May 20–June 20, 2015
For her third exhibition at Sprüth Magers, London, Karen Kilimnik has created a group of small-scale paintings based mostly on appropriated images, many of these from traditional Delftware, which she suffuses with her own imaginative preoccupations. The resulting body of work, made over the past two years, expresses the artist’s enduring qualities of openness and precision, elegance and humour.
The painting reconnaissance – a country house in Polish countryside (2013) depicts a road that narrows into the vanishing point of the picture, bordered by rows of trees, all in a range of cobalt blues. Although the landscape could be a country road anywhere in the world, and was probably based on a painting from the Dutch Golden Age, Kilimnik imagined the scene as an escape across Poland amid the tumult of World War II, overlaying the found image with a new narrative that reflects the artist’s interest in history. There is also an important interplay of scale, format and genre in the ‘Delftware’ work. Even while the dutch water scene (2013), for example, retains the size, shape and palette of a Delftware plate, the new painting restores the emphasis on actual landscape. Kilimnik reinstates the painterly surface and atmospheric effects we expect of landscape painting while retaining the object-like scale and shape of the plate. Kilimnik brings the same process of conversion and ambiguity to her 'tapestry' paintings. In the green faerie's cottage in the tapestry (2015), we see a fairy-tale realm that Kilimnik derived from a tapestry, yet the new painting introduces a degree of depth and vividness to the landscape that the original lacked. The blue palette of Delftware continues into the photograph Fairies in the Farm Field, France (2015), and so does Kilimnik’s interest in World War II. Synonymous with European battlefields, the poppies in the photograph are magnified and presented with vignette borders as if viewed through wartime binoculars.