Artist on Artist: Emma Walker on Kat Shapiro Wood

Emma Walker explores the dreamy depth of Kat Shapiro Wood's work, Untitled (and make big shadows I can move in), 2023.

What kinds of problems and what kinds of meanings happen in paint? What is thinking in painting, as opposed to thinking about painting? . . . This is where alchemy can help because it is the most developed language for thinking in substances and processes.”
– James Elkins, What Painting Is

I have the pleasure of catching glimpses of Kat’s work as it evolves, in her studio next door to mine. There is comfort in knowing that on the other side of a wall, another soul is grappling with materials, processes, and ideas. Some mornings we sit on our sunlit stairs and exchange words of wisdom and frustration, before returning to the furnace with a mutual understanding that words and ideas can only offer so much – the rest is persistence and alchemy.

Beyond knowledge and ability there is a lesser-known skill, a kind of receptive allowance for materials to be themselves to offer their secrets without too much interference. Kat has this capacity in abundance. Her work and approaches are somehow both deeply considered yet intuitive, of being sought or conjured, but never imposed.

A small panel of exquisitely polished brass rests along the edge of a smokey encaustic panel, where a form emerges ghostlike from an inky darkness. This work evokes the sensation of being nudged towards consciousness by the fading edges of a dream. The body reassembles itself, preparing for the day, as the intangible sensations of night recede.

The brass offers a blurry mirrored semblance as the panel on the right suggests the mysteries of the interior. Dual juxtapositions are often to be seen in Kat’s work, presenting a conversation between materials and the dynamics of relationship.

I am frequently astonished by her painting and how much depth rests beneath its deceptive simplicity.

This article was originally published in Artist Profile, issue 64
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