Artist of the Week

Orla Kane

April 9, 2024

Orla Kane (B.1999) is a Scottish artist based in Glasgow. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art in 2021 before attending the Royal Drawing School's Intensive Term in 2022. Recent solo shows include Fields Adrift, Blue Shop Gallery, 2024, Star Face, Boardroom Committee Room, Glasgow, 2023 and Daisy Chains, Stallan-Brand, Glasgow, 2022 as well as being selected for 130 Years of Scottish Society of Artist's Annual Show at the Royal Scottish Academy, 2022-23.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

I’m an artist based in Glasgow, I grew up in the Scottish Borders and moved to Glasgow in 2017. I graduated from the art school here (The Glasgow School of Art) in 2021 and ever since I have been balancing my studio practice alongside working a 9-5.

Violet Hour | 2024 | Colored pencil on paper | 24 x 23.5cm

How would you describe your practice?

Currently I predominantly draw with coloured pencils and soft pastels and I have also been working on small oil paintings on boards, but I imagine I will probably be working on them for quite some time until they’re done. Over the past year I have tried to reverse my way of working, so I try to think about painting in the same way I would draw or layer colours in pencil on paper the same way I’d maybe approach an oil painting. I’m quite obsessive with making, up until very recently I have had a small studio in my flat and basically all my time gets poured into drawing–which is a good and bad thing I suppose! For the first time in a while when I look back to the past year, I feel like my practice feels familiar and my own. I have been used to changing things up so frequently I was worried for a while that my art didn’t feel like it came from me.

What does your process look like?

My process is quite habitual, I draw more or less every day and paint a couple of times a week. I have a similar way of approaching drawing and painting, both are very intuitive, starting off with marks in various colours and responding to them over a period time with new layers and then scraping or cutting back and painting over. I use an eraser just as much as a pencil when it comes to drawing, I feel like it creates soft hues and is lovely to layer over with new marks and colours.

Volcano | 2023 | Colored pencil on paper | 23 .5 x 21cm

Your artistic process involves returning to and reworking pieces. Knowing that your practice is so intertwined with memory, what meaning does this act of revisitation hold for you?

I think there is something so intangible about a memory, it is ingrained in you and over time what it means to you changes or you can change with it. I think my work, especially my drawings hold that distinct quality – you can’t quite place how they came to be or why they are the way they are.

I think because I work at such a fast pace, just plotting lines and marks and then putting them in a pile and then rediscovering these markes I made- it could have been sitting there for a few days or months but to see it again and then suddenly know how to make sense of it or to erase it back to faint ghost lines really plays into how my perception of memory guides my process and how I get to these abstract layers to build images.

I rarely sit with a piece or have them on display in my studio once the work is finished. It usually gets popped away in a folder straightaway, but when I do go through phases of looking back at work or documenting it, I think there is something special about looking at the layers of marks and colours and unsure, myself, of how I got to this end point and I kind of love that I feel a bit of an outsider to my work too.

Shell of an Echo | 2023 | Soft pastel, crayon, cotton threading a colored pencil on paper | 45 x 71cm

Symbols such as hearts, stars, moons, and flowers are recurrent in your work. What about these motifs resonates with you most?

I have always been interested in shapes functioning as multiple symbols within a composition. Such as a moon shape is just a moon when drawn in a sky, but lopsided in the foreground creates a pool of water or a crest between two hill peaks resembles a heart and so forth. I have just been playing with finding these symbols within the initial marks I lay down, almost like finding constellations within my work. I feel like the symbols in both how they reoccur in my work but also their static presence within my compositions are almost characters in my imagined landscapes, witnessing their worlds shifting around them.

The landscapes in your work are occasionally intercepted or interrupted by geometric shapes. What role do these forms serve?

I think of these rigid structures, often grids, as a plan in some ways to map out shapes and organise a composition but also as part of the work’s narrative. To me these shapes resemble electric fences or windows, they ground my work as landscapes and divide space so you can peer into the work giving depth to my worlds that I create.

Shadow Fayre | 2023 | Colored pencil on paper | 24 x 21cm 

Describe your current studio or workspace.

For nearly a year I have been working from home, which is very handy–no commute when I fancy making anything! I think due to working and living in this space I have definitely prioritised drawing over painting during this time.

Although there have been lovely aspects to working at home, it is difficult to contain the messiness of art and my living space. But I have just moved into a studio space in the centre of Glasgow with my lovely friend Joanna Holisz who is a painter and writer.

Kane’s studio

Who are some of your favorite artists?

This is such a tricky question! But- artists works I absolutely adore are Clare Grill, Richard Tuttle, Hayley Barker, Hilma af Klint, Penny Davenport, Bridget Riley and Harald Sohlberg.

What was the last exhibition or show you saw that stuck out to you?

There’s two I can’t pick between – Last year I managed to catch Matisse: The Red Studio which was such a dream to see in person alongside all these other beautiful paintings and ceramics from the red studio in the flesh. Also Hilma af Klint at Tate Modern, I was in such a rush to get my train back to Glasgow I had to whizz around the exhibition in probably under half an hour.

Freckle in a field | 2023 | Soft pastel and colored pencil on paper | 24.5 x 21.5cm

Any recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on?

I have recently had my first solo show in London with Blue Shop Gallery in Brixton which was such a whirlwind in the loveliest way possible. I have a couple of other projects in the works, one of which is a very exciting collaboration with an embroidery studio, where we are reimagining some of my work into textiles.

Interview conducted and edited by Ellie Schrader. Images courtesy of Orla Kane.