Keep it glued.