Garry Kennard at GV Art

Filed in Reviews by on January 15, 2013

Garry Kennard

GV Art

11-26 January 2013


It was a few weeks ago that I received a book in the post, Garry Kennard’s ‘Essays and Images’. Locked inside the pages were stories of, amongst others, climbing expeditions and past romantic liaisons. Memories and details of dreams served to furnish ideas of how the brain functions, how it determines the way we view and experience the world. As I read, both memoirs and essays, phenomenology was at the forefront of my mind, how the individual perceives through their bodily position. Kennard, in an early chapter, describes his revelation. It is he who gives meaning to what stands before him, no one else. His brain generates emotions particular to what he witnesses. It is specific only to him.

Bringing together essays and images, another snippet of Kennard’s writing focuses on art. Simply, producing art is a method through which individuals try to describe to others how they perceive. Yet, this is particular only to the individual and so can enhance feelings of isolation. The producer will never know how his work has been received. With a focus leading onto Kennard’s paintings themselves, I was relieved, when bumbling into GV gallery with a distinct lack of foresight (namely a cumbersome backpack) to see his paintings in the flesh. For all the written insight that the book offered, the reproduced paintings lacked the colour that now held my attention.

I was surrounded. On the first floor, still life, seascapes, reflections of autumnal woodland onto rivers. Downstairs, even more. More still life and seascapes, but also a series of portraits, a series of skulls and one painting that showed a family in their home, where the perspective splayed off in one direction out of an open window, and in the other up a grey corridor. There was a sense of uncertainty in the works, though this only served to provoke wonderment. Wondering why, in the serene paintings of the sea, the sky was rendered in block pastel colours, or brilliant primary. Wondering why the photographic representation of bowls of fruit is backed with flat colour, or even why the different representations are divided with a thick black line.

Coming to the newer works of Kennard, the Holloway Icons series, there is a grid formation of portraits on the wall. Each figure is outlined in black with a background of gold. I recognise no one but the artist and curiously, amongst the faces, Arsene Wenger. The paintings undermine religious representations, making them secular. (Unless of course, the Arsenal manager is your saviour.) Also slightly hilarious was the inclusion of a cat, facing you straight on with a deadpan expression. The joy about Kennard’s work is about this sense of the unexpected, about not knowing what to think. As with the Holloway Icons, and the merging of religion with secularism, this blurring of boundaries is seen again and again with the combining of the photorealistic with the abstract. Perhaps though, the flat colours used in these paintings, the concealed seas, skies and backgrounds against a highly detailed rendering of commonplace objects and sights, are there to provoke, to suggest we fill in these gaps with the images that we retain in our imaginations.

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Ann-Marie Rayney

About the Author ()

Ann-Marie Rayney is a printmaker based in London. Recently graduated from Goldsmiths with a Fine Art and Art History degree, she will most likely be found exploring London's cultural offerings or covered in ink at Sonsoles Print Studio in Peckham. To see some of her work, have a sneaky peak at her website here.

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