The University of Southern Queensland’s coordinator of visual arts Dr Kyle Jenkins is a man of varied talents.

Besides being senior lecturer in painting and art theory at the university he has been able to develop his own career as an artist incorporating painting, wall painting, photography, objects, porcelain, collage and drawing. This has led to Kyle exhibiting nationally and internationally over the last 15 years, including a current showing at the New Bedford Museum in Massachusetts. Other shows are coming up later in the year in San Francisco and Melbourne.

An energetic if unorthodox character, Kyle is also guitarist, singer and songwriter with the five-man group Suicide Swans, which is about to release its first album, ‘Ghosts We Forget’. This will be followed by a tour beginning in Toowoomba, then running though Brisbane and down the east coast. A second album is currently in the works and a tour of the United States is planned for next year. Yet this is all a long, long way from the life Kyle envisaged as a youngster.

A place on the world tennis circuit seemed to beckon when as a 13-year old his prodigious ability earned him a scholarship at Pleasanton High School, south east of San Francisco. A series of problems with his knees and a shoulder, which operations failed to fully overcome, ended those dreams.

With that, at 18, he returned to his home town of Dungog in New South Wales to complete Year 12, which he had previously done in the United States, so he could qualify for a place at the University of Sydney. “I don’t know why I did arts but I did,” Kyle says. On finishing his course he was still not sure which direction he wanted his life to follow. “When I left university, I went and lived in Amsterdam for two years,” he says. “Then I went to Barcelona, then New York and after that I came home,” he says. “It was while I was away that I began doing informal shows and exhibitions. That’s where is all started.”

After landing back in Australia, Kyle studied for his PhD in visual arts at the University of Sydney to “try and find out what I was really interested in”. Then in 2003, not long after earning his doctorate, he applied for the position he now holds at USQ and was appointed. “I have never thought of myself as a teacher but more someone who assists in creating opportunities for students to fulfill their goals as professionals within their field, whatever that may be,” Kyle says.

It was while in Sydney that he began developing a secondary interest as a musician, initially as a drummer in numerous punk bands before moving to guitar and singing. “It has been only in the last two years that I’ve taken it seriously with the Suicide Swans and we now have a manager and a label so everything is humming along,” he says.

Words by Graeme Kelly Images by Kyle Jenkins