Kirsty Budge The Doing, by Nadiah Abdulrahim

When I walk in to Kirsty Budge’s apartment, which is also her studio, the first things I notice are the windows, the light, the view – but also the overall sense of calm in the space. And then I see the paintings neatly lined up against one wall of the apartment – the result of a year’s work, and also a year’s worth of learning to bounce back.

The 11 paintings that make up The Doing are about things that have happened to her that year, but more importantly they are also about the things that happened because of her and her doing, thinking, and more.

Until her three-month residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, Budge had always lived and worked separately. It was in Paris that she learnt to live and work in close proximity, where these two worlds pleasantly collided.

Upon returning to Melbourne, the dissolution of a long-term relationship brought upon a new living arrangement, amongst other things. Living alone for the first time, she had to re-learn how to negotiate everything. She had to make sense of the inside to make sense of the outside, architecturally and philosophically.

In a quiet pocket along the Yarra, Budge’s one-bedroom apartment became her universe. Here, decisions big and small were hers alone. And it is here that she learnt the power in laughing out loud by herself, and the joy in being still – sitting on the couch, staring at the view beyond those windows and most importantly, feeling comfortable doing little else.

Budge builds her canvases herself and primes the paintings with a general wash – that in itself isn’t significant. What comes next is, though – the making of the paintings (“the doing”) and their evolution. The adding, the building, the scraping. It is an intuitive process, one she describes as akin to sleepwalking – unconscious, but responsive.

And this is also what it’s like when you have to pick up the pieces and start over when circumstances change. Thinking about your place in the world and how you fit in. Unconscious, but responsive – at first.

In The Doing, Budge flattens time, place, reality, memory and fiction onto the plane, asking herself: What’s real? What do I see? What do I know for sure?

When the rug is swept out from under you, it’s hard to know what’s what. In these paintings we see memory and reality adjacent to each other, we see imagined possibilities, and we also go on a perspectival journey, sometimes all at the same time. We see what it takes to make sense of your place in the world.

There is a surprising new element in The Doing. Having worked exclusively in monochrome in recent times, the introduction of colour in a few paintings here – mostly blue, inspired by the natural light in her apartment and the building itself – is enough to notice.

The last painting Budge completed for The Doing was a self-portrait:

Summer self portrait and my view from here 2018-19. Though her work has always been autobiographical, and has in the past sat between abstraction and figuration, it has never been so boldly figurative or autobiographical until now. And what a poetic way to sum up the year, the series, and her journey to this point. After a year of gazing within and without in equal measure, she sits before us now with a new self-confidence, and an altogether new way of doing and being.

In a chapter on the countryside in Species of Spaces, Georges Perec presents two scenarios: putting down roots to “carve the place that will be yours out of space, and build, plant, appropriate, millimetre by millimetre, your ‘home’”, or alternatively, be itinerant, own nothing, and “feel at home nowhere, but at ease almost everywhere”.

In the past 12 months – Budge’s own year of magical thinking – she has slowly learned how to feel at home in this sunny spot right along the Yarra, and at ease almost everywhere.

As Budge says in the title of one of her paintings, it’s a slow and solitary trip and she’s in no rush.