Interview with Kyle Hughes-Odgers by Cat Rabbit August 01 2018

Kyle in his studio. Photo taken by Chad Peacock.

Kyle Hughes-Odgers is an Australian artist currently based in Perth, Western Australia. His work focuses on colour, spatial balance and movement – contrasted by complex narratives that combine ideas of nature, the built environment, human behaviour and abstraction.

From bold public artwork to beautiful and gentle books for children, Kyle has worked on a variety of projects and each endeavour sees him exploring new ideas, directions and inspiring colour combinations.

Ahead of his new show for Outré Gallery titled Fever Dream, super fan and friend Cat Rabbit interviewed Kyle about quilts, karaoke and his zero tolerance approach to excess stuff.

Tell me all about your upcoming show for Outré Gallery!

I have a collection of smaller works on wooden panels. Some are individual and some are made up of multiple panels of 12 or 16 squares which combine to make one work. I like working this way on smaller artworks as I can play with many different ideas on one final outcome.

You’re a Perth person through and through, but I hear you lately have a fascination for Tassie! Tell me what draws you to the Apple Isle and how place influences your work in general.

I love Perth in Autumn and Spring but hate the summer. It's way too hot. I've been trying to get over to Tassie as much as I can and of recent years want to live there every February so my eyes don't dry in my head back in Perth. I love the climate and plant life / landscapes of Tasmania. Also the animals are different to WA and I don't need to wear sunglasses at lunchtime.

You and I have chatted about quilts before, and how they can tell a powerful story in small blocks. Can you elaborate on how this is reflected in your recent work?

I didn't realise what was happening in the quilting world before speaking with you and also an ex-girlfriend trolls me sometimes on social media saying I should make quilts. Pattern, Folklore, multiple panels to make up a larger narrative. What's not to like? I think I wouldn't survive as a quilter though, as I don't see the point in drinking tea, and I don't like perfectly measured lines or rules. But I could definitely go to the pub with quilters and have a good time.

Wave Length. Acrylic on board.

Your work spans so many applications – from giant walls to children’s books – it’s wonderful! Do you work on a project by project basis – just busting one thing out and going on to the next – or do you work on little bits at a time? How do you manage your time? Asking for a friend.  

I'm usually working on multiple things at once, working everyday on studio paintings in between painting on large walls or planning/proposals for public artwork, or other projects I find interesting to work on. The larger public artwork usually takes 6 months to 1-2 years of plan making and formalities, so I can work my studio around these chunks of installation time and travel. I manage my time by looking at my calendar everyday, making lists, feeling worried then doing the work and it's okay.

As someone who makes things from lots of different materials, I often find myself working in amongst a nest of hoarded knick knacks. Are you a minimalist or a maximalist? What’s your policy on mementos and inspiring bric a brac?

Minimalist 100%. I just get the material I need for that project and feel annoyed if I have waste or extra after the project. I have been sharing a space the last few months and my friend has an area for 'cool stuff' for when people visit the studio. It's really cool and has interesting things he has collected over the years. All I had to contribute was an old bottle and a small piece of concrete (10cm x 6cm) with paint drips on it from when I painted the Perth Airport. I tend to keep things like that – small pieces of junk that I can easily put in my pocket. I have a really nice handful of red dirt I took when I completed a project in Karratha last month and an old spindle of thread from an abandoned textile factory in Berlin. 

Would you ever consider karaoke, and if so what would be your signature tune?

Karaoke is my nightmare. In Japan I had to go because it would have been really rude not to go along with my Japanese friend. His group of friends obviously practise and it meant a lot to them. I choose For Whom the Bell Tolls from the album Ride the Lightning by Metallica because that song is amazing but the intro goes for about 2 mins. So after standing there awkwardly for that long, the words finally start. I sang about half of it, then just read the last half like a spoken word performance. Apart from this, I had a really good time in Japan.

Dream State Three. Acrylic on board.

What is your favourite motivational snack?

If I'm painting walls I feel I can justify having elaborate cakes and dessert treats in the afternoon with my coffee. I like the juxtaposition of being covered in paint then eating a delicate masterpiece of sugar.

Normal studio days, coffee is my snack.

What things are you finding inspirational at the moment? 

Nature. Planning trips to go see amazing landscapes. People always say it, but the colour balance in the natural world is really on point.

Tell me a story. 

When I was 5 I lived on the Solomon Islands with my family and I was playing in the local creek at the end of my street. One of the bad kids from my neighbourhood was hiding behind the trees while I was in the creek with my brothers. He started throwing rocks in the air over the trees into the creek. I looked up at the wrong time and a rock hit me in the face. I remember looking down and seeing blood in the creek and feeling my face all wet. My brothers looked really freaked out and when I saw how freaked out they were then I felt a lot of pain. We rushed back home and my head was covered in blood. Before we went to the hospital my mum drove me around to the kids house that threw the rock and went nuts at his mum.  "Look what your son did!" I was still covered in blood. She was screaming and I was screaming in pain. We then rushed to the hospital and I had to get stitches. The doctor said if it was any higher, even 1mm, I would have lost my eye. Good thing that kid was terrible at throwing rocks because I love having that eye.

Thank you to Cat Rabbit for this delightful interview! And we really look forward to Kyle's show.

Fever Dream by Kyle Hughes-Odgers
24 August – 2 September
Opening night 24 August
Facebook Event