Art Talk with Kathryn Dunlevie
by Brian Sherwin
BS: Kathryn, when I view your work theories of science and psychology come to mind. It is as if your images bend time-- they explore our perception of the world around us. One could say that they capture the idea of various dimensions as well as altered states of the mind-- or reflect collective memories stored as information. With that in mind, can you discuss your interest in science, psychology, and philosophy in regards to your art? Are there any specific theories that you adhere to within the context of your art?
KD: About ten years ago the focus of my work began to shift from memory and psychology to a contemplation of the sensory overload being created by new technologies. It seemed to me that we were developing a different type of perception – not a linear catalogue, but an instant synthesis of pertinent images culled automatically from the ever-increasing barrage of data.
In my series Not at First Glance I attempted to offer visual models of this new type of perception. I created composites of disparate photographs which, once combined through collage and painting, formed meaningful compositions. As I used paint to blur the borders between the photographs, I began to notice in some of the works the appearance of peculiar transitions. This development inspired me to create my next series in which I consciously pursued the creation of more of these spatial anomalies.
In More Than Meets the Eye I employed the photographic deconstructing and reassembling of specific places, and allowed the act of painting to coax the spaces into revealing their hidden layers. The interweaving of different perspectives created twists and ripples not visible in the original scenes. The pictorial worlds of More Than Meets the Eye were no longer merely composites of things seen while moving through space and time, but focused compositions containing glimpses of invisible extra dimensions.
BS: Kathryn, one of your most recent projects is titled Matter Unmasked. These photographic collages involve altered scenes that challenge the viewer’s perception of familiar objects and places. A review by Garland Fielder for ArtLies mentioned your methodical attention to detail. He also noted that you conveyed a painterly sensitivity in this body of work. Can you go into further detail about Matter Unmasked? Give our readers some insight concerning the thoughts behind this specific body of work.
KD: The series Matter Unmasked grew out of the mixed-media works of More Than Meets the Eye. My interest in String Theory and the depiction of unseen dimensions led me to a contemplation of particle physics’ Standard Model and a desire to illustrate the actual but visually imperceptible make-up of all matter. I felt I could best convey the notions of molecular structure and subatomic movement through the hard edges of collage.
I put my paints away in favor of cutting and pasting, but soon found that I was essentially “painting” with snippets of photographs. In order to create recognizable scenes as well as a sense of underlying motion and structure, I integrated intact images with mosaic-like passages of small shards of photographs. This often led to a sense of surfaces having been stripped away to reveal a magnified view of what was actually underneath.
BS: What about your process in general? Can you describe how you work? For example, do you build the images from intuition, so to speak, or is their a great deal of planning and research beforehand? Tell us about your process.
KD: I’ve amassed a large bank of images primarily from urban areas. I photograph intuitively and extensively, choosing which images to print after I return to the studio. I like to start several pieces at once and move from one to another in order to keep a fresh eye.
The most exciting part of the process occurs in the studio. No matter what I’ve had in mind when selecting particular images to work with, there is always a moment when the piece veers off in a direction I haven’t seen coming. Ultimately each piece develops its own logic. Fortunately, I can now print all but the largest photographs myself. I’m able to work with a greater sense of immediacy and flexibility than ever before.