As Kelly-Anne Love stood next to the glowing eyes of Pearl, the masked owl, you could feel her intense passion and raw emotion in the room before she even said a word. Among a gallery full of friends and fans alike, Love spoke eloquently about her inspiration, process and meanings of the works on exhibition in her solo show at KAB Gallery this week. As someone who usually likes her artworks to tell the story, it was a rare opportunity to hear about what drives the artist behind the fantastical eyes of Australia’s most beautiful birds.
Love’s incredible connection to her works is immeasurable, each glorious hand painted masterpiece has encapsulated the positive energy and love of the artist herself. As the mother to the flock of Australian native birds that have flown into KAB Gallery, Love was proud to introduce each and every one. Every bird had it’s own personality and story. Maika, the gang gang cockatoo was her “cute punk rocker” while Freyr was the strong and nurturing mother spirit, gentle and kind but with a fire in her eye.
“My works are like a an ecosystem. Each element from the paint to the brush combines together to become the species I am painting. It represents another important part of biodiversity, that we need each and every part to be complete.” Although you may see just a bird each part is deliberately pieced together to speak for the hundreds, if not thousands, of species each these birds support in their native ecosystems. “If you take part of the ecosystem away, you lose part of the picture.” If just one was to disappear, the effect would funnel down to impact even the smallest of critters and native plant life.
When asked why she chooses to paint Australian wildlife, Love’s answer was simple “It is a part of us. Each species is so amazing and special in it’s own way and we need to celebrate it.” As someone who has lived in many corners of the world, Love, felt a pull back to her Australian roots. “There is really nothing else like it.” Like the rebel nature of Love’s rocker Iggy, the long-beaked Corella, she hopes her artworks makes some noise.. Every hand-painted bird is a celebration of the often overlooked beauty of Australian flora & fauna. “It is my duty to capture the present – to reflect the beauty of now before it is lost.”
In particular, Love referred to the art of the early settlers, portraying Australian nature through a European lens in an attempt to tame the incredible wildlife and fit it into to their narrow view of what beautiful is. Although Australian species are now celebrated for their incredible beauty and genetic diversity, people’s backyards are still predominantly full of the traditional ‘pretty’ European cottage gardens. Invasive plant species, including decorative species we find in most backyards, is one of the major threats to native bird life.
In this most recent series, the reoccurring motifs of native wildlife dancing across the birds beaks caught everyone’s eye. But as Love explained to the curious audience, they are more than just a decorative addition. The flowering gums of Freyrs beak or the native seeds on Miaka represent “the native species birds need to survive.” Re-instilling that each of these birds represent “more than just a pretty picture.”
“I want to inspire people to keep connected and keep listening to their calls”
Kelly-Anne Love’s art is a considered celebration and a warning – encouraging us to stop, listen and appreciate the world we have around us. They are a reminder not only of the perfect imperfection of nature, but of ourselves. The splatters and splotches that finish off Love’s paintings are a hint that nothing is perfect. But instead of trying to paint a world that is, she asks us to embrace the imperfections. As we now step into the era of the climate crisis, Kelly-Anne Love is keen to document the species of now for future generations.
Love aims to make her mark, not just as someone who documented species that could be relics of the past, but “as someone who helped create a change.” Love does everything in her power to pay it forward and personify the change she wishes to see. Highly involved in conservation programs such as Tim Faulkner’s Devil Ark, Love actively encourages others to share awareness within the community whilst doing the same herself.
Kelly-Anne Love’s paintings tell stories of birds that live a life full of stories of love, family and adventure. The personification of each of the birds is a reflection of ourselves, perhaps suggesting that we are all the same. Each piece holding a mirror up to ourselves and asking us, why aren’t we look after each other?
The most powerful part of Love’s artist talk at KAB Gallery was the moment she explained her connection to the pieces herself. After wiping away the tears and emotion of a poem she recited connected to the exquisite Magpie’s Call, she related her artworks back to her own personal journey. Like the species she celebrates in her artworks, Kelly-Anne Love shared how embracing her call to art has allowed her to “…feel empowered in her thoughts, opinions and ideas.” Empowered by the indescribable connection she has with Australian wildlife, Love now feels strong enough to speak for the species that cannot. The raw emotion Kelly-Anne Love showed at her artist talk spoke to her courageous passion and strength to embody and speak her truth.
“…If my artwork only inspires one person to make a change, then I’ve achieved my purpose.”