A Quiet Place: Kathryn Ryan


Kathryn Ryan is one of Warrnambool’s most celebrated visual artists. Following on from her graduation from Deakin University in 1989, Kathryn proved to be as hard working as she was talented, and has since produced many hundreds of paintings depicting the lands of her childhood in the South West.

Kathryn’s paintings are quietly atmospheric, often depicting solitary trees standing in the haze of misty farms and paddocks. The recurring motif of diffused light evokes a sense of memory and longing, as of a place that we recall but can’t quite reach.

For much of her practice, her inspiration came from “…my years of growing up on a farm in the Western District of Victoria, where cypress trees are prominent, as is, a strong sense of space and distance. From this memory source, my intention was to evoke a calm sense of solitude and a quiet contemplative space”.

There is a sense of isolation and solitude in Ryan’s work that, rather than being a representation of loneliness or some bleak despair, is an acknowledgment of her intense relationship to the calm, cool, misty places of her childhood farmland. Growing up in the dynamic activity of a family of twelve possibly contributes to Ryan’s desire to create ethereal, quiet spaces. “Our farm on Vickers Road, Panmure and the surrounding district is the landscape that evokes a strong sense of familiarity and an intimate knowledge, it holds something for me, it moves me. There is a mood and atmosphere, something that takes me beyond or elevates me in some way, it holds more than the view I see”.

Ryan expresses a strong connection to the landscape and through her drawings and paintings revisits it continually, but never includes herself (or any other figure). She places the viewer in her place, we are allowed to view her landscape with her. We can look at, gaze upon, admire what she sees, there is no need to see her in it. “Totally surrounded by light, space, horizon and a quiet stillness, you are brought closer to yourself, there are no distractions, you are aware of your own presence”.