Karen Kilimnik

Art, Painting Free
4 out of 5 stars
 (Karen Kilimnik, 'The Fairy cleaning the copper pot with Fairy Dish Soap', 2014)
Karen Kilimnik, 'The Fairy cleaning the copper pot with Fairy Dish Soap', 2014Karen Kilimnik, 'The Fairy cleaning the copper pot with Fairy Dish Soap', 2014
Karen Kilimnik, 'Leonardo Da Vinci's living room, Amboise 1500', 2014. Photo: Kris Emmerson
Karen Kilimnik, 'the green fairie's cottage in the tapestry', 2015. Photo: Kris Emmerson
Karen Kilimnik, '3 Holsteins in Delft', 2013. Photo: Kris Emmerson
Karen Kilimnik, 'hiding out in the cold winter polish countryside, the old country', 2013. Photo: Kris Emmerson
Karen Kilimnik, 'the Delft Castle', 2014. Photo: Kris Emmerson
Karen Kilimnik, 'the dutch water scene', 2013. Photo: Kris Emmerson
Karen Kilimnik, 'the medieval cottage tapestry', 2014. Photo: Kris Emmerson

Solo exhibition of new works by the American painter

Fanciful forays into make-believe are what Karen Kilimnik is known for and what she does best. You can understand why she loves Christmas and Halloween – cultural celebrations that rely heavily on ritual, frivolous spectacle, and absurd exaggerations of reality – from this show of her latest paintings, which feature plenty of fairies and unicorns.

Since the 1990s, the American artist has been appropriating material, whether culturally significant or trashily tabloid, to create fantastical works – ranging from paintings to entire installations – in which she tampers with history and reality to imaginative ends. The scope of her whimsically droll mind is paramount here. Taken by the fantastical connotation of a cleaning product’s name, in ‘The Fairy Cleaning the Copper Pot with Fairy Dish Soap’ (pictured) she pushes a ridiculous association by reimagining it as a Chardin-esque still-life.

Fairytale antics, however, aren’t in evidence in the eight paintings in the back gallery, which mimic the blue hues and rural scenes of Delftware. Featuring churches, lanes, waterways and grazing cattle, the paintings are relatively sombre, likes stills from a flashback montage in a film.

Also on show are two photographs of brilliantly purple flowers. While they lack the inventiveness of her canvases, their tight composition – emphasising pollen-sprinkled petals against a background that blurs away – has a hint of Kilimnik’s painterly style. The overall feeling is that you’ve been invited into another realm, or chanced upon a forgotten memory. Such playful illusions are what Kilimnik’s work is made of.

Freire Barnes

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