The Story of Galina Kim

Born in Kazakhstan, I moved to Ukraine with my family when I was 12. My early focus was on music — I have studied music since I was five and still play the piano — but in Ukraine, I discovered visual arts, and my studies moved in this direction. I completed two master degrees in design and fine arts, with a focus on textiles, and have worked as a full-time artist ever since. It really has been a lifelong career for me — and a constant during times of upheaval.

My first husband was in the military and over course of his career, our family experienced years of travel, change and goodbyes. I longed for a home, in every sense of the word — somewhere to connect and belong, somewhere safe to bring up my two boys, somewhere quiet to find and digest inspiration. I found that home in Christchurch, New Zealand. But more than that, I found myself. I rediscovered my roots and put down new ones, and the diversity of my art reflects the intertwining of cultures, experiences, values and influences within me.

As I adapted to major changes in my new life, a shift in my work naturally took place. The landscape, people and spirit of New Zealand spoke to all of my senses, and I needed to explore new ways of expressing the essence of what was observing, feeling and absorbing. My classical training had provided me with valuable structure and discipline, but feeling more grounded than I had in years, I was ready to branch out.

Artist Materials by Galina Kim

I was drawn to the versatility of acrylics. They can be used opaquely or transparently, as a traditional painting media or with other materials, and this freedom of possibility was in harmony with the mesmerisingly rich and ever-changing offerings of New Zealand.

I spent years exploring this medium, experimenting with different techniques, processes, products and tools. No one showed me the ropes, no one showed me any shortcuts; everything I learned about working with acrylics, mixed media and palette knives, I discovered on my own. I think this has helped me to develop a distinctive and unique style.

I now get pleasure from sharing my knowledge with others through private lessons and workshops, but I still think it is important to put aside what you have been taught or told by others is ‘right’, as I once did, and give yourself the freedom to play and explore and discover new ways of approaching your art so that it reflects your own journey and insights.

Whitebaiting by Galina Kim

The scenes and subjects I paint are diverse — landscapes, seascapes, portraits, still lifes, historical images, architectural features, romantic and contemporary impressions  — but my style is always identifiable. Regardless of the techniques I use, my work has a gently fragmented quality, influenced by my early connection with textiles.

I specialised in Batik, which is a general term for various techniques of painting on fabric. At the heart of this art is a concept of reservation. Selected areas of cloth are blocked out using applications of a certain temper to preserve and emphasize elements of the background, and this technique has influenced the way I approach my mixed media works. The scenes in my paintings are recognisable, but they often have subtle block-like distortions that reveal and mask, to varying degrees, aspects of composition, colour, and pattern. This 'cutting up of the canvas' reminds me of preserving areas of fabric to create patterns to fill with colour, and it invites in more than the eye can see. This is important because, for me, it's not just about capturing colour, texture, light, shape and space; it's also about releasing the feel, scent, sound and taste of moments in time.

Capture and release; traditional and contemporary; realism and abstraction; simple and complex. Embracing the balance of complementary opposites like these is at the core of my work and, indeed, my life.

Sweet Breath by Galina Kim

As well as working as a contemporary artist with acrylic and mixed media on canvas, I also explore the techniques of fresco painting, iconography and encaustic, with an interest in Byzantine and ancient spiritual art.

Although I am a late arrival to the online scene, I have been part of the creative scene in New Zealand for many years. I owned Art Smart gallery in Sumner, Christchurch, with my husband Brian Collett, who I met a few years after arriving in New Zealand, and I have enjoyed many solo and group exhibitions and shows, collaborations with other artists, and involvement with community projects.

I am now embracing the online art scene, too — how wonderful it is to have so much glorious art at my finger tips! — and I look forward to connecting with you.