‘Karen Karen’, is my artist’s name adopted 15 July 2016 (now celebrated as a half-birthday).
The name was formed as a response to internal questions of identity within a contemporary art practice. It is simply my first name made to also work as my surname; selected for its formal/informal play when in use and its multiple potentials to be neutral, vague, emphatic, abstracted, gendered, branded yet obscure.
I work with the processes of sculpture in response to both the formal, material and sensory properties of sculpture, as well as the context and experience of encountering sculpture itself.
I am interested in making work that physically grounds and focuses the mind on the experience of an object, a place, space or moment. Providing encounters with materials and forms to draw in and encourage heightened sense and cerebral responses.
Direct contact with work is increasingly important, both during the making process and providing touchable forms that allow for exploration, changeability or play.
In the studio as I develop work, the choices of material and process are initially linked to a desire to physically work with and interact with certain forms and materials. 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.
My home studio garden initially helped develop my more recent practice, featuring a mix of site-specific works that interact with the setting, human input or changing conditions. Further afield works have also been assembled using material found along the coast in response to both human and elemental forces.
In May 2018, after looking for several years, I secured a new permanent space to develop work for, both for interior based sculpture and installation, and exterior garden-scale works – Ever.
I was born to a youth hosteling, car body repairer, and a blood bank lab technician in 1966. I was the oldest of four children by six years.
My father was self-taught and self-employed and always worked out of various garages and outbuildings where we lived. When I was 13, I could earn £7 if I ‘flatted’ and masked-off a car in preparation for a re-spray.
Always on a budget, my mother and sisters inherited the basics of ‘materials handling’ and how to operate a sewing machine from our grandmother, who despite her then working class status always cut a Dior-like dash in photographs. As a teenager, dressmaking was attempted initially (badly) and soft furnishings too (more useful in the long run especially as I now dress ‘a la charité’).
I went to an all-girls comprehensive school and bemoan the absence of wood-working, metalwork or engineering classes at the time. As I see these as important to aspects of my work practically, I have gradually acquired these skills more recently through books, videos or attending workshops. With these skills comes the need for kit and a space to operate noisy, dusty machines. Echoing my father, I donned a boiler suit and set off in search of a welding workshop space and found one, alas not at home, however but on a farm only 10 minutes drive away.
As a child around the age of 10, I 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.
Liverpool was fairly grim in the 80s and our family used to take regular weekend excursions away into Wales and the Lake and Peak Districts with the local and adjoining branches of the YHA. Our escape vehicle was an ex-Manweb van with armchairs for seats in the back and we had great fun meeting up with friends and walking into the (usually quite wet) vast unknown.
As an adult, my own practical and family meanderings took me first to the faded Victorian seaside resort of Southport, then to the Regency town of Leamington Spa. Pushing south, in 2008, I discovered the Isle of Wight and moved home and studio base to the relatively remote Freshwater Bay.
For several years here, as a believer in an independent, DIY ethos, I searched for a sustainable method and ‘place’ for my art practice. In May 2018, a new adventure also just 10 minutes drive along the coastal road began…
Works have been included in exhibitions including New Contemporaries, New Art Gallery Walsall, Gothenburg Museum of Art, Cultural City Network Graz, Gallery Works Osaka, Brighton Media Centre, Photographers Gallery London.
Gained a BA (Hons) Fine Art at University of Central England, 2003 and MA Photography (exploring the photograph as object) at University of the Arts London 2009. Works are in the collections of the National Media Museum and the University of the Arts London.
A full CV available on request.