Kirsten McAlister, Vesuvius, oil on canvas

John Kinross Scholar in 2007


How did the experience affect you as an individual?
I felt honoured to receive such a prestigious award and it somehow felt more natural to see myself as not only an art graduate but an artist.

Being in Florence and surrounding Italy for a sustained period of time without any responsibilities other than myself, and having the freedom to draw each day or visit galleries, or just absorb the atmosphere and culture, was like a surreal luxury I had never experienced before and certainly would have never been able to afford to do without the scholarship.  I felt very lucky and privileged to have such a great experience in Florence and loved my time there.

My time in Italy allowed me to gather a large body of research which has been invaluable to me to this day and beyond.

Kirsten McAlister, Untitled, RSA Collection


What was the impact on your work?
It was always my intention that the first body of significant works I would make would be derived from my scholarship research.  Sadly, it was only a couple of years ago (after a lengthy 10 years gap in my practice) that I managed to paint in a way I was reasonably comfortable with, due to some tricky personal circumstances.  Last year I built a studio and I have now made my first large paintings, which are painted in a similar way to those I painted before the scholarship (representational urban landscapes and places which to me emphasise the relationships between people, place, time and environment).  I think I’ll always like painting in this way, however, during my scholarship and in the years to follow I have been collating ideas which mean I’ll be experimenting with them in time to come, and with new media also.  I’m looking forward to new processes and possible outcomes.


What would you say the long term impact has been on yourself and your work?
One aspect of many that has had a lasting impact on me is the honour of the award.  In tough times it’s good to be able to reflect on achievements such as the scholarship and the rich experience it provided.  It’s not easy picking up momentum in the “artworld” after a lengthy pause, however my scholarship has always been there as a foundation on which to start building again as I’m now doing and encouraged me to keep believing in what I do.

On a practical level, as previously stated, the experience has provided me with enough memories and research to make a lot of work with.  I also believe elements of what I gained from the scholarship will help inform my work for many years to come.