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.