Kayleigh Heydon lights up my Instagram grid. That doesn’t sound like much on a platform crowded with the most carefully curated parts of people’s lives; but as someone who spends a lot of time trawling the Internet I can tell you the sensation of something catching your eye is rarer than you think. Kayleigh’s paintings have that certain something. Maybe it’s the apricot and pink hues, or soft pillowy forms, but there’s something strangely hypnotising about these perfectly balanced compositions.
Originally from Manchester in the UK, she studied Interactive Arts at Manchester School of Art and Design. This broad course allowed gave her the scope to experiment with materials like glass and metal sculpture, meaning she didn’t really gravitate towards painting until moving to Melbourne in 2015. Even then, it was only a way to keep sane, but now she has found the perfect balance in practising both painting and sculpture.
Hey Kayleigh! You haven’t been a practising painter for long but your work is so distinct. Is this what you do full time?
I paint as often as I can, which is technically two full days a week, but life gets in the way, not to mention creative blocks, so I only really paint when I feel like I can push myself into it properly and positively.
I work a few days a week as a picture framer, which is another passion of mine. I’ve been doing it for about three years and I’ve learned a lot about composition from a whole different perspective, timber, and how to frame my own work, which is a huge thing for me. It means I can really create something from start to finish.
Can you tell us about the space in which you typically create?
I recently moved into a new house and found myself between studios. I decided to store all of my tools in what can only be described as a carport crossed with a shed, crossed with a sun room, and turns out it’s actually a perfect studio. It’s ventilated, it has amazing light and I can make a mess, spread out, dance to music and eat pizza and not bother anyone. The dream!
How has moving hemispheres affected your art?
The whole environment is different. The social and political landscape is different, and so too is the physical landscape and history of this country, all of those things really take time to sink in, and they still are sinking in. I spent a lot of time just listening to what was going on, visiting different places, absorbing my surroundings. I’m still learning. I think (though not outwardly or literally) Australia has impacted how I work and ultimately what that work then looks like.
You released a beautiful new collection with Kuwaii just last week – how did that come about, and what was the process like?
Kirsty from Kuwaii got in touch with me after a show I had in May of 2019 about doing a print for their Autumn/Winter 2020 collection. We chatted a lot about different paintings and what she liked, and we ended up using a painting that already existed, the biggest piece from my last show, which is what she turned into the print.
We talked about what elements we could take out and how we could change some of the shapes so they could work better as a repeat, I think it worked out really well. It kept everything that the painting was.
Have you found your work has been affected by the current state of the world?
Yes, I feel like my work has been affected. This whole thing has given me more time to paint and more time to push myself into relying on art for income. But that being mixed with an economy where people can’t really afford to buy things that aren’t essential has been very difficult. People want to support and do what they can, but they can only do so much because they need to take care of themselves.
I was being more bountiful before COVID-19 started – I was trying new mediums, shapes, and layering, not really caring about whether people liked it or not. And then this time hit and I’ve kind of had to go back into safe things that I’ve done before, things I know could sell, rather than something that’s just for me and my exploration – it’s a bit riskier. So I have found I’ve been kind of bound by it, unfortunately.