Gill Hedleyback

Curator & Contemporary Art Consultant

Kate Owen

Gill Hedley speaking at Site Gallery, Sheffield, in 2006

Kate Owen - MAstar

Awarded by AXISweb in . Selected by Gill Hedley. 


Kate Owen previously studied painting at Edinburgh College of Art and later co-founded The Embassy, an artist-led gallery, in Edinburgh. Her final year show at The Royal College of Art was self-contained in every sense.

These are confident works, reticent yet provocative. There is a delicacy in many of them that is then – rather as if someone is bubbling over with laughter in the corner – unbalanced by the two works each called Affair at Styles. Cotton tee shirts are stuffed into grim looking bottles of fizzy drink which, by osmosis, dye the white cotton with a toxic stain. The allusion in the title and the work to Agatha Christie’s famous first novel is fairly heavily underlined.

There is a lyrical faintness of touch in The Kings Crystal (a mural for a chipboard wall) and a fantastical bit of light alchemy in Giant’s Bread. I’ve no idea of the plot of this particular Christie crime novel but Owens’ work looks like a slab of polished granite. Through elegant legerdemain, and the reflection from the skylight onto glass, a piece of felt spotted with tap water appears to have built up a geological history.

Hints and feints in the folds of a polythene bag or the almost readymade of cling-filmed bowls contrast with a projection, By the Pricking of My Thumbs and the monoPrints, The Moving Finger (1 & 2). Water droplets seem to be replaced by something bloodier but the clues are less enticing than the seductive appearance.

The Goodbye Look, a small photograph, gives a rat’s eye-view of the underneath of some public seating that, damn it, I recognise but can’t place. The titles of detective stories aren’t the point: the clues lie elsewhere and here the mystery of each delicate confabulation is satisfying enough.