Traverser sees the continuation of Damien Kurth’s fascination with still life, as he explores modes of visual perception and interpretation, and draws on traditional painting practices to defy accepted conventions of the genre. These works reject stereotypical subject matter, taking a counter-historical approach to the social and cultural parameters of still life painting.
Kurth’s interest lies in the process of painting: composition, the study of light, and awareness of the symbolism inherent in his chosen objects. “The objects I use have taken on the characteristics of words, letters, signs, and signifiers. Always in flux, they are the repertoire that carries my voice, it is the discourse I work within,” Kurth explains.
Suitably, this body of work bears a familiar guise in composition and in subject matter, with Kurth’s conscious configurations of glass vessels, mysterious black liquid, oil cans and other studio accouterments. However closer inspection reveals not the sharp, dense portrayals from earlier work, but ostensibly softer forms; infused with light, delicate and transparent.
“The seeming simplicity of watercolor is one of the attractions for me. Yet, as anyone experienced with the medium will know, the process is actually far from simple. This is a contradiction I love: while watercolour has an immediacy which implies effortlessness – water, pigment, paper and brush carrying ideas – the directness of this process leaves small tolerance for adjustment, reworking or adaptation. Control and confinement are tenuous; discovery, loss and representation become nebulous,” says Kurth.
In seeking to shift from painting in oil, which he employs with unquestionable confidence and ability, to a medium which challenges and forces an evolution of skill and process demonstrates Kurth’s thorough engagement with traditional painting methods. The essentially illusory nature of painting three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface becomes conceivably more difficult in the fluid and unstable medium of watercolour.
By challenging the traditional notions of the still life with his unexpected compositions and gritty displays of the detritus of his studio, Kurth undoubtedly liberates the still life from its stifling historical position and offers it a new place in contemporary art; and it is evident from Traverser, he is compelled to achieve the same for the oft-maligned medium of watercolour.
…“I am also passionate about where and how traditional painting (methods, techniques, genres) sit within today’s art world (or more correctly contemporary painting practices) and how I can align these concepts for myself while being open and truthful to what I believe”. Damien Kurth.