Kirsten Glass conjures images and gestures into layers of synchronicity. Circling between up to six paintings at a time, Glass allows the images to gradually come into their own, with their distinct shapes shifting through fields of colour.
‘Each painting is an adventure’, says Glass. And while their formation is dependent on distinct painterly processes, Glass leaves room for ideas to change along the way. Incorporating materials such as glitter and thread, sewn through the back of the canvas, the paintings often veer into abstraction, their surfaces allowing for multiple readings.
Certain patterns and images reappear throughout. On the use of stock images drawn from the internet, Glass describes their ‘generic picture- parts hiding their particularity, and at the same time becoming more alive or animated by their association with the rest of the painting’.
Night-Scented Stock (2022) contains a white
triangle from a previous painting—one of the
many ‘scars’ that appear in Glass’ layered works.
Here, a collection of forest animals from a single stock image discovered upon googling ‘animal silhouettes’ is placed alongside the figure of a baby witch.
The incorporation of cut-outs relates to Glass’ use of sigils—symbols used in Chaos Magic that are imbued and arranged according to intent. In her paintings, Glass’ intent usually changes along the course of creation, allowing its own logic to come into being.
The black background of Night-Scented Stock (2022) gradates into a Prussian blue glaze, resembling an open sky turning to night, enveloping the animals and witch in a heady atmosphere. Glass’ playful titling of the work relates to the type of flower that opens its petals towards the evening, around which point its scent peaks, but also to the stock images that informs her subject.
In an interview with Cathy Lomax in the catalogue accompanying Swimming Witches, Glass’ 2020 solo exhibition with Karsten Schubert, the artist described her approach as being like ‘an artisan doing jobs while the paintings are dreaming’. In Flying Dream (2022), the reference to stock imagery is less obvious, and the image really does appear as a dream.
Upon first glance, the viewer might not notice the female figure that appears to be pulling the hull of a boat into a smoky realm encased by curving yellow forms; or the one at the bottom, shrouded in blurred white paint against a black background; an undulating, fuchsia-pink form hovering to the left.
Keeping close to the constraints of painting, Glass embraces working at immense scale, wary that going any further could push the works into installations. Another method of containment is the recurrence of certain patterns that provide a foundational grid. These include the flower of life—a sacred geometric form that consists of overlapping circles, used by Glass as ‘pictorial shorthand for the idea of potential’. The beauty of Glass’ paintings is that, once complete, this potential is infinite, with every viewer arriving at their own reading.
This is the second collaboration between Offer Waterman and Karsten Schubert London, following Alison Wilding: Acanthus, Asymmetrically (2017).
Kirsten Glass: Night-Scented Stock is accompanied by an exhibition booklet with writing by Tom Jeffreys.
Kirsten Glass: Night-Scented Stock | Press Release