Tag Archives: Kathleen O‘Connor

Legacy

KLOC ©RWoldendorp

Kathleen Laetitia (Kate) O’Connor died in the late hours of 24 August 1968, just before her ninety-second birthday. Fifty years ago today.

I am trying to imagine what a tweet from Kate would sound like. She was, in the context of her time, a dab hand at self-promotion—she had to be—and if I could spirit her into today’s world she would probably take to social media as though she was born to it.

Her voice is clear in my mind, but I can’t make the language work for Twitter. Nor the need for brevity.

A word to say that that nice young man Mr Lipscombe, very sensible type, is getting up an exhibition of my pictures at his salon at the Fremantle Arts Centre. I expect you’ll want to come. In haste to post, Kathleen L O’Connor #ParisInFremantle #AllTheSmartSetWillBeThere

The coming exhibition and my book Kathleen O’Connor of Paris celebrate her long life and a career that spanned six decades.

When Kate left Perth in 1906, ostensibly on a year-long sojourn to the Old Country, she was intent on pursuing a career as an artist. Paris, she said, was always her objective.

She spent most of the following fifty years abroad, exhibiting among artists she revered in the highly competitive salons of Paris, in many prestigious exhibitions, in two solo exhibitions. Her work was noticed, often lauded, by French critics. Financial reward eluded her, but her story speaks to a different kind of success.

In Australia, the Art Gallery of Western Australia staged two major retrospectives during her lifetime, and exhibitions in Adelaide and Melbourne brought her wide acclaim in the last years of her life.

I wish she could have known that there would be yet another retrospective at the state gallery. That her glorious decorative arts, very much the product of 1920s Jazz Age Paris, would be the feature of a new exhibition. That her paintings would become sought after, attracting high prices at auction. That her work would find its way into the national galleries of Australia and New Zealand, every state gallery and major collections across Australia. That fifty years after her death, she would still be an inspiration to other artists, and writers, too.

But none of us ever knows what the future will make of us, what our legacy will be.

I try another Kate-tweet.

A word to say that there is a book written up about all I have done, by that writer woman (you know the one? peculiar hair). The questions! She has taken liberties, I expect, but c’est la vie. #SheShouldWearAHat

Ah, Kate.

Being There—Kathleen O’Connor in Paris
runs at Fremantle Arts Centre,

14 September to 4 November 2018, 10am–5pm.

Kathleen O’Connor of Paris
will be released by Fremantle Press in November 2018
and is available for pre-order now.

A pre-release launch of the book will be part of the exhibition opening,
13 September, Fremantle Arts Centre.

Photograph courtesy Richard Woldendorp

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Here she is, beautiful Kate…

It gives me great pleasure to share the cover of Kathleen O’Connor of Paris, forthcoming from Fremantle Press in November.

KOOP front cover final

And here’s the back-cover blurb:

What does it mean to live a life in pursuit of art?

In 1906, Kathleen O’Connor left conservative Perth, where her famous father’s life had ended in tragedy. She had her sights set on a career in thrilling, bohemian Paris.

More than a century later, novelist Amanda Curtin faces her own questions, of life and of art, as she embarks on a journey in Kate’s footsteps.

Part biography, part travel narrative, this is the story of an artist in a foreign land who, with limited resources and despite the impacts of war and loss, worked and exhibited in Paris for over forty years. Kate’s distinctive figure paintings, portraits and still lifes, highly prized today, form an inseparable part of the telling.

I look forward to introducing you to Kate in November. 🙂

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An unexpected collaboration…

I have found inspiration for several of my short fiction pieces in the lives of artists and their work. Kathleen (Kate) O’Connor is one who continues to fascinate me, not only because of the beautiful paintings and decorative arts she produced in the first half of the twentieth century, but because of what I have read of her spirit and the life this independent, passionate, forward-thinking female artist from a conservative colonial outpost forged for herself among the impressionists of Paris.

My story ‘Paris bled into the Indian Ocean’ (in the collection Inherited, UWA Publishing, 2011) intertwines a contemporary story of a poet who has lost her words with a famous story about Kate O’Connor’s return from Paris to provincial Perth in 1948. Here is an extract:

Customs officials at Fremantle declared that Kathleen O’Connor’s paintings, her life’s work, were dutiable goods. She harangued and argued. She appealed. She called on family connections, played every card in her hand. But Customs, immune to threat or persuasion, levied the sum of thirty shillings per painting, to be paid before they would release them. Thirty pieces of silver.

And so the story goes that Kathleen O’Connor, spent with stamping her Parisian feet, stood on the wharf at Fremantle while her crates were unpacked and hundreds of canvases were lifted out, one by one, deciding which of them she could afford to keep. And that, in a fit of pique, she tossed the rest over the side of the wharf, one by one. And that Paris bled into the Indian Ocean.

Fremantle-based artist Jo Darvall has also been fascinated by O’Connor’s work since moving to Western Australia from Melbourne, and has been keen to celebrate O’Connor’s importance in Western Australia’s—and Australia’s—art history. Entirely independently,  Jo became intrigued with the same story about O’Connor’s return to Perth and conceived of an exhibition reimagining those lost artworks.

After a few coincidences that resulted in her reading my story, Jo has named her exhibition ‘Paris bled into the Indian Ocean’. It will run from 23 October to 21 November 2015 at the Merenda Contemporary Gallery, 84 High Street, Fremantle.

picisto-20151012094252-504074

The exhibition launch is on Friday 23 October, and I’m hoping that it will be a great success for Jo. Please come along—the paintings are hauntingly beautiful and you have to view them in person to fully appreciate their stunning textural qualities. I will be doing a brief reading from the story, and I’m thrilled and honoured to be part of the celebration.

12033037_1236982736316939_5589489906346279888_nAs an extension of the exhibition, Jo will be presenting an additional event on 31 October, 2pm–4.30pm: a panel discussion entitled ‘Kathleen O’Connor’s Fremantle’, City of Fremantle Library, followed by a cultural walking tour, concluding with refreshments at Merenda Contemporary. The event is free but bookings are essential.

Exhibition Facebook event page
Article by William Yeoman

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