Kāryn Taylor is herself a sublime understatement. She is an artist of insatiable drive with an appetite for the infinite made finite in her material constructions. Taylor is not afraid of confronting grand narratives; her themes deal with the science of life. The complexity of concepts explored by Taylor is presented in deceptively refined structures and installations.
Taylor claims to be a Formalist, which would suggest that the aesthetic of her practice takes precedent. To this end, Taylor navigates the precision of her material constructs with an accuracy attesting to her skills as a practitioner. Every material detail is intricately managed. The proportions of her work and projections effortlessly integrate with surrounding environments. For example Self Organising System (2015) is a Perspex diptych; iridescent light is contained within a sealed unit and travels between compositional constraints to find continuation in an adjoining Perspex panel. The ground colour, a fleshy salmon hue, is muted by the white opacity of surrounding Perspex. The alchemy of the vibrant neon emanates from the restrained composition without power source or electrical current. It is as if light itself is suspended within a bed of pulsating colour.
Her works are perfectly realised within their material parameters, a collusion of aesthetic sensibility and conceptual symbiosis that appears simple in its completeness. This is the ‘art’ of Kāryn Taylor and it is here that her works begin to take on their true effect. Taylor creates a phenomenological response to the phenomenon of the unseen world. The viewer is required to engage (unknowingly) with concepts bridging a trajectory between the existential fundamentals of metaphysics and quantum physics.
The aesthetic appeal of Taylor’s practice seduces the observer into a false sense of voyeuristic objectivity. In actual fact, Taylor is playing her audience like a masterful puppeteer. The power of Taylor’s work resides not only in its undeniable beauty, but also in its more profound dialogue with themes relating to quantum physics. Quantum physics is the study of matter and energy at their most miniscule levels. Her works poetically reflect upon the science of ‘being’, manifest in the microscopic material components that collude to conceive and sustain existence.
There is no easy access into Taylor's practice. Her works are alive with the mysteries of vitalism, as such the viewer is confronted not only as an observer but as an active participator in the realisation of the work itself. The observer enlivens the object through the action of observation. The energy of Taylor’s practice resides in the questions it raises, not the problems it solves. Untitled (Malevich) (2015) challenges the viewer through optical vagaries and implicit associations. The work is positioned in response to the surrounding environment. Proportions of the piece are enhanced by careful placement within the constructed space. However, the vitality of the installation expands beyond site-specificity. This work will not be reduced to a particular location but responds to any environment within which it is appointed.
Taylor challenges aesthetic sensibility, scientific logic and metaphysical mystery. Her works present a series of inexhaustible binaries. There is no conclusion to be made save for the alchemy of refracted light anticipating the unpredictable dynamism of lived experience. For all its material reference to formalism and minimalist orthodoxy, Taylor exhibits an incarnate reality mediating between the material and immaterial world, cognition and precognition, ontology and epistemology. All of these conceptual complexities are germinated within the boundless parameters of light reflection and refraction. Taylor’s work deserves our full attention.
Essay by Elizabeth Brookbanks
Born: 1969, Dunedin
Education: Master of Fine Arts (First Class), Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland; Bachelor of Fine Arts (Hons), Massey University, Wellington; Graphic Design and Desktop Publishing, Masters Institute, California, USA; Visual Communications, Christchurch Polytechnic; Applied Art and Design, Otago Polytechnic
Awards/Distinctions: The Wallace Art Awards - Finalist (2014, 2012); Waikato Contemporary Art Awards – Finalist (2014); Lola Anne Tunbridge Award - Finalist (2012); Dunedin Fringe Festival Grant (2008)
Public Exhibitions: Light, 30upstairs, Wellington (2015); Kāryn Taylor and Sandra Bushby, Window, Auckland (2015); NZ Sculpture OnShore, Auckland (2014); The Wallace Art Awards, Pah Homestead, TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre, Auckland, Pataka Art + Museum, Wellington, Wallace Gallery, Morrinsville (2014); Waikato Contemporary Art Awards, Waikato Museum, Hamilton (2014); New Beginnings are in the Offing, Fuzzyvibes, Auckland (2014); Jacob’s Ladder, Corner Gallery, Auckland (2014); Abstract Philosophy, 30upstairs, Wellington (2013); The Other Place, Allpress Gallery, Auckland (2013); Launch 2012, Projectspace, Auckland (2012); Quietly Confident, SOFA Gallery, University of Canterbury, Christchurch (2012); Lola Anne Tunbridge Award, Projectspace, Auckland (2012); Jacob’s Ladder, Dunedin Public Art Gallery (2010); A Matter of Mind, Dunedin Fringe Festival (2009); Practical Metaphysics, Dunedin Fringe Festival (2008); Exposure, Massey University, Wellington (2005); To There and Back Again, University of Southern Queensland, Australia (2005); Cup Cup (with Thomas Baryle), The Dowse Art Museum, Wellington (2004)
Articles: ‘2015 Undiscovered Artists’ by Sue Gardiner, Art Collector, Issue 72, Apr-Jun 2015, pp 114-115; ‘Outdoor Sculpture in Devonport’ by John Hurrell,eyecontactsite.com, 16 Nov 2014; ‘National Contemporary Art Awards in Hamilton’ by Peter Dornauf, eyecontactsite.com, 1 Sept 2014; ‘Project 015: Karyn Taylor (NZ)’ by Rob Garrett, robgarrettcfa.com, Apr 2014; ‘Thinking in the Abstract’ by Glen Snow,eyecontactsite.com, 23 Oct 2013; ‘Eight Elam Graduates’ by John Hurrell,eyecontactsite.com, 27 Aug 2013; ‘Take Note’, Otago Daily Times, Mar 2010; ‘Rear Lights’ by Adrienne Rewi, adriennerewiimagines.blogspot.co.nz, 1 Jun 2010; ‘Fun house trip into the unknown’ by Nigel Benson, Otago Daily Times, Apr 2008; ‘2008 Dunedin Fringe’ by Nigel Benson, Otago Daily Times, Apr 2008; ‘Fringe Festival is Hotting up’ by Neal Barber, Critic, Mar 2008; ‘Invited Artists show a Fine Realism’ by James Dignan, Otago Daily Times, Apr 2008
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