Kieran Forster is an Australian visual artist with a history of independent solo exhibitions and a substantial international online following.
He is also a psychiatrist in private practice, based in tropical Brisbane, Australia. Before he studied law, medicine and psychiatry, he completed a Bachelor of Arts in Continental Philosophy ….that’s the background to all the art work you see here and at http://www.kieranforster.com. It is also the philosophical underpinning of what you see at http://www.drkieranforster.com.au.
This intellectual background involves : philosophers like Seneca, Nietsczhe, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Schopenhauer, Satre, Camus. Writers / psychiatrists such as Jung, Yalom and William James and mythologists / historians such as Joseph Campbell, James Frazier and Ian Kershaw. Literary influences toward the mindset of this painter includes Lovecraft, Poe, Walt Whitman, TS Eliot, Conrad and Thoreau. Why bother telling you this? Well, there has to be a reason to keep painting, some kind of vision that has emerged out of the visions of so many near-forgotten minds. Which is to say it’s pretty irrelevant to enjoying the art. But these are the writers and thinkers that lurk in the paintings.
He is not aligned with any gallery by choice. He identifies with the “outsider” artist tradition as it allows most free thought and freedom of expression.
“Although I sell my work regularly, I am turned off by the commodification of art or the use of art as a currency of prestige. It distracts from the great gift art gives to the soul of the modern self, seeker of meaning and hoping for more than a life of amassing property and objects. Ofcourse I believe an artist should be paid reasonably for their work, but that is not my motivating drive.” (Feel free to buy even MORE paintings now!)
“I occasionally write this blog in response to the many questions I have received about my work, both as an artist and as psychiatrist.
Being a psychiatrist, it’s impossible not to bring a desire to help and heal in the motivation to create. And being a psychiatrist, certain experiences cannot help but inform my art. Art making is essentially an ethical act, not a commercial one. Practising medicine is essentially an ethical calling. There are overlaps between these two activities”.
My paintings are like notes from the Unconscious, as I try to understand the experience of the world.
Psychiatry involves searching for the deeper narrative behind what my patients describe to me. Seeing it, feeling it, using a name and finally holding it long enough to work with the that self-narrative. The same process is seemingly happening in my art practice.
Although my style has become more unbound, organic and sculptural over time, the underlying theme has always been a meditation on the felt experience of what Heidegger called Dasein or being. The felt experience (as opposed to the analytical deconstruction of our lives) is what is both terrifying in it’s painful grandeur as well as electrifying in its promise of beauty and truth. The whole tradition in philosophy called Phenomenology that gave rise eventually to Existentialism and great thinkers such as Nietzsche and Heidegger were interested in this.
Our lives are surface phenomena that suggest a deeper story and each painting seeks out the bedrock arc of a day, a week, a year as may be. Just as each session of psychotherapy seeks the resonances from the Deep of the human Unconscious. I gave up trying to completely separate my work as a psychiatrist and my work as a painter once I realised they involve a similar seeking after Depth / Truth / Presence / Being.
The universal language of colour, figure and form coalesce into these blocks of Time called “paintings”, Time and Space apparently captured inside 4 lengths of wood and heavy layers of paint, accented with natural objects such as stones, bark and other detritus.
Each painting has an emotional tone and a degree of conflict between chaos and order, just the same as each day provides a similar interplay of head and heart, bookended by dawn and dusk. “
“My technique involves “hitting” the canvas and leaving it. Hit and run. Find a place to recuperate and rehydrate as my canvases are often large and I travel through many layers over days to weeks. I wear a gas mask and sweat it out.
I collaborate with the forces of perseverance and win over the better angels of our nature : experience, inspiration, freedom of action, daring, refusal to give up on a painting. I am a veteran of many failed campaigns in which the rubbish picture becomes the underlay of a memorable success.
My technique is “Get Out of Your Own Way”…….if you have an eye for colour and form, and you can turn down the volume of your L hemisphere conceptual mind, the painting will emerge in its own way. This is the most enjoyable part for me….the suggestion of standing aside as something makes its mark on the canvas. Whether you call it the Unconscious, Nature, Spirit or a slice of the Narrative of my patient that day , the joy of painting is standing aside and seeing what has manifested. Its the antithesis of narcissistic self-absorption.”
Being an artist (or a writer or a musician) is not about getting approval, or being recognised by those who consider themselves imbued with the secret sight allowing them to see talent. Being an artist is not about one’s activity within the arts industry. It’s not about networking. It’s not about whether an essay can be written by someone practising their “artist exegesis” essay technique. Being an artist is about cultivating that essential domain of human well-being labelled as the creative. It is closer to the basic human good of Play (see the philosopher Finnis) and it is not about feeding the narcissistic monster we have on our backs these days.
The act of creating is as grounding as all the other essential activities of the human being…..breathing, sleeping, walking, reading, listening, writing. It is as fundamental as human touch, as necessary as the embrace of your partner and the understanding of your best friends. It’s not about selling the creations (although that is nice as it signals appreciation) and it’s not about building a reputation as a creator. Even time you see an artist interviewed, many times you will see an absence of content. Thats why we have the “art journalists” who use some year 12 writing skills (some $10 words, some jargon, some post-modern signifiers) to “explain” a body of work. Yet it is ok for an artist not to be able to articulate what they are in the grip of, what their blindsight is seeing. It is only the art world that tries to explain this intuitive process, in most cases. For me, though, I can explain myself and would be happy to write my own exegesis. Its not necessary though. Explanation helps some but it is ok for us to be led non-verbally by the artist into that Cloud of Unknowing from which all good creativity comes.