Paint Box

Monday, 7 March 2011

Karen Kilimnik

Flicking through Vitamin P, and thought Kilimnik's work was worth looking further into. The direct stare and slightly 'careless' painting style attracted me, plus the Russian and storytelling undertones. Kilimnik is more written about than I had anticipated; she seems to have exhibited work in many prestigious galleries. She's written about in quite a sensory way, as though the brushstrokes are weaving around her figures and binding them into the stories. Although some faces are familiar, they also seem removed and secretive and watchful.

'Kilimnik comes on like a mysterious countess in a romantic novel, tantalising us with clues to her true identity, but always vanishing into the night when we believe we finally have her in our grasp.
If her subject matter and borrowed brushstrokes are familiar, behind it all - the stories that don’t add up, the affinities that aren’t explained - is something very difficult to articulate, an experience, an autobiography, a world view, a private self... Their searching eyes won’t leave you alone.' - accessed 07-03-11
 This sense of 'searching eyes' is something which I am captured by when I am sourcing images to work from. They can be both alluring and intimidating, transferring the power held between subject and audience.
The artist has said of her work: Being so inspired by fairy tales, mysteries, books, TV shows and ballets etc. I like to make up characters myself as if I’m a playwright and these are characters and scenes I invented or observed… So I’ll see a picture of someone or something in a photo or a painting and cast them in my so-called play as a character I’ve made up or sometimes borrowed. - accessed 07-03-11

This sense of creating a character to convey a message is something I value about my practice and an aspect I am trying to develop subtly.

Kilimnik’s work cultivates an unabashed sense of romanticism yet retains a knowing criticality and awareness of the personal desire that we invest in both vaunted works of visual art and the more fleeting intrigue of celebrities and superstars. - accessed 07-03-11

This quote links the notion of a viewer's fleeting engagement with a work of art and a superficial appreciation of fame, beauty and youth. Gratifying, these images create a quick fix without ensnaring the viewer, but leaving a trace of something more, a narrative or a history. I am interested in the idea of audience being tantalised by the image but not being in control of their response to a piece, perhaps overcome by curiosity or lust.

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