The Opening brings news from the west shore of Vancouver.
The Museum of West Vancouver has recently launched an exhibition by Kim Kennedy Austin featuring work that was made from 2002 up until the present. Entitled Industry, Charity, Faith, Hope, Austin’s exhibition turns the unsuspecting viewer into an ouroboros exploring the aforementioned themes on an endless repeat. It is incredibly hypnotic.
Through technique, style and colour the work activates the mind. Austin’s use of repetition in the work then lulls people into a meditative state, where viewers become open to new ideas. This outwards inwards rhythm culminates through the artist’s use of text throughout the exhibition. The viewer is driven into a state of self-reflexivity.
Works are clustered and grouped within their respective series allowing visitors to work through ideas forwards, backwards, left to right, and back again. The repetition is imperative, it creates an inward focus. Austin’s carefully collected slogans and technical jargon becomes a series of abstract metaphors for personal experience.
There are two visual series that do not contain text within them, one explores the artist’s interest and research into the bridges that connect the West and north shores with Vancouver. The second series Tilt Ya Head Back is a series of isolated abstract watercolour forms that were pulled from illustrations on book covers.
These works followed a series I created previously of renderings of 1970’s era text based book cover illustrations. The titles of the works in Tilt Ya head Back are all taken directly from the titles of the books themselves, for example “How To Say No To The One You Love”, “Putting The Birthdate Into Perspective” and “Financial Resource Management For Nonprofit Organizations”. – K. Austin
Virtually all the pieces on exhibit at the West Vancouver Museum are incredibly labour intensive. Austin finds that the idea of work as well as the act itself, are integral to her practice. Similarly among Austin’s artistic influences one can find her acknowledgement of labour. Her appreciation of the micro scripts of author Robert Walser, the stripe painting of Agnes Martin and the watercolours of Greg Curnoe are some examples. Austin also sites local artists as influential in her thinking and research: Neil Wedman, Sylvain Sailly, and Kerri Reid.
The theme of the ourobouros expands as one delves further into the recurring exhibition themes. Literature, song, and colour (pink and peach) are interconnected across the exhibition. As Austin states, one work often feeds into another:
I am definitely trying to work out and work through certain themes in my work and come back to these ideas again and again. Sometimes this is apparent in obvious ways, for example the title of the exhibition Industry, Charity, Faith, Hope taken from the lyrics to the song Oh Industry sung by Bette Midler in the movie Beaches. This phrase works as the title for the exhibition, is found in one of the watercolour pieces within my Sunny Thoughts & Busy Fingers series, and as well these lyrics are transcribed in one of my cross-stitch pieces. I think that each new body of work is my attempt to hone in on the real underlying theme which is still in process and yet to be clearly articulated.
The overall layout and design of the space was curated by Patrik Andersson who has expertly noted that Austin’s work should be viewed as though on a swing set, zipping across the room to look at one thing, and dashing across to the other side to make a new connection, to and fro, to and fro.
Industry, Charity, Faith, Hope is an eloquent form of tantra meditation.
Through aesthetic experimentation, Kim Kennedy Austin accesses the supra-mundane through the mundane, sublimating industrial processes, labour, symbols and signifiers. This process she repeats endlessly as she continues a series, or begins anew, the repetition thus folds in on itself and reinforces the process. Daily cycles and repetitive actions construct our lives, and our identities, Austin invites us to relish these fixed gestures in time by considering them within a continuum. Even though it seems trivial, with each repetition, with each renewed gesture, we change – we transform. Beginnings and endings are one and the same, but then again, they are also completely different.