Kate Toledo – Interview
The Tanzanian born artist; Kate Toledo has lived the kind of culturally diverse life many of us only dream of. Brought up in Africa and New Zealand, the artist spent 20 years in Brazil before settling in the Middle East, traveling between homes in Dubai and Lisbon. Toledo is also a collector — both of experiences and of things and over the course of many years has acquired an impressive inventory of art and objects from all over the world. Drawing inspiration from the culturally diverse heritage, both concrete and abstract, Kate’s artistic endeavors thrive on the cultural legacy that defines the people, their lives and their history and gives birth to bold and richly colored acrylic canvas with enthralling effect.
How you became the person you are today and how do you define your work?
Kate Toledo: I believe that our personality types are inherent and who we become is a combination of this and the surroundings, people and interests we seek out for ourselves. In my case, I am by nature; a very inquisitive person and thankfully I have had the chance to travel extensively throughout my life. I find inspiration all around me and have a need to capture these moments photographically or recreating them by painting or drawing.
My work is usually drawn to antiquities and the interest of bringing these pieces from days gone by forward to today with the idea of preserving them in some way for a little time longer.
You have traveled extensively, what has travelling taught you and how did it affect your work?
Kate Toledo: Travelling has shown me I would say rather than taught me the many different ways people live their lives (a fascination of mine I must say). The way dwellings are decorated, the fabrics woven and worn, the stories told by the women through their embroidery. The magnificence of the woven carpets, their colors, and stories. How people decorate their houses, the size of the houses, the colors the houses are painted. I will always visit as many museums as I can at each destination to get a feeling of times gone by in the area. One obvious effect is my palette, developed over my years of living in Brazil surrounded by its dizzying array of bright colors.
As a collector how do you define beauty?
Kate Toledo: Gosh, Colour is very important so this would be perhaps the first thing that would strike me. We have a large collection of 1950’s Murano glass pieces ranging from dressing table jars and perfume bottles to large heavy vases. The colors of the glass are incredible and the pieces a joy to look at every day. I always try to pick up some fabric typical of the area I’m visiting, these are always beautiful because of their color combinations and designs. I have a collection of pieces from the time of Chairman Mao and about the time of Chairman Mao, the figurines are beautiful and tell the story of hard times gone by. I love them also because of my great interest in this phase of Chinese history. They mean something to me.
What is your favorite medium to work with?
Kate Toledo: Being quite a fast painter I prefer acrylic paints. I also have a very soft spot for gauche.
Tell us about your latest collection?
Kate Toledo: The Portuguese Collection came from my desire to somehow capture the past, in this case, Portugal’s 17th & 18th-century tiles and faiança, to preserve them somehow by making them the subjects of my paintings with my spin added to the mix.
How do you find the art scene in Dubai, UAE?
Kate Toledo: Really quite vibrant now. Quite different to the way it was when we arrived 11 years ago. On the whole dedicated to the art of the region.
What are your future plans?
Kate Toledo: My other fascination is abandoned villas, empty houses, memories left behind. What happens when the water is turned off. I have a huge photographic archive of such things. I am thinking about how to develop this story.
What is one experience you had during your travels that affected your work?
Kate Toledo: Lisbon, I’m happy to say is our second home and we have been traveling to Portugal since 2012. The tile museum in Lisbon had a huge impact on me. Here we can see the history of Portuguese tiles, from the early productions, heavily influenced by aesthetics and design styles from the Arab world to the tile scenes depicting historical and cultural aspects of Portuguese life. The first thoughts of The Portuguese Collection started here.
Any words of advice for the young artists looking for inspiration and self-awareness?
Kate Toledo: It is important to do lots of work, be it painting, sculpture, photography, writing. Keep doing the work, this is how you will evolve and create your interests, style, and palette. Be very observant, keep your eyes open.