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Robust formal elements and an unequivocating thrust of ideas are the primary aspects with which one is presented in Karen Papacek's work from this exhibition. In the less than fashionable style of expressionism, the paintings are figurative representations of the private/public dichotomy - a criticism of both social attitudes to personal issues and personal stances on broader public and social matters. The work is critical in the sense that it is by no means a passive observation.
An immediate impression of the show is of vigorous, expressive line, saturated colour and a highly contrasting tonal range.
The philosophy behind the work is equally clear and concise as the mark-making. The catalogue includes notes on the show; not annotations to specific works, but general concepts that underlie the work. The final statement is: "... this exhibition is about identifying various degrees of conditioning and the ideals for which we as a society, and individuals, strive ."
The questions of domestic and global excess are reiterated throughout the work. The artist comments to the effect that excesses and abuses perpetrated on the domestic level are without question carried through to the individual's public lite and are then manifested socially and environmentally, and vice versa.
Although less symbolism is used in this exhibition than the previous show, the work contains a clear and consistent symbolic vocabulary: The use of images of dead birds is both visually evocative in that that slumped form of the bird's neck and body has a strong impact of lifelessness whilst implying a previously unparalleled dynamism or vitality. Roses, women, kings, queens and interchangeable house-shapes and tombstones are some of the most predominantly recurrent symbols in the often icon-like pictures. The combination of rich colour and gold, of arched Gothic window shapes that designate 'house' or 'tomb' or both, birds' wings reminiscent of angels and blue madonna-like figures, combine to appeal to the audience's emotions, an effect that is in keeping with the personal and emotional springboards that are the bases for the imagery.
It is impossible to clearly categorise the work in this show; an attempt to do so would act in much the same way as do the house/graves of greenhouse, and the house we all built, which confine and trap the artist's personal experiences and reduces them to a product for easy consumption. The brooding quality of the painting, tradition, 5, 6, pick up sticks, is an exploration of the unquestioning acceptance of tradition in terms of what are perceived as necessities: Fossil fuels, religion and the tragedy that is inherited as a result of these. Illustrating each of these respectively are the oily water, the apple and a dead bird. greenhouse is at once a tombstone and a house, a shape that thrusts towards the top of the picture, nearly touching that edge, and embodying the power of the patriarchal society, although it is not necessarily a Freudian symbol. There is no 'green' in greenhouse, rather, it is a hot, red-tipped form, pushing into a primary blue sky. The inclusion of roses in much of the work and particularly in it's a good thing roses aren't an endangered species, brings to mind questions of beauty, preciousness and value. Concurrently, images of hot-house flowers, "tortured and hybridised" are evoked. The search tor Paradise goes on, regardless of the paradises that are being destroyed or at best, overlooked, in the process. In terms of personal relationships, Karen has used the king and queen figures to indicate a relationship between two people, held together by power in some way. One piece that includes these figures is marriage, subtitled: "sharing an idea alone together, king and queen of broken hearts".
It operates in the same way as a storyboard; an illustration of a series of events. The domestic scene is featured in and so she won the golden house award; tragedy engendered by the beautiful woman in the beautiful house, a product of what the artist describes as social conditioning, the measurement of a person's worth in terms of their ability to "keep a tidy house".
This exhibition is not 'a tidy house'; each idea and image is able to be read in different ways at once in a single work. The paintings invite interaction from an audience. The strength of the emotional, expressive aspects of the work lies in this variability and in the artist's ability to interpose and splice the personal content with more universal issues in such a way that the seams are not discernible.