M a k i n g a S p l a s h
Renowned Australian artist KEN DONE opens the doors to his
secluded studio space and talks about colour and his creative journey.
The studio where Ken starts each day. Ken has lived in various properties in Sydney’s Mosman for more than 60 years. His current property includes his studio and a heritage-listed cabin
Nobody does colour quite like Australian artist Ken Done. It has been his trademark for more than 50 years and his ability to reproduce his colourful images on a range of products made his name and fortune.
Recently, he revisited one of his first collaborations with Australian bedding company Sheridan as part of its 50-year celebrations. Here he talks to JONES about his home life and creative process.
JONES: What’s important to you about a home? As an artist and businessman, what does your home need to be for you?
Ken Done: It’s a place of comfort. We are fortunate enough to live in a beautiful house. It’s a vehicle for the paintings. All the walls are white. When I get a painting to a stage to come to the house it might stay in the house for two or three weeks to look at and decide if it’s finished. I live with the paintings for quite a while.
What is a day in your life like – how does it typically start, progress and end?
The first thing I do in the morning – on the way to have a swim and breakfast – I go to the studio. I want to see what I’m working on when my mind is at its clearest. When we walk down to the cabin we feed the rainbow lorikeets and seagulls. We swim every morning throughout the year. I always have breakfast down beside the beach. I’m in the studio by 8/8:30. I look at the work and respond to whatever I want to do. Afterwards, I might go to the gallery, have lunch and continue painting in the afternoon.
You’re known for your use of colour, and the vibrancy of your work. Why did you start painting in this way? And why have you continued on this journey?
Ever since I was a little boy I loved colour. I grew up in a little town – Maclean on the Clarence River in northern NSW – and even when in flood I would watch big clumps of mauve and purple and iridescent green hyacinth floating through it. I’ve always loved colour. A lot of people use colour badly. It takes a certain skill to use colour well. It’s like an orchestra – you can’t have all of them playing loud. Someone once said I took the beige out of Australia. Colour should give people pleasure and joy.
Why did you decide to put your designs and art on products? Does the artwork always come first, or do you consider its application?
The artwork always comes first. The relationship with Sheridan goes back many years. They are dedicated to good design. When I did some bed linen for them quite a few years ago it was extremely successful, and people still remember and respond to it today.
When they asked me to collaborate again I thought about it and decided that the great thing about doing something like this today was digital printing. It’s like sleeping under a painting. It’s not like the old days of hand-cut silk – now every mark, every brushstroke is there on the product. It’s art for the time in which we live.
Why does colour work well in homewares? What do you like about the relationship between textiles and design?
It’s always a very personal thing. Something the size of a piece of bed linen changes the whole character of a room. And it’s not necessarily that you should have to find art in galleries. Artists for many years have worked on fabric. Think of Matisse.
Interview by Natalie Walton
Keep reading to browse the Sheridan x Ken Done collection online now...