In Conversation: Kayleigh Heydon

Following the successful opening of Kayleigh Heydon’s solo exhibition The Pleasure Is All Mine at Modern Times last week, it’s timely we share our recent catch up.

Read our interview for an insight into Kayleigh’s practice – from her creative beginnings assisting her dad, to how her move from the UK to Australia has influenced her creative path.

Can you tell us a bit about what led you to being an artist?

Growing up I was always my dad’s tools assistant, holding the hammer, passing the screws (very important stuff). He taught me how to make things and before I knew it, I was measuring, cutting and designing things myself. I think it was in my blood.

What is the inspiration behind this collection of work and what do you hope people take away from it? 

I want people to pay attention to their bodies, small interactions between us, and how we move in certain spaces. I’d love for people to feel more grounded and to be deliberate in their pleasure.  

In what ways does your work challenge you or change the way you think? 

I like work that talks. It’s not always on purpose… and it doesn’t always work. To me my most successful pieces are the ones where you can see 10 different scenarios happening at once.

 

 

Apply Pressure, an original painting by Kayleigh Heydon. Kayleigh's work is simultaneously abstract and narrative.

Your work is beautifully layered, and rich in colours and shapes. What does colour mean to you and how do you use it to communicate ideas in your work? 

Colour is very complex and sometimes stressful for me. Rather than working in a limited palette, I composed this new body of work using a broad spectrum of colour, with shadows and textures I hadn’t previously explored. This allowed the work to become more nuanced; I was able to create works with deeper and more intuitive intentions.

Is it difficult to know when to stop or do you know intuitively when a piece is finished? And do you sometimes surprise yourself with the end result? 

It’s definitely intuitive. Sometimes I like to give my work space, sometimes because the work needs it, and other times because I get bored. I will often come back to works and paint over them three of four times before I’m happy with them.

Kayleigh fills the canvas with a rich tapestry of shape and colour that interact to create a distinct sense of energy and joie de vivre.

What does a typical day look like for you?

No matter what I have on for the day, I like to get up early and have a slow morning.

I generally get ready, make breakfast and coffee and just sit for half an hour. I take my dog Bobby out for a walk and then hop on my bike to work or the studio, depending on the day. I work 4 days a week as a picture framer in Brunswick East and I squeeze in as much studio time in between as possible.

A walk with Bobby is the perfect way for Kayleigh to start her day.

You initially studied and had a strong art practice in your home country of England. Have you found any challenges or differences in creating work here in Australia?

Moving here was the single biggest challenge in my art practice. Going from having meaningful and supportive connections with my peers, to leaving my equipment, ongoing projects, and an established practice (not to mention leaving my family) to having literally nothing was overwhelming.

I wasn’t sure how I would fit in to my new community (or what community there would be), what creative opportunities existed here and what platforms were popular and reliable, so I really felt like I was starting from scratch.

I began forming new practices by going to life drawing classes in the city, and eventually moved into painting and sculpture.

A lot of the process settling in to my city was understanding my surroundings, absorbing everything new and beautiful, complex and ugly. Melbourne is such an amazing home for an artist and it’s an inspiring and rewarding place to work.

Finally do you have a motto or a philosophy you apply to your art making?

A single point doesn’t come to mind but when I need a push to make something new I listen to a lot of Frank Ocean. He’s someone with such a detailed creative practice, I find him really influential, in a curious, intelligent and thoughtful way.

Kayleigh at the opening of The Pleasure Is All Mine

Quick-fire questions: 

What time do you get up in the morning?

7:30am 

If you weren’t a picture framer what would you be doing? 

A cabinetmaker’s apprentice.

What’s are you listening to at the moment (music and/or podcast)? 

Aldous Harding’s new album is amazing. I also have a Spotify playlist called ‘Hearts and Moons’ that I’m always updating with things I can’t stop listening to.

What’s your signature dish?

Popcorn. Believe me, there’s an art to it.

If you could purchase one thing for your home, and money was no object, what would it be? 

A beautiful light filled art studio by the creek, in the grounds of the house that I do not own.

 Where to next on your travel destination wish list? 

Back home to Manchester! Possibly a stop off in Taiwan or South Korea on the way.

Related content

Related products