A standard list of materials for a Kate Newby work might include anything from lip balm, coffee stains and wooden decking to mulberries, hand-written notes and stoneware. Deeply concerned with the intricate textures of the everyday, Newby is an artist who works across a wide range of media including textiles, ceramics, casting and glass. Whatever the medium, there is always an emphasis on the handmade as a way of communicating lived experience through objects furnished with the evidence of their making. That her work tends to be site-specific—made in response to a given location and to the people and events witnessed there—similarly demonstrates Newby's desire to privilege direct experience above mediation within her work. As such, certain idiosyncrasies of each site—the light, the atmosphere, a suntrap window, a line of nails embedded in a floor—will often become integral to the work, causing an installation to be necessarily altered if and when it is re-installed in a new context.
Born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1979, Newby studied at the University of Auckland's Elam School of Fine Arts, graduating with a Doctor of Fine Arts in 2015. Three years prior to completing her doctorate, she had already won the most prestigious art award in Aotearoa—the Walters Prize, judged that year by Mami Kataoka, chief curator of the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Japan. The work that won her the prize, Crawl out your window (2010), is Newby at her casual, poetic best: a blue-washed concrete ramp crawls out into the gallery, encrusted with silver pull-tabs, gum and stones; a soiled curtain divides the space, filtering the sunlight. Kataoka described the work as 'the most reserved but radical way of transcending the fixed architectural space for contemporary art', and it is this careful combination of transcendence and banality that has come to characterise her practice.
Since winning the prize in 2012, Newby has had a busy international exhibition slate, including solo exhibitions such as Maybe I won't go to sleep at all. in 2013 at La Loge, Brussels; Two aspirins a vitamin C tablet and some baking soda at Laurel Doody, Los Angeles in 2015; and Let me be the wind that pulls your hair at Artpace in San Antonio, Texas, in 2017. She has also undertaken numerous residencies, including the highly sought-after Fogo Island Arts residency (2013), Newfoundland, and the Chinati Foundation residency in Marfa (2017).