Artist Profile: Kate Briscoe

Marked by scratches and blisters, Kate Briscoe’s works elevate the harsher beauty of our ancient landscapes. Emily Best writes.

Like many artists who have relocated to Australia, Sydney-based Kate Briscoe has found her muse in the ancient platforms upon which this country thrives. Her practice employs not a method of representation but rather of excavation, digging deep into strata, rifts, splits, and faults to create often large-scale, enveloping works that submerge the viewer deep beneath Australia’s rocky earth. 

“As an artist I have always viewed landscapes in terms of structure, form and textures, from a geological perspective,” Briscoe says. “To understand even a little bit about geology gives you special eyes through which to see a landscape. You see back in time to where rocks liquify and flow, and seas petrify. What is revealed is a description of time passed.” 

Briscoe’s geological process often begins early in the morning, usually after a long walk or gym session. Her bright, airy studio is converted into an archaeological dig-site, unveiling the inner workings of locations across Australia including K’gari (Fraser Island), Jinibara (Glasshouse Mountains), Arnhem Land, the New South Wales South Coast, and the Snowy Mountains. She then consults the detailed research collected from her time spent at each location, using this as a launchpad to create her unique interpretations of the typical landscape painting. “I record these landscapes with drawings and photographs, focusing especially on the surfaces of the rocks with splits and folds — and the colours: reds, whites, and yellows,” she says.

What emerges from this research are works that reflect the landscapes they are inspired by, layered with grit and rich oranges and browns. They appear almost weathered, as if as ancient as their source material. While some works host a clear focus on texture, others are striped with bold lines, reflective of the hidden geology below the earth’s surface. “The way the forms are arranged and how lines and stresses come through is absolutely crucial to the final compositions,” says Briscoe. “Otherwise, you would not get that sensation that a split in the rock is imminent.”

More recently, Briscoe has begun expanding her painting practice into the field of sculpture, developing a series of works composed of papier-mâché and acrylic that read almost as archaeological relics, or impressions taken from the rock shelves by which she is so inspired. Named either Hot Rockface or Cold Rockface, the works range from instantly recognisable scorched reds to deep charcoals, drawing inspiration from the Kimberley region in Western Australia. Scratched and blistered, the works offer a glimpse into the ancient formations that would remain otherwise unseen. Briscoe builds models of a hidden history that speak to the physical memory of the earth itself, to the moments that we mould and shape, and to the traces that we leave behind, beneath the surface.

More Artists Profiles from Recent issues

Artist Profile: Josh Robbins

Armed with a flair for the unorthodox, Josh Robbins continues to reinvent himself and his art following an early career in advertising, sharing compelling visions of the world along the way. Charlotte Middleton writes.

Artist Profile: Linda Riseley

With an instinct for authentic expression, Linda Riseley built an international career by channelling difficult experiences into a poignant art practice. Surprisingly, her great uncle just might have known that this would happen all along. Charlotte Middleton writes.

Artist Profile: Corinne Melanie

A trip to Europe in early 2020 saw Corinne Melanie rediscover her art. Now, as she explores new frontiers in her practice, she’s perfecting the merge of the classical with the modern. Erin Irwin writes.

Artist Profile: Michael Gromm

There is no undo button in paint, says Michael Gromm. Armed with this philopshpy, the artist ventures colours, shapes and all into a realm of scientific possiblity and elastic bliss. Words by Erin Irwin.

Artist Profile: Mandy Smith

Wanting to return to her photographic roots, Barkindji artist Mandy Smith picked up her camera during the pandemic and made her way back to her love of visual storytelling, something which now takes place under the stars of her hometown. Pramila Chakma writes.

Artist Profile: Zoë Croggon

Zoë Croggon knows how to get our minds to play. With artworks that feature sensual blends of faces, lips and cheek, she’s perfected the dance of leaving us leaning in and lingering at the edge. Words by Nabila Chemaissem.