Annka Kultys Gallery is pleased to present Unfurling, an exhibition of new work by British American artist Kate Bickmore. Marking her second solo show with the gallery, the exhibition features four large-scale florascape oil paintings and digital components made in collaboration by British digital artist Sian Fan.
Bickmore is best known for her enthralling florascape oil paintings that interweaves hyperreality with fantasy in her signature visual language that reflects the artist’s lived experiences as a queer woman. Through these florascapes the artist explores new modes of perception, unconscious urges, and systems of meaning. Continuing this, Unfurling explores the complexities of navigating a long-distance relationship; how we relate to one another across time and space when physical proximity is limited, how much information is gained or lost through the digital experience, and the many emotions that unfold from this. Each painting present two central figures reaching towards each other evoking the sense of longing for the other that inevitably follows from opening oneself up to a place of vulnerability. Through the process of making the paintings, which requires full physical immersion and sensory expansiveness, the flowers become powerful agents of healing and connectivity between the artist and the world around her. “I think about plants reaching and growing towards the light, hungry for warmth and to be held by the sun. That desire to be held is present in the works, as the flowers became agents of healing which have held me through this difficult time, providing temporary comfort. Many of the flowers also feel submerged in an oceanic liquid which holds them like a warm bath — a comfort I often go to when I'm feeling overwhelmed”, Bickmore explains. The flowers in this sense become their own characters in each painting, telling their own narrative of longing.
The digital works made by Sian Fan and inspired by Bickmore’s oil paintings features two AR flowers and two looping animated videos of flowers that move and dance around each other, yet never touch – their bodies just pixels and glitching forms. The AR provides a new dimension to accessing the paintings and yet is not physically there to touch. The digital components reflect on feelings of longing. Along with the dark atmosphere that the flowers on the paintings glow against, this is inspired by the screen of an iPhone that holds our loved ones: “A temporary body for my partner that I carry with me as walk, shower, cook, paint, and sleep at night”, Bickmore says.
In the large work Take My Body and Make My Brain a Garden (2022), exotic and brightly coloured flowers shine against a gloomy purple and pink background. Familiar and yet otherworldly, the two large flowers in the foreground appear to turn towards each other obliquely across the canvas. The white flower appears to almost be dancing around the wilting tulip, leaning over, and caring for it during a dark hour. With this painting Bickmore is exploring the process of giving oneself over to someone else at their weakest moment to be protected. Most of Bickmore’s florascapes start with real flowers in her studio that are photographed and used for inspiration. Take My Body and Make My Brain a Garden is based on a real flower installation by florist Samuel Thomas.
Facing the entrance, in the large portrait painting An Eternity Moving Towards Light (2022) light purple hibiscus flowers on a dark blue background dance and wraps around each other, the textures of the leaves appearing soft and fragile. As stated by the artist: “This painting could evoke both longing or conflict — all of which emerges from constantly working towards a place of light and love. The two main flowers are surrounded by my friends, family, and other members, which could be fighting or supporting the relationship”.
In a much lighter colour palette, the two central orchids in Remembering the Ways You Held Me (2022) are facing each other. The flowers sit in a foggy, cloudy atmosphere, reaching towards one another as if they are entering into an embrace. With the orchid often associated with sex due its visual similarities with the female organs, the painting not only stands out with its colours but also with this more erotic theme. This painting, as the title suggests, is about a hazy remembering of the feeling of touch. They could, again, be two different lovers or perhaps the same flower, as one older, wiser one reaches out towards a younger version of itself.
The same ambiguity is present in the diptych Be Fiery or Else All is Futile (2022). Containing two flowers separated by physical space, they could be two lovers, separated by distance, but also two different version of oneself — one confident and ready to take on the world, and the other curling and protecting its life energy.
Unfurling represents the artist’s second solo show with a commercial gallery and Annka Kultys Gallery is delighted to have been able to offer Bickmore the opportunity to present her work in such a context.
Special thanks to Samuel Thomas who made the floral installation especially for the show.