Kelly Richardson Q&A


5 October 2017

Kelly Richardson creates topical, evocative and immersive works. Her exhibition The Weather Makers, programmed as part of Discovery Film Festival,  is open in DCA galleries until 26 November. We had a chat with Kelly about her work, artistic process, and how art can convey an important message.

Hi Kelly, how did you get into the digital side of the art-world, we understand that you come from a painting and drawing background? 

Yes, my undergraduate degree focused primarily on painting. After I graduated I started to question what I had to say within the work, if anything, rather than being about a formal exploration (for instance). From that point onwards I approached new work through ideas, rather than being led by a specific medium. Over the years, those ideas repeatedly led me towards video. Eventually they became too complex to stage in front of a camera, so I began to learn how to manipulate the moving image digitally.

Can you tell us a bit about your artistic process, how you manipulate the images that you use?

It changes from project to project depending on the idea and the manipulation required. I usually start each work not knowing how to produce it on a technical level. Each idea introduces a new problem or set of problems, in terms of how to produce the effects required to render them. My process typically involves exploring different software packages early in the research and development for each work, in order to assess their capabilities to produce the desired effect. That process of discovery then determines which software is needed. The effects are then developed much more fully over many months. At the same time, I either explore existing landscapes to film as the setting for the work or, in cases where visiting those landscapes would be impossible, I create them digitally.

Do you have a strong idea of how the finished product will look when you embark upon a project, or is it something that develops during its creation?

I do usually start with a clear idea for how each work should look but inevitably, through trial and error it develops into something better than I imagined beforehand.

The timing of The Weather Makers in DCA galleries coincided with some catastrophic environmental events (earthquakes in Mexico, flooding in Texas). Do you feel as though your works can sometimes be a prescient warning about the dangers of how we treat our planet? How does this make you feel?

"It's terrifying but it's nowhere near as terrifying as what the future holds should we keep calm and carry on"

Absolutely. Concerns for the environment and us by extension have been a driving force in my practice for over 15 years. There has been an interesting shift in the discussion around these issues in that time, actually. For many years it seemed like that side of my work was the least interesting aspect to address via press, or even how the work was being framed in exhibitions. Despite decades of warnings from the scientific community, now that we’re beginning to experience serious fallout for large-scale unchecked industry, that focus and framing has shifted towards discussion around environmental issues.

From 2011 onwards exhibitions I’ve staged have coincided with major environmental disasters, powerful storms, the threat of war, etc. For a while I was feeling cursed but the truth is that this is the kind of world we now live in, where these events are so commonplace that they are impossible avoid. It’s terrifying but it’s nowhere near as terrifying as what the future holds should we keep calm and carry on.

Do you think that the arts can positively impact professional bodies (like the government!) when it comes to policies on the environment?

I do, but not without the will of the people, who in turn put pressure on those professional bodies. In fact, this is a growing area of research within the scientific community. The question they’ve been asking is what conditions need to be present in order for people to act and demand that our governments take appropriate action. With some of the researchers that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, the suspicion is that the arts can play a very powerful role in enabling that trigger point. Specifically, with regards to how they are able to engage the public on an experiential level. 

A couple of months ago I relocated from England to Vancouver Island. One of the many reasons why can be attributed to the incredible landscapes and wilderness this place has to offer. Given the state of things elsewhere, it’s hard to believe that this place still exists. Imagine old-growth trees, some well over 1000 years old, so large 14 people would need to join hands in order to fully circle the base of a single tree. As magnificent as they are, most of the old-growth has been logged and what remains continues to be.

"the arts can play a very powerful role in enabling that trigger point"



It’s early days, but in relation to the old-growth, I’m working a project which revolves around the idea of nature as spectacle and questions the justification our governing bodies use to continue to deplete what little remains of the natural world which sustains us.


Thank you, Kelly! The Weather Makers, programmed as part of Discovery Film Festival, runs until 26 November. Mariner 9 is presented in partnership with NEoN Digital Arts Festival.  We’ve programmed a series of exciting events to coincide with the exhibition: have a look here to see what’s coming up! Galleries are open daily, 10:00-18:00 (20:00 on Thu). We offer twice-daily exhibition tours at 11:00 and 14:00 if you’d like an introduction from our friendly, knowledgeable Visitor Assistants. 

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