By Cindy Clarke
Consistently named among the top abstract painters in the world in a highly competitive global realm of talent, Kay Griffith expresses herself in colors, otherworldly and of this world both. They play out in experiences, visually inspired and reality based, put to canvas by an artist’s hand that is guided more by her heart than any other preconceived notion of her art. That she is an independent thinker is a given. That her art speaks in stories uniquely personal to the viewer is a gift. When Kay puts paint to canvas, she does it her own way, eschewing brushes and acrylics for palette knives and oils that don’t suffer mistakes.
Born and raised in Texas, she doesn’t subscribe to what others think she should paint.
“When I first studied painting in the mid 1990s, I focused on oils, learning how to execute highly detailed paintings like landscapes and wildlife,” she explained. She sold her work locally then, and settled into her career as a full-time painter.
She dabbled in abstracts from time to time, she told me, but having no formal training in that type of art, she just followed her own instincts and took a different path than other artists in her genre. “I am who I am and I do what I do. I feel my way through my paintings.”
That is where her story and her stars align. Kay’s abstracts are a celebration of spirit, nature and passion, a trifecta of triumphs that have turned the eyes of some of the world’s most prestigious art shows towards her work again and again. Her art has been juried by the best across the globe and she has been invited to exhibit at the most elite museum quality international shows. Her paintings have hung in world-renowned museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Tokyo and the Grand Palais in Paris, along with being juried by a panel of international art experts of the London Art Biennale, not once, not twice, but three times, which is a really big deal in the art world.
“I am truly honored when I am invited to exhibit my work,” she said, humbly dismissing the accolades that were forming in my mind each time I asked her about the exhibitions all over the world that showcase her art. That humility is part of her essence, a desire to give of herself so that others can find their own joy in the work she does.
“I don’t name most of paintings,” she explained, preferring to let the viewer experience it their own way, without any subliminal suggestions from a title. “It’s not about me. It’s about the art.”
Experience and mood are important to Kay, whose work is a reflection of the individual experiences she has, reminding me that like people, no two experiences are alike.
“If I go outside, I see millions of bits of color, always in motion. I think the world is beautiful. I don’t think there is an ugly color; it just needs to be in the right place. Whether it’s a desert or a lush forest, there’s a beauty to it. Paintings by their very nature are reflections of reality. As an artist, you can reflect the reality of those objects, or you can reflect the experience of being there. I reflect the experience.”
That said, she doesn’t lay out or sketch her plans ahead of time. She just starts to paint, putting wet on wet until it is finished, regularly working up to 18 hours per day until it is completed.
When she paints, she goes into her studio and locks the door. No phones, no interruptions, no music, no distractions, one painting at a time. She works long hours that test her physical endurance and rob her of rest, not that she cares a hoot about that. It’s part of the process of following her inspiration and her passion.
“If I have music on, I find myself painting to the rhythm of the music, rather than reflecting an experience. So when I’m actually doing an abstract, I don’t want music. My paintings require 100% focus so I can convey the experience or mood I felt. Sometimes I feel like a dancer as I choreograph the colors; each has its own set of rhythms and flow.”
Kay knows her colors, often mixing them, altering their intensity and changing the hue ever so slightly until she gets them just right. She does so in the moment and not as calculated thought, each takes shape as she envisions the experience that moved her to paint it. The results are stories in motion captured on canvas, every stanza evoking emotion, every swirl lifting the viewer someplace new – which is why her work is sought after by a top echelon of discerning collectors who appreciate her particular style and sentiments.
“Do they commission her for pieces they want for their collection and ask her to color coordinate them with interiors they have in mind?” I inquire.
I DON’T NAME MOST OF MY PAINTINGS. IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. IT’S ABOUT THE ART
“It’s not unusual to have somebody look at a painting, and love the way it feels. They love the feeling it gives them, but they want me to do it in a different color palette. I can’t do that. I can’t replicate a painting. I’m not following a recipe. That would make it really technical, which takes away the spontaneity and the inspiration behind it.”
She will, though, hear from collectors who want another one of her paintings for their collection. “They will call me and ask for another one because they’re honestly having so much fun with the painting they own. Their guests come in to the room and everybody sees different things in the painting. It’s a great conversation starter. There’s a uniqueness to every person, and I celebrate that. And so I respect and celebrate their experience with the art. I think that adds to it. It’s not my experience that’s important. Once a painting is done, I really consider that I am superfluous. At that point, it is all about the viewer’s experience with the art.”
Her agenda is a celebration of the earth, a celebration of its inhabitants, and a celebration of the uniqueness of individuals who are interacting with the art.
Kay sees the world through a kaleidoscope of ever-changing colors all day long. She speaks of sunrises and sunsets that turn the sky from pink to purple to orange to red in the blink of an eye, of green and brown landscapes gilded in gold from the sun, or mirrored waters that glimmer and glint in blues beyond description, finding magic in the moment and inspiration in the air. And while she says she can never create on canvas anything that is as spectacular and beautiful as the real thing, what she does do is gift us a lasting sensory experience so full of life, energy and emotion that it never fails to summon smiles from viewers like me.
And that is precisely her point. ☐
View her art in person at the London Biennale from June 30 through July 4, 2021, or at the C. Parker Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut, or visit www.cparkergallery.com
For more information about Kay Griffith, visit www.kaygriffithart.com