Artist Interview: Kerri Devine
Canterburian artist Kerri Devine uses photography to show the fragility and strength of nature. We talked to her prior to the opening on her new exhibition 'The Naturalist's Daughter':
Tell us a bit about yourself: how did you get started in photography and what kind of background did you come from?
I feel like I was always looking for a way to express something creatively, but I didn’t know what my medium was. Growing up I had loved music and creative writing but had never thought I could be a visual artist.
I started getting interested in photography at around 19 or 20, as it seemed like something I could do that was artistic and I wouldn’t be hampered by my lack of drawing skills! My partner bought me my first SLR camera for my 21st birthday and I pretty much immediately enrolled in a fine art photography class.
Your works have a nostalgia Victorian feel to them. What inspired you?
This series does have a Victorian feel to it, but it wasn’t intentional. I have been a collector of natural ephemera forever. I guess I never grew out of that phase children have where they see a nest or a feather and bring it home. This little collection of worn and imperfect things really spoke to me about the transience of life, but also it seemed to be saying something about acceptance. The tree doesn’t wish to be anything other than what it is; it spends no time comparing itself to its neighbour. I felt like if I paid attention to nature, it would show me a better way to live. And then I wondered if I could share that paradoxical beauty with others.
You’ve previously done screen printed work, what made you focus on photography?
I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with screen printing! My perfectionist tendencies got in the way a lot. I was always worried about the ink not printing perfectly. I used to print on linen, so mistakes were quite costly. I am going to try it again in the future, but this time I want to print onto paper and maybe combine it with other mediums into a mixed media artwork. I think that will work better for me as that kind of art is closer to my aesthetic.
If you could collaborate with any artist, dead or alive who would you choose to work alongside?
Oh gosh, this is a tough one! I have a deep love of words, and so I would probably choose the poet Mary Oliver who has been a huge inspiration to me.
There’s a certain level of vulnerability in sharing your art with others, particularly online. Do you worry about people judging you and how do you handle negative feedback/comments?
I think that making art and sharing it with even one person is a vulnerable act. You are kind of saying, “Here’s my Soul . . . what do you think?” When you are just starting to make things, I think you are really looking for validation a lot more, and so any criticism then could really stop you in your tracks. It can be fatal. I look at it in a different way now. My job is to make something authentic to me, and that is all. It doesn’t matter how it is received. It matters that I made something absolutely true and authentic to me. For example in this series, there are skulls in quite a few of the images and that is quite polarizing for some people. I understand not everyone likes that, and that’s totally fine with me. There’s this great quote by Arnold Schoenberg that says, “If it is art, it is not for all. And if it is for all, it is not art.” That resonates with me. I haven’t had any negative feedback at this point, but I hope I would remember what matters and stay the course.
If your five-year-old self suddenly found themselves inhabiting your current body, what would your five-year-old self do first?
Well firstly, I would have trouble even finishing typing this because she would strip me of most of my clothes and haul me outside immediately! I barely remember being indoors at that age. I was lucky enough at that time to be living in the islands, so I spent pretty much every minute up a tree, making grass huts down the back of the house, or picking tropical fruit on my travels around the neighbourhood. I feel like you’re almost part of the earth at that age. You haven’t made the break from nature yet. I miss that feeling.
And finally, the most important question of the day: pineapple on pizza?