With the passing of time, our personal and collective perspectives undergo monumental shifts. What was once undeniably avant-garde and innovative becomes imbued with hidden narratives and histories. Fiona Kain approaches how the stories we once knew, the visual languages we create, and our relationship to the world of art shift with each passing day.
In this series, she presents a series of paintings of artists’ smocks. Inspired by the Mr. Freedom British Summer Collection from 1971, their bold contrasting colours become a symbol for the artist. Her distinctive use of clean lines and planes of colour combine with her plays of typography and amalgamated imagery to transform each utilitarian garment into a portal through time. In a conflation of imagery, she reframes the history of modern and contemporary art.
Adorned with feathers, clocks, text, and geometric shapes viewers decipher a story of the past retold through new eyes. The story of Ana Mendieta, a notable artist pushing the boundaries of the body and performance, has become one of the great tragedies of modern art. To date, the ambiguity surrounding her death and the possible role of her husband, renowned Minimalist artist Carl Andre, remains a mystery. Kain asks us to revisit this story with our contemporary consciousness, asking us to rethink our relationship to each of their artistic works.
The geometric patterns t the base of each smock become references to the work of Andre, such as his piece “Magnesium Square 144”. Within each smock, floating feathers allude to Mendieta’s 1971 photography series “Blood and Feathers”. Feathers transform into quills, a symbol of their marriage contract, a declaration of love, and chopsticks transform the hands of the clock, transporting us back to her fatal final night. This reimagined story is compounded by the repeating words of Marina Abramovic’s memoir, “An Artist’s Conduct in His Life”. Abramovic stresses the role of the artist not to fall in love with another artist and not to kill.
As Kain’s feathers fade into transparent forms, they echo the sentiments of disappearance and remembrance. In her entrancing yet haunting reinterpretations of the historiography of art, her viewers are confronted with the personal turmoil of appreciating these marvels of modern art, reconciling the darker histories that loom beneath their surfaces, and understanding how our perspectives on these stories exist in a state of continual flux.
Through meticulously designed artist smocks, Fiona Kain paints portals into moments throughout art that take on new meanings with the passage of time. As a storyteller, Kain reinterprets the mystery and tragedy of the late artist Ana Mendieta and the role her partner, Minimalist artist Carl Andre, had in her death. Using imagery from Mendieta’s “Blood and Feathers”, Andre’s “Magnesium Square 144”, and chopsticks symbolising their final night together, she asks us to reconsider the way these stories influence the way we think about their art decades later. Compounded by typography repeating the words of artist Marina Abramovic’s memoir, “An Artist’s Conduct in His Life” and a continuation of Kain’s clock imagery, she visualises the layers of meaning imbued within works of art.
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