‘Karen Karen’

‘Karen Karen’, is the name adopted 15 July 2016, of the artist also known as Karen Grainger.

The name was formed as a response to internal questions of her own artistic identity within contemporary art practice. It is simply her first name made to also work as her surname; selected for its multiple potentials to be neutral, vague, emphatic, abstracted, gendered, branded yet obscure.


Karen was born in Liverpool 1966 to a youth hostelling, car body repairer, and a lab technician. She was the oldest of four children by six years. As a child, she enjoyed wandering alone, unsupervised for hours, along disused railways tracks, into overgrown grounds of decaying houses and exploring forgotten wild spaces at the edges and between the gaps of sub/urban territories.

As an adult, her explorations took her first to Southport, then to Leamington Spa where she raised two children, co-ran a design business in the arts and renovated a house. Eventually, finding herself unsatisfied creatively by her mid-thirties, she decided to pursue an art practice and attended University of Central England (BA (Hons) Fine Art, 2003) and after developing an interest in the photograph as sculptural object, a few years later London University of the Arts (MA Fine Art Photography, 2009).

In 2008, she discovered the Isle of Wight and moved her home and studio base to Freshwater Bay.


Karen Karen works with the processes of sculpture in response to the formal properties of sculpture and the context of encountering the sculptural object itself (sculpture about sculpture).

For years she has habitually hoarded scavenged objects and materials both manmade and natural as starting points, either for visual and tactile exploration or for direct use in the construction of works. A long running interest has been with the use of mirrors as a material, played out both with photographic based works and sculpture. Works developed from the starting point of a given site are also particularly fruitful; her studio garden has developed as a mix of ‘site specific’ works, interacting with the setting, natural elements or human touch.

“When I develop work, the choices of material and process are initially linked to a desire to physically work with and interact with form and matter. As works evolve, they may reference histories or the context of site and engagement or half known/remembered things in the world. Works are allowed to develop language, interactions and potential choreographies which emerge instinctively over time.”

More recently she has been increasing her understanding of a variety of sculptural techniques and processes to further inform and develop her work. These include clay modelling, mould making, casting, working with wood, metal and stone.


Selected Exhibitions

2017, ‘Open Studios’ at Foal Arts, Ryde, IOW, selected guest artist with Jill Wilkinson, Penelope Walford, Tim Fawcet, Lynda Gray and Howard Hardiman.
Yarmouth Gallery, IOW2017, ‘Shifting Light’ with Paul Windridge, Yarmouth Gallery, IOW
2016, ‘Pair Shaped Show’ with Zoe Barker, Derek Barran, Racheal Berry, Nikki Brown, Robert Cotton, Joanne Hummel-Newell, Paradox Paul, Paul Windridge, Julian Winslow, Karen Karen Studio, IOW
2015, ‘Belief’, with Marius Von Brasch, Howard Hardiman, Joanne Hummel-Newell, Chris Jenkins, Terry Magson, Maya Malfatti, Paradox Paul, Sue Paraskeva, Depozitory Studios, Ryde, IOW
2015, ‘‘Mirrors Nature’, Bus Stop Gallery, Totland, IOW (solo)
2012, ‘The World in London’ The Photographers Gallery, London
2012, ‘Is That It’, Phoenix Gallery, Brighton, Brighton Photo Bienniale Fringe Focus.
2011, ‘Nine Point Perspective’, with Natasha Caruana, Zoe Childerley, Ellie Davies, Dean Hollowood, Judith Lyons, Sacha Lehrfreund, Wendy Pye and Melanie Stidolph, Hotshoe Gallery, London
2011, ‘Print Now!’ Bearspace, London
2011, ‘Within a Mile’, Fitzrovia Photography Prize, Diemar Noble Photography, London
2011, ‘Close Your Eyes and Tell Me What You See’, with HC Berg, Aurora Reinhard, Ashley Bickerton, Delphine Reist, Kim Simonsson, Yao Lu, Lieko Shiga, Sachiko Kodama, Daniel von Sturmer, Sonja Nilsson and Pablo Valbuena, Gothenburg Museum of Art, Sweden (catalogue)
2010, ‘Re: Landscape’, Viewfinder Gallery, London (solo)
2010, ‘Inside-Outside’, Piano Primo Gallery, Lecce, Italy
2008, ‘Spectre’, Brighton Media Centre, Brighton Photo Biennial Fringe
2006, ‘Unravelling Photography’, with Daniel Boetker-Smith, Matthew Pontin, and Fergus Heron, Quay Arts Centre IOW (catalogue)
2005, ‘Living Rooms’, ESC Gallery/Cultural City Network, Graz, Austria (solo)
2005, ‘Last Chickens of Sainsburys’, Glasgow International Art Festival
2005, ‘Urbanbodies’, 127 Brick Lane, Whitechapel, London
2004, ‘Now You’ve Seen It’, New Art Gallery Walsall (solo)
2004, ‘The Turner Prize Show’, Space Banana, Birmingham
2004, ‘Imprint of The Orient/The West’, Gallery Works, Osaka, Japan
2004, ‘Curious’, Shoreditch Town Hall, London
2003, ‘New Contemporaries’, Manchester Cornerhouse & Victoria Miro, London (catalogue)

Open Space Projects

2015+, Studio-Garden, Freshwater Bay, IOW
2015, ‘Mirror Birds’, various locations Freshwater – Yarmouth, IOW
2015, ‘Blancmange by Day, Jelly by Night’, Freshwater Bay caves, IOW
2010, ‘Here/There’, St Thomas Garden of Rest, Ryde Arts Festival, IOW


2010-11, Julia Margaret Cameron Trust, IOW, UK
2005, Cultural City Network, Graz, Austria
2004, New Art Gallery, Walsall, UK

Curating/Lead Artist Experience

2012, Curator of the Permanent Collection, Julia Margaret Cameron Trust, IOW
2011-12, Lead artist, fundraising and delivery, photographic heritage development and workshops for Julia Margaret Cameron Trust.
2005- 2007, Image Archive Curator and Arts Council fundraising and delivery of an analog to digital project for the Stereoscopic Society of Great Britain.

Public Collections

National Media Museum, Bradford
University of the Arts, London


2009, MA Fine Art Photography, London College of Communication, University of the Arts London
2003, BA(Hons) Fine Art, Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, University of Central England

example of sculpture by artist Karen Karen