Kate Owen - MAstar
Awarded by AXISweb in June 2008. Selected by Gill Hedley. Gill Hedley is a writer, an independent curator and a consultant on contemporary visual arts. end of year exhibition Royal College MA show, selected as the AXISweb MA star of the year Kate Owenartist
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.