Bringing together the work of Clare Kenny and Natasha Rees, Splitting Metaphors is a site-responsive exhibition of object and print based works. A common starting point for both these artists is their use of photographic imagery as a means of navigation. Whether to employ a photographic image as a discrete work or as a strategy to inform a three dimensional or moving image piece, Kenny and Rees utilise the photographic image as an intrinsic material.
V: How would you describe the exhibition?
CK: An investigation of space, archives, images, materials, two dimensional and three dimensional forms.
NR: For me, the exhibition has an emphasis on the unresolved, difficult nature between form and its meanings. Clare and I both use the photographic as a material; sometimes as a final work, sometimes as an apparatus for other things. Working with images involves a process of nullifying and embracing their obvious associations, as a means to understand different ways into that images’ true power. This is a ridiculous thing to do! But I think it’s important to see it revert back to its literal state, in a way. Like a type of image ‘nirvana’. The process is playful, but also militant. Between us, for this show, we tried to orchestrate re-readings of what we had made, through the construct of the exhibition, as a work in its own right.
Clare has included large and smaller photographic and spray-painted media and casted plaster works and I’m showing Perspex cut outs, screen prints and a neon light fitting. In retrospect, we’re trying to create a type of conversation with the two different languages of our work.
V: Where did the title for the show come from?
CK: Natasha and I passed several ideas back and forth via email, eventually deciding on Natasha’s suggestion of Splitting Metaphors. Coming to the conclusion that it summed up or rather pulled apart the many ways we as artists use and explore subjects and materials guiding them into new territories and opening them up to various interpretations.
NR: We’re both interested in the how an image functions, how it operates within the field of visual language, and within wider contexts: personal albums, the internet, the news, as text and so on. Then there is the formal choice of how to ‘deal’ with those images’ ‘problems’- how to challenge everything within the idea of it, and then ourselves as artists in the process. We share an intention to problematise the way things can be read, and play with how meanings shift and maleate. And crucially, the unresolved nature of art practises inside these attempts. “Splitting Metaphors” seemed an apt summary of this.
V: What were the challenges of the Vitrine Bermondsey Square space and how did you confront them?
CK: The space is unique and demands a unique response. The challenge of the space is to try and use it creatively and not do the obvious. The dimensions of the space, long and narrow in depth, brought out new ways in handling and installing the various elements so that they retain their form in some respects but in others respond to the space directly.
NR: The main challenge is the ‘front-on’ nature of the space and how then to choreograph each of the works being read non-literally. My first response with the space was to battle with it, fight the neat nature of it. But we eventually created a rhythm so that the ‘weight’ alters drawing the eye in and out of the detail of the work, rather than just perceiving a conglomerate of artworks.
V: Describe the process of working together on the exhibition.
CK: This was an intense period of experimentation, discussion, and trial and error. Adding and taking away elements until we were left with the perfect flow from one end of the space to the other, looking at it like a visualisation of a melody with low and high notes and punctuations of intense noise.
NR: Clare and I attended the same course at Chelsea (College of Art) around a decade ago, so we’re familiar with the other’s strong conceptual emphasis and artistic sensibility. These were solid foundations to work from. The process was therefore relatively straightforward. Despite having very different practices, we knew – almost instinctively – how to ‘pitch’ the exhibition.
Words by Olivia Greene
Clare Kenny / Natasha Rees
Until 2 December, Vitrine Bermondsey Square