An Ordinary Poetry
Sullivan+Strumpf | Singapore
Opens on Saturday, 25 November 2017, 5 - 7pm
When I first encountered Karen’s paintings (by accident, on a too long family holiday in stifling heat just north of the Tropic of Capricorn) I was reminded how convincing paint can be; her surfaces demand close, sustained inspection. Shadows are clues for eyes, negative space shifts into limbs, glazed pools of colour collect as faces (faces so particular—like bubble gum just before it pops.) Her work plays with its own contradictions; figuration and abstraction become useful alternates for history and myth, which collude on the painted surface as they do in life. If contemporary abstraction forms an image of how the world feels, then Black is all abstract. Time, both contemporary and historical, is shaken and stirred and settles momentarily here; developed, gently printed, but unfixed.
The familiarity I feel in the presence of Karen’s work is arcane but certain. Recent works like Bed mess, Floating dream, Body shell, and Table manners recall duty, illness, the strange proximity of motherhood and childhood and, particularly, the betrayal of our own bodies. In the spectral shadows and shifting parameters of Karen’s work, I see a skilled yet automatic hand that might claim to outsource creativity to a higher power. I think of the Spiritualists, of the bright and ecstatic palette of Hilma Af Klint. I think of the maudlin faces of the symbolist painter Odilon Redon. Each one of Karen’s paintings seems part of a larger whole. Like Klint and Redon, her work is concerned with the science of last things—with death, judgement, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind—and is contained by the unhurried contemplation of everyday objects and people. Like Morandi, but on acid.
– Extract from catalogue essay 'The Science of Last Things,' by Stella Rose McDonald