|Three Feet High and Rising
1 - 25 March 2006
The ominous rasp of Johnny Cash provided the soundtrack to many of the paintings in Kate Walker’s latest exhibition at Idiom Studio.
Kate left Wellington several years ago to study for a postgraduate degree in fine arts at a university in New Mexico.
University of Arizona
That’s where she began working on this exhibition, its title adapted from a Johnny Cash song. “I was listening to a lot of his music over there, and I was there when he died. A part of the way I work overlaps with people like him - creating a kind of social commentary, or folk history.”
Kate was once a musician herself, playing bass for the Wellington band Naked Spots Dance, before she established a reputation as a highly distinctive painter and video artist. In this show she has used both these media to chronicle, with humour and indignation, her obsessions, experiences and concerns in the southwest US and in Nelson, where she now teaches art at the polytech.
Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (not a poly anymore)
“These paintings are like layers of what’s happening in my life. I’m trying to give just enough clues so people can read from them.” Among the clues are oblique references to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated areas where Kate has close friends, to the desert around Tucson and the displaced American Indians living there, and to her new life in Nelson, teaching art next door to the local fish and chip shop.
This vigorous, confident work shows the effects of Kate’s recent years in a completely different arts environment, and of her commitment to returning home.
KATE WALKER: paintings, drawings, video
The paintings and drawings
I am interested in making art as a record, a chronicle of the times I live in. In my work I like to mine everyday events and cultural ephemera for their story telling potential. Global political, local and regional as well as personal everyday events are mixed up as part of this process. Rather than an art that is autonomous from life, I want an art that is inseparable from life.
The personal, the political, the scientific and the irrational, are often assigned separate spheres in our culture. Of course, actual human experience is much more messy than that. I want to delve into this messiness, locate the overlap of the personal with the political, to explore how our own individual lives are absolutely bound up with wider world events.
By dislocating objects from their expected contexts, mixing up the real and the imagined, I aim to provoke a questioning of perception and beliefs. For me, the objects, actions and places which fill our lives are full of human presence and intent. I look for the overlooked, the mundane and the hidden for their narrative power and potential for personal and social comment. These are transformed and refigured in paint to present a collapsing of time and space, fact and fiction in order to create new meanings and cultural insights.
This current body of work was started when I was living in the United States. It reflects my engagement with American culture and an exploration of local colonial histories, which took me traveling around southwest cities, mines and Native American reservations.
Other works stem from my return to New Zealand last May. This brought the strange sensation of inhabiting different places at the same time. Feeling the immediacy of international events like Hurricane Katrina and its political ramifications while being cushioned by distance from this and other growing world conflicts. Looking through the lens of one culture at another a changed scale of roads, city and landforms. The once familiar smell of fish and chips wafting through my local town like a backdrop to bottom trawling disputes going on... All these things provided the raw ingredients of recent works.
The narratives tell their own story.
The Island, single channel video, 2004
This work was made while I was in Arizona in November 2004, just after the United States presidential elections. It is both a record of and response to that event. Television channels tracked the voting progress by displaying a map of American states. Each state filled with either red or blue as the votes were counted. Red states signify Republican (Bush), and blue Democrat (Kerry). The narrative of The Island begins with a close to factual account of this media event. The United States map slowly filled up with red, as the central, rural states’ results come in first, leaving the blue east and west coast sea states stranded between them. This piece reflects the feeling I was left with that night, standing on a red island.
Slow Descent, single channel video, 2006
A Reservation State, single channel video, 2005
Arizona is sometimes called ‘a reservation state’ because it contains a greater number of Native American reservations than any other North American state. In the 1974 Navajo-Hopi Land Partition Act, the Navajo and Hopi reservations were divided to give mining companies access to coal resources on sacred land. This coal is converted to electricity to provide power to Southwest states. Still today 70% of homes on the Navajo reservation do not have electricity. With reference to the history of artist as performer in video art, as well as using drawing as thought process, the artist symbolically reenacts key historic events.