Kathryn Madill — Biography

Kathryn Madill hails from Ruatahuna located in Te Urewera, spending the majority of her childhood in Taupo, and in Dunedin, where she now lives and works. She graduated from the Ilam Art School, University of Canterbury (1971), with a Diploma of Fine Arts, having majored in printmaking. Soon afterwards, she bought her own press. Since that time, she has painted and made prints, many of which are now held in private and public collections across Australia and New Zealand including the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. In 2004, she was an Antarctica Arts Fellow, in which capacity she visited the world’s fifth largest continent with poet Bernadette Hall who describes her as ‘a most literate painter’. Kathryn designed the book Settler Dreaming (Victoria UP, 2001), a collection of Bernadatte Hall’s poetry, also producing a series of drawings for this same volume. Her work has appeared in the iconic New Zealand literary journal Landfall and as part of the Printer in Residence Program at the University of Otago. She has also furnished artwork for numerous book covers. Her sustained collaboration with New Zealand authors remains a significant and defining feature of her oeuvre, along with her extensive exhibition history in this country. Judith Laube notes that: ‘Kathryn Madill has an intensity of focus, which is evident in everything she does, her mezzotints, woodcuts and paintings display a strong sense of purpose and determined attention to detail. Many of the images chosen are, or once were, common objects.’ When such objects are ‘taken from a domestic context and made central to a work, a hidden life and further meanings surface, which can assume a powerful significance for the viewer….’ Madill’s interest in the everyday suggests the affinity of her project with that of other women artists of her generation such as Kiki Smith or the earlier surrealist paint Leonora Carrington. Madill comments: ‘I wouldn’t say I was a radical feminist, but I have been feminist in my thinking since I was a teenager….It’s not overt or conscious – I don’t consciously do it.’


2019 Red River: Kathryn Madill essay by Joanna Osborne