Kate Florence

Kate Florence reappraises masculinist accounts of modern art history: she takes Mattissian composition and transposes it through the methods of textiles, and the tropes of contemporary craft and design.

The designation of textiles and other ‘craft’ as women’s work is, by now, well-worn. Though the works that Florence presents, here, are paintings, they emerge from a textile-based practice that the artist has been interested in since youth. Free machine embroidery, with its fast-paced, improvisatory energy, and its resistance to planning, informs Florence’s painterly method. Florence’s work takes the energy of the line as its structural foundation, stretching layers of colour between decisive directional strokes. The discovery of machine embroidery as a school student has, in this way, proven to be of lasting importance to the artist’s practice – even as she wanders across different media.

There is a clear formal indebtedness to Matisse in these works, and to the canon of European early Modernism more broadly. Vital bodies, drawn with strong outlines and in expressive colour, recall a tradition of painting which has been received, through most art historical narratives, as masculine. We can usefully think of Florence’s textile-driven method, even as a painter, as usefully subverting the received masculinity of this Modernist tradition. Even the colour palette, with its soft millennial pinks, houseplant greenery, and tangerine orange, recalls the tropes also used to signal contemporary femininity in much interior and graphic design. This painted vision is one in which masculine histories and women’s practices of making can exist together, on equal footing.

A radiating joy in embodiment buzzes from Florence’s paintings; these bodies are beautiful but not necessarily, or not just, sexual. Disembodied hands and arms recur throughout the paintings, reaching and reaching for something of the world to touch. This work offers a way of looking at, and of rendering, the world which celebrates our embodied lives, without clinging to a gendered hierarchy of those bodies in which we live, experience, and make.

Scenes of an Untold Story
10-21 March, 2021
Saint Cloche, Sydney

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