The Faraway Nearby
3rd - 20th June 2015
191 Wilson St Newtown NSW 2042 Australia
0425 253 476
The disciplines of art and science – at times almost indistinguishable, and at others irreconcilable – are twin avenues in the very human search for underlying patterns, substance and meaning. Where the two often diverge is in the nature of the conclusions they seek: science gives the impression of moving inexorably towards a logical endpoint, a complete unravelling of the mysteries of the universe; art tends to revel in the inherent un-knowableness of things.
In her paintings, Kathryn Cowen employs a recognisably scientific vernacular. Her subjects include a hazmat-suited figure probing a pulsating vortex; a man with wood-and-fabric wings outstretched like Icarus, testing an early flying device; people in lab coats huddled over imaginary desks and microscopes; figures shrouded in viewing and protective devices that are equal parts nostalgia, science and steampunk. Scientific hypotheses are often wildly imaginative and creative, and Cowen’s poetic treatment of imagery, sourced and re-configured from a combination of New Scientist magazines and vintage photographs, points to a fundamental human pursuit of meaning and connection beyond the realm of the visible.
Cowen creates environments with ‘washes’ and ‘pours’ that are equal parts intent and chance, and augments them with the addition of recognisable elements – plants, planets, figures, objects. Deep blues and purples are offset by bright accents of pink, orange and green. Thick speckles of these vibrant colours are often added at the end, suspended in resin on the surface of the canvas. Cowen avoids the potential slide into the saccharine with an intuitive counterbalance of these candied hues with darker grounds and uncanny imagery. There is a visual and perceptual oscillation between the materiality of paint and resin on canvas, and the depth of the celestial realms they infer.
Cowen doesn’t try to recreate the past nor foresee the future. Hers is another facet of the multiverse where the near past and near future coalesce, a theoretical realm where ideas are tested and explored. Where the optimism of early space exploration meets the dawning realisation that the earth is not the centre of the universe – not even the solar system – and we are orbiting in the dark in a vast and unknowable universe.
Rebecca Gallo, May 2015
ICAA 2014-Take Home Archive
5 Eliza St Newtown
22 December 2014
A-M Gallery Represented Artists
5-25 October 2014
A-M Gallery Newtown
"Kathryn Cowen’s small-scale paintings are populated by mysterious, often lonely figures. These characters exist within ethereal expanses of sky where thickly-laid acrylic gives way to watercolour-like washes of colour and constellations of droplets. Cowen’s paintings allow the viewer space to imagine what ancient or futuristic fable these players may have drifted from" Chloé Wolifson, 2014
Finalist in the Lethbridge Small Scale Art Award 2014
14-29 June 2014
Lethbridge Gallery, Brisbane
Tall Tales and True
9 Oct - 2 Nov 2013
Opening 9 Oct, 6-8pm
191 Wilson St
Newtown NSW 2042
Review posted by Andrew Frost, October 4, 2013 on "The Art Life"
In the eternal battle between painting and photography it would seem that by sheer weight of numbers photography has the edge. But for all the things that photography can do, painting has a different kind of material presence, one that ensures that these related media can never really be the same thing.
In Kathryn Cowen’s Tall Tales And True, the artist has embarked on an expedition to the other side to mine a trove of personal, family and archival images as source material for her richly surfaced paintings. The paintings present images that are instantly recognisable as ‘photographic’ in their scale and flattened perspectives, yet Cowen brings a discerning sense of restraint in her translation, an act that adds the sorts of ambiguities that only painting can produce.
In Unknown Entity, Cowen sparing use of paint and ink on linen lets the canvas stand in for background while a running drip of yellow paint playfully addresses the line between abstraction and representation. A sequence of Cowen’s paintings bathe their central figures in an infinitude of painterly space: The World Beneath and The Intergalactic Pancake Express cast their characters adrift in a rich blue-black spattered with white dots. Stargazer, perhaps the hero picture of the show, is unashamedly nostalgic, a poster child for the artist’s mix of here and there.
October 9 to November 2
A-M Gallery, Newtown