The following words were written and performed by Catherine Truman for the opening of Projected Surface by Kath Inglis, at Hahndorf Academy Gallery, 6.30, Dec 9, 2016. Following this text is Catherine’s further investigation into Kath’s work with words from the exhibition catalogue.
Kath Inglis crafts her work with her hands, heart, body and soul- she immerses her whole self in the process of making. You can find Kath, who she is, what she feels and how she thinks in her major body of new work – Projected Surface. She is as complex, generous, intelligent, strong, and as surprising as the objects she creates. I’m not just waxing lyrical! Its true!
Let me give you some background. Kath was raised in the tropical climes of Darwin in the far reaches of the Northern Territory. She travelled south to study at the University of South Australia, graduating in 2000 with a design degree in contemporary jewellery and since graduating she has been utterly consistent in the evolution of her career.
In my experience, in order to continue to grow your practice and grow as a person you need to learn about yourself. You need to learn to honour your own instincts and be open to challenge. Kath has chosen to grow her practice within a great range of environments.
Here’s a potted history to give you some idea of her energy- since graduating in 2000, she has been a tenant at Gray Street Workshop (twice); a Design Associate at the Jamfactory and she also co-established an operated an independent workshop and gallery called Soda and Rhyme for 5 years withcolleague Naomi Schwartz.
Kath has had a real presence in the Adelaide hills. She and her family have settled into Crafers and Kath has worked in studios here in Hahndorf and more recently at the Barn in Aldgate. So after all these years down south I think we can now well and truly claim her as South Australian. All of these environments have fed her life and work in positive ways.
But what I especially want to emphasise is Kath’s approach to her practice. Since 2001 Kath has developed an extraordinary relationship with one particular material- her beloved PVC. This kind of consistency and focus with such an unexpected material as PVC is rare. Her works are full of paradox- of tensions between the prosaic and the precious. Her curiosity seems boundless. She is always inventing new techniques to underpin her concepts. I’m not sure if its common knowledge but she can do magic tricks with a sandwich toaster!
I have had the privilege of mentoring her twice – firstly in 2004 and then in 2015, eleven years apart. Both these mentorships have been made possible through the South Australian Craft Council’s (now Guildhouse) very important mentoring program. The One On One mentoring project last year was a rare and special opportunity to renew our vows- to review past concepts and to also look ahead.
It’s not often you get that chance and it’s so satisfying and so rewarding. During that space of 11 years there has been a steady growth. She has developed a range of unique and engaging processes- constantly questioning the parameters of her process at every turn and responding in the moment.
Here’s an example (these are Kath’s words):
The experience of the mentorship led me contemplate ideas around ‘surface’… How deep is a surface? When there are three layers of PVC fused together, is the middle layer still a surface?
And I have discovered that Kath Inglis has become a mistress of the light. She has become so attuned to the ways that PVC interacts with the light and now works with light as if it were another material.
The cuts I make become miniature lenses – tiny windows capturing an image on the surface, wild distortions of line or magnifiers creating super charged reflections of light and colour.
The forms she presents to us in Projected Surface are brave and new- scissors and mirrors- objects and jewellery installations and digital imagery. And the effects she has created extend way beyond the forms, the techniques and the material itself. She is currently interested in how we construct our identities and there are some strong metaphors are at play.
Of the hand mirrors she says:
When it comes to our identities, we are all makers. Cutting away, adding, layering, blending, concealing and revealing. A mirror offers a reflective surface – a site for contemplation about the self.
She animates her forms with magnification, and projected light. She works her surfaces as if they were cut glass. She expresses herself in PVC. And this is the reason why Kath has emerged as one of Australia’s most compelling, and exciting contemporary jewellers.
At the moment in my own practise, I am also discovering some interesting things about the nature of light. I’m learning about how our eyes work in particular and I’m currently artist in residence at the Centre for Ophthalmology, Eye and Vision Research at Flinders Medical School and recently I’ve learned that the retina of each eye contains over 100 million photoreceptors responsible for converting light into neural activity.
So finally, if you’ll allow me to offer some advice, I encourage you tonight to join with Kath, surrender to the light and warm up those photoreceptors, because boy they are in for a treat!
Thank you to The Hahndorf Academy and to Rachel McElwee, the director, and especially to Kath Inglis for presenting such a special exhibition and it’s my great pleasure to declare the show open.
Exhibition catalogue essay, Catherine Truman
Projected Surface by Kath Inglis
Hahndorf Academy Gallery
Kath Inglis is a mistress of the light.
“There is an internal and external element to the surface of PVC.
When there are three layers fused together – is the middle layer still a surface? Light seems to react to these layers even though the surfaces are now inside.” 1
She thinks through the surfaces as she reshapes them.
She listens and responds in the moment.
Kath started carving transparent PVC sheet in 2001 and was immediately swept up in the qualities and possibilities of this ubiquitous material. It is an extraordinary pairing, and such a fruitful one- always enlivened by fresh discovery.
In the beginning Kath worked the thick, flexible plastic as a single layer. Using carving tools she pierced the surfaces is to create the illusion of scales and fur.
As her familiarity with material grew she began to carve the surfaces more deeply, excavating shards and fusing layers. She experimented with dyes and simple construction methods to create wearable conundrums that challenged traditional notions of the precious.
Over time Kath has developed a unique and ongoing dialogue between the material, and the effects that can be created.
Through carving and laminating the transparent layers she can literally bend the light allowing her to control the illusion of depth and the complexity of pattern.
Immersed in this process, Kath is always in conversation with her material, acutely attentive to the reflection and refraction of light as she works.
“The cuts I make in the material become miniature lenses – tiny windows capturing an image on the surface, wild distortions of line or magnifiers creating super charged reflections of light and colour.” 2
Projected Surface represents an extraordinary nexus of skill and concept. In this new body of work she explores themes of identity exploiting the rich metaphors offered up by the material itself and the processes she’s invented to shape it. The solid and transitory effects she creates by building and excavating layers, constructing and revealing new surfaces extend some potent analogies.
“We build our own identities, shaping them according to shifts in the light, we take on and shed fresh identities all the time …” 3
An exhibition such as Projected Surface can only be borne of a rare and pure dedication to invention, exploration and endeavour.
To my knowledge there is no one else working with PVC in this way. Kath Inglis has coaxed the most extraordinary qualities from this simple prosaic material and the resulting works are miraculous!
Catherine Truman, Adelaide, 2016.
1 Kath Inglis, notes supplied to author, 5-11- 16.
3 Kath Inglis, notes supplied to author, 5-11- 16.
Catherine Truman is a well established and internationally renowned jewellery artist, based in Adelaide. Truman is a founding member of Gray Street Workshop and has a diverse practice that traverses across the disciplines of art and science. Truman is the SALA Festival Featured Artist for 2016, which included a comprehensive solo retrospective exhibition at AGSA accompanied by a monograph.
Kath Inglis an established contemporary jeweller working from a studio at ʻThe Barnʼ located in the Adelaide Hills. Through my craft practice I have developed a distinctive range of jewellery by working with my signature material, polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The PVC is sourced as a clear flexible sheet and is prosaic in itʼs ʻnatural stateʼ. Simple hand worked processes such as colouring, cutting, carving and more recently, heat fusing layers, elevates this material into the precious.