TITILLATING ART: BY KIM MANNING
Kim Manning is a talented artist with a genuine enthusiasm and originality to her work.
1. Tell me a little about your art and how you got started/where you studied?
I’ve always been artistically inclined. Some of my earliest memories are of mum chucking a box of crayons and blank paper in front of me. I even remember stealing some black house paint as a baby and Pollock-ing up our (then) white bathroom walls. Growing up in the bush outside of Tamworth, drawing and painting were always a great way to occupy my time because activities were limited and it was often difficult to meet up with friends. I definitely favoured visual arts throughout primary and high school and I would try to incorporate artistic elements into all of the other aspects of my schoolwork too. I would always find excuses to draw in class, even on the desks! My teacher actually liked them so much that she told me I didn’t have to clean it off! But it wasn’t until I began studying at Sydney University’s College of the Arts that I began to paint. I completed my BVA last year and am now getting through my honours year. SCA’s campus is a lot of fun. It’s a visually beautiful and inspiring atmosphere but being an old psych ward, can get a bit creepy too…Especially during late night access studio hours! It’s been pretty great so far. Must admit, I’d like a little less theory and a little more studio time though!
2. Your paintings have a somewhat salacious theme, what is the inspiration for this?
They certainly do! I never used to paint such controversial subject matter (although, to be honest, I don’t think it’s an easy task to be controversial at all in the contemporary art world). Until about halfway through my second year at SCA, I was exclusively painting visually appealing images of attractive females or objects. There was no challenge when viewing my earlier paintings. You got what you saw, an aesthetically acceptable, purely decorative image, and there was no need for further contemplation. I began to feel as though my works were merely fulfilling a superficial purpose. This is when I started to think about creating works that sought to challenge people’s perspectives and perhaps elicit an array of responses from my viewers. I also wanted to depict discomforting scenarios as a means of contradicting my tedious and meticulous painting methods (I am a perfectionist Virgo through and through). I decided to turn to the world of pornography as a source of inspiration. I use magazines, films, and the internet as constant reference points. Over time, my intentions and reason for engaging with this theme have altered slightly. Initially, although still slightly abstracted, my paintings were quite obviously pornographic depictions. I would find an image or a still that I was interested in compositionally and render it in a colour block style. However, they have become increasingly abstracted and ambiguous. The idea of perversion and the feeling of shame a viewer might feel upon recognising the scenarios depicted is a notion that I am dabbling with. For the viewer, knowing that the image they think they see could simply be their own imagination (conjuring sexually exploitative ideas in their mind due to familiar or suggestive shapes and forms) is an appealing concept to me. I now find that the process of camouflaging pornographic scenarios almost to the point that what is presented is unrecognisable to be more satisfying than painting in a more representational manner for the “shock factor.” This is because the works are not completely realised at first glance. I like that this ambiguity provokes discussion and also appeals to a broader audience.
3. What kind of art are you hoping to pursue in the future?
Honestly, I can see myself working with this theme for a while to come. There hasn’t been a dull moment so far. I am constantly challenged and there are always obstacles to overcome. However, I have just recently begun to introduce a different kind of confronting element to the already pornographic works. The idea of grotesque and horrific imagery is starting to make a subtle appearance in a few of my drawings and paintings. So I guess you could say that I am working towards producing pornographic/horror hybrid works. The reason behind this is completely media related. It is amazing just how desensitised I have become with regards to explicit pornography since working with the theme. This raises more important issues such as censorship, tolerance thresholds and the accessibility of exploitative imagery in the media. Often absent-mindedly searching for pornographic reference images in a public space, I tend to forget that I’m working with a subject that’s considered taboo. It isn’t until I notice all the disapproving glances shooting at me from passers- by that I remember the importance of discretion. To an extent, getting caught out like this can make me feel perverted. So the idea of guilt or shame with regards to my work is twofold. I experience it just as much as my viewers. The introduction of horrific imagery stems from the same idea. I have been exposed to and obsessed with the overall genre of horror and idea of terror since I can remember. Watching countless R rated films and serial killer documentaries from an inappropriately young age has completely desensitised me to most media that is intended to be frightening. Hence, this idea of desensitisation (as a result of too much media exposure to a particular subject) is a theme that I have started to explore in my work. Because of this heavy reliance on the accessibility of various media for my source material and inspiration, my practice is firmly grounded in a contemporary context.
4. The new space at the Tate Gallery at the Toxteth Hotel in Glebe is just starting out, what do you think of the space? And how do you think your paintings will work in the space?
The Tate is a great space! It’s extremely comforting to know that there are people out there, encouraging struggling students to exhibit their work in commission- free galleries. The space also offers rent-free studios to artists from a range of disciplines and backgrounds that may not have this luxury in their own home or at university! The result is a forming network of young, creative like-minded people who will support each other and continually encourage the importance of the arts. Spaces like the Tate are so important and wildly beneficial to young artists as they are a bridge between Sydney’s arts education system and the (often) impenetrable art industry. The physicality of the space is very practical. It is one big long white wall. I have been to a few shows there since it has been running and have noticed that with the exclusion of nooks and crannies, the flow of people is much more manageable than in other spaces. You can start from the left and thoroughly contemplate each work with ease until you get to the end. Because of this set-up, I think my pieces for the show will work very well in the space. I will be exhibiting paintings and drawings from different stages of the past 2 years. Although they are cohesive in terms of subject matter, they vary in terms of visual appearance. The long wall in the space is beneficial to my work because it enables a sort of chronological view of my progress, which I feel is an important aspect of my practice and the direction I am headed in.