The Waterfall Way Gallery in Dorrigo is currently hosting an exhibition of oil paintings by Rudy Kistler. Originally from the USA, Rudy and his wife, fellow artist Konatsu Honda, have now settled on the Dorrrigo Plateau. Waterfall Way Gallery is delighted to welcome them both to Dorrigo, and to exhibit Rudy’s work in November.
Join Rudy and Konatsu at an exhibition party at 5.30pm this Wednesday, 31 October, at Waterfall Way Gallery, 57 Hickory Street. Enjoy light refreshments while chatting with the artists. The exhibition also includes works by another Dorrigo artist, Peter Mortimore.
The Gallery is run by the Dorrigo Plateau Music School, Inc., a not-for-profit association that fosters music education on the Plateau. The School’s founder and President, local pianist Sheila Guymer, interviewed Rudy to find out more about his story and what inspires him.
Tell us about your exhibition at Waterfall Way Gallery. It includes over thirty paintings in oils, with both outdoor and indoor scenes.
For the past 20 years I’ve primarily painted ‘en plein-air’ or ‘from life’, so my paintings are often landscapes of the places I’ve lived, or interiors that I have seen during my travels. Working from life teaches me a lot about the world and how it works, and the paintings record memories of where I’ve gone and what I’ve seen. The pictures in this exhibition were selected from paintings I’ve done over the last ten years. They include landscapes of the Goulburn and Dorrigo districts; interiors of our home where we lived in Sydney; and the occasional seascape. There are also some miniatures of wild flowers, just for a change.
At first glance, your style seems influenced by Vincent van Gogh, but is there another painter that you regard as more of an influence? What appeals to you particularly about their style?
I get it that a lot of people see similarities between my and Van Gogh’s work, because of the looser type of brush stroke, and the subject matter (interiors and landscapes). I think thick paint is so important, because it captures so much of the artist’s touch. That textural interest is what makes Van Gogh’s work so accessible to the uneducated viewer: no tricks, just recognizable yet expressionistic painting.
Direct painters like John Singer Sargent and Van Gogh especially appeal to me. Sargent’s ability to ‘draw with a brush’ is well known, and I enjoy that process. I got very interested in the old Dutch masters for a while too (such as Frans Hal, another painter whose lively spontaneity leaps off the canvas), until my wife pointed out that my colour palette was becoming too dark…
Could you tell us a bit about yourself, and your training as an artist?
It was a couple of years after graduating from high school in the USA – I’d been floating around playing in punk rock bands, working in factories in America’s Mid-West – that I finally considered studying and pursuing art as a career. After going to university in Chicago, there was no clear path to follow, so I went to Japan for three years to teach English and backpack around.
I thought that completing a Masters of Fine Arts at the National Art School in Sydney would set me up to teach art as a career, but there were no teaching posts available. So instead, I began exhibiting my artwork at different galleries in Sydney and began to profit from my art for the first time in my life.
When the Global Financial Crisis hit in 2008 and paintings stopped selling, I shifted gears and started doing 3D chalk pavement art at festivals and events. Over the last ten years, I’ve been experimenting with ephemeral art, and this has led me to do more permanent murals around Australia and the world, such as in the USA, Japan, Dubai, and Kuwait.
If you want to make money with your art, you have to remain fairly flexible, try new things, and accept challenges that may feel beyond your reach. That’s when interesting things happen.
The professional art world is a fickle arena. How do you navigate that world? What are your thoughts on current art trends?
The Art World includes everyone! You’re either a maker or a viewer. It’s important that the makers stay true to themselves and not concentrate too much on what the viewers think. This battle plays out every year at the Archibald prize, the Blake prize, etc. While I’ve put in for the big prizes in the past, I now concentrate on local prizes and exhibitions.
That’s because my aim is to be a successful painter, not a famous painter. Ten years ago I entered a 3D chalk art competition in Sydney. The organizer of the festival offered to become my agent. Since then I’ve done murals and 3D artworks as my main source of income. I’ve been the feature artist at festivals all around the world. These included in Tamworth for two years, the Parkes’ Elvis Festival for four years, Benalla’s ‘Wall to Wall’, and in Dubai, amongst others. While I don’t think I’ll ever stop painting landscapes in oil, I’m looking forward to seeing where my work with 3D and murals will take me in the future.
Tell me more about painting murals. Murals tend to be large-scale, ephemeral, situated outdoors, and often have locally topical themes, which are all very different concerns from your oil paintings. They also require engagement with a local community.
I’ve done a lot of work with Australian local councils on litter awareness and kids’ programs. The great thing about my current work is that it allows me to travel and to connect with people from a wide variety of different cultures and backgrounds. I return to my wife’s high school in Japan (Jiyu Mori no Gakuen) every year to do a 3D mural with the students there. I really enjoy that social engagement, especially with children and young adults. It’s such a formative stage of life, and I enjoy children’s immediacy and spontaneity.
Your wife, Konatsu Honda, is from Japan. Has Japanese culture influenced your artwork?
Konatsu and I spend May to September every year in Japan. We have a little cabin at Mt. Fuji where we make art. I’ve lived in Japan for over 15 years (on and off), and the country and culture have had a tremendous effect on my work. Not just the big names like Hokusai and Hiroshige, but Sesshu, Hasui Kawase, and Hiroshi Yoshida inspire my work too. I have also enjoyed making woodblock prints over the years.
You’ve recently moved to Dundurrabin, on the Dorrigo Plateau. What attracted you to living in this region?
Konatsu and I made the decision to move to the Dorrigo Plateau after driving all over NSW and not finding anywhere more enticing! When we first saw the rivers and waterfalls of this area we were reminded of Japan. We’re not beach-people: we prefer the mountains and rivers to the ocean. We also don’t like relying on air-con (in Japan we live at around 700m elevation), so the cooler climate and landscape suit us perfectly. There are also so many wonderful artists in the area who have made us feel welcome, and we are looking forward to being a part of this wonderful, creative community.
Waterfall Way Gallery is open on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and the occasional Sunday. If WWG isn’t open, pop next door to the Peter Mortimore Gallery (at 59 Hickory Street, open seven days), and ask Peter and Carolyn to show you around. The current exhibition runs until late November. Check our website, www.waterfallwaygallery.com for details of exhibitions and other events.
This Saturday, enjoy live music at Waterfall Way Gallery during the November Dorrigo Community Markets. Plus, you can chat to Rudy for 15 minutes while he paints your portrait for free!
For a previous interview with Dorrigo Plateau Music School Founder Sheila Guymer CLICK HERE