“My association with Kearnsy, the booze and Australia’s most famous artist…” Part 2 of The James Kearns Story

Mark Widdup & Australian Artist, James Kearns

Mark Widdup & Australian Artist, James Kearns

My associations with James Kearns or ‘Kearnsy’ go to the more recent years after he has established a painting focus, for really quite a short period – 4 years. Underneath though art continued a passion for James however the school boy culture continued. Wild alcoholic binges would lead to fighting and challenging other males as though it was a ritual he needed to follow. James says this aspect has no place in his life today and dates it back to a fight free era having left that behaviour behind over 2 years ago now.

James just over 6 months ago moved to the north west of NSW where he took up an artist-in-residence arrangement at the Moree Regional Gallery, befriending the director Katrina Rumley. As James says, we would speak about art daily, after all he was the only artist in the town! By that he means he respects artists of the area but art culture conversation and art events and news he thrived upon were challenged via Katrina only. Thus he is considered the odd one in the town somewhat deprived of art companionship.

Gregarious in nature he soon made friends in other quarters and realised the country’s meeting point was the ‘pub’. Hard drinking and playing was the school character and James soon assimilated into country life, making friends easily.Unfortunately temptation to drink prevailed and social misbehaviour followed.

James Kearns, Artist

Transporting a painting…

He also recognised the value of the social engagement via the pub environment. This was essential for James as the isolation of his art studio and intensity of painting required social release. Problems surfaced and relationships became strained. The concern is how to remove oneself from this habitual life? The next morning syndrome was always waiting for him to deal with often finding it difficult to remember anyway..

James’ love life blossomed and it was decided he move out onto a property  where he could paint in the old wool shed and develop a rural culture by immersing himself into much isolation. His partner was active in her own business in town 50 kilometres away so by day he could paint uninterrupted and limited social contact, something he craved anyway. As James understood, isolation is good! It allowed him to zone out and within the wool shed upon the walls he had 2 huge painting walls to affix canvases. He realised 2 separate walls were important for his practice, allowing one for delicate gestural paintings and the other for his aggressive explosive work, depending on his state of mind.

It was then I recognised James understood the almost schizophrenic behaviour inspired by alcohol and expectation was immense. He spoke of the suppression of childhood, especially family, school and friends who he rightly or wrongly adopted their attitudes which he felt were important. With time he grew to know much of those attitudes to be false and misdirected. However those experiences shaped James and he is learning more valuable lessons today.

Throughout this development process art remains the constant.

James Kearns | Australian Artist

James Kearns and Mark Widdup at Moree Plains Regional Gallery

A few years ago James was based at Robertson in the Southern Highlands of Sydney. He merged with an arts community that welcomed and encouraged his artistic expression. He found real friends and fellow artists who cared for him in maybe a patriotic way. One of those artists developed a respect for James realising the talent he possessed. Of significant note and magic was the way Kearns attacked the canvas with vigor and passion, almost oblivious of others nearby. It was a release of art intention that fellow artists marveled at, meticulous was perhaps a foreign word. It was about conveying the expression. Ben Quilty, arguably the most significant and respected Australian artist today, saw the painting talent James possessed. He recognised Kearns had spirit which needed to be focused.

'In the field' by James Kearns

‘In the field’ by James Kearns

James had found kindred spirits and relished this art community which built his confidence as an artist.

James felt an acceptance perhaps never acknowledged previously.

On a more personal note James revealed his demons to the art group. It was something that they knew needed to be tamed before he can really realise his potential. This is not an overnight issue and we realise this is a work in progress and only James can get to a place where he balances all these forces..

Join us at the Cooks Hill Galleries on February 14 between 6-8pm for the opening evening of this talented emerged artist’s first solo exhibition in Newcastle. RSVP and more details here.

Part 3 coming soon.. 

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