Street Art Journeys #3: Kyle Jenkins
Kyle Jenkins is a Toowoomba-based artist whose multilayered work encompasses painting in both public and gallery settings, music, and zines. Kyle’s work explore the structure of space through the use of abstract forms, lines, colour and sound. Several of his public space ‘Position Point’ paintings can be found in Brisbane and Toowoomba. For Street Art Journey’s #3 we catch up with Kyle to discuss his arts practice, methodologies and musings on space, form and public dialogue.
What inspirations are you currently drawing on in your own art and music making?
Kyle: I’m not sure if I call it inspiration for me because I work in a system where one type of work leads into another and another and another so all the work either has a deep or minor association with each other. My practice for the past 21 years has been concerned with aspects of intuitive abstraction which incorporates hard edge and organic abstraction as well as shifting methodologies of mark making and spatial narratives that are situated within canvas painting, wall painting, collage, photographs, objects, Marquette’s, books, films and works on paper. These works involve the deconstruction and reconstruction of various relationships between conceptualised and physical interpretations of space. As humans we confine, expand and grid various interpretations of space into evolving forms of activity and it is through this continuing synthesis that the work has continued to be developed within a social and cultural context.
In terms of art and what I am currently doing there are several different projects that are underway at the moment that individually deal with different aspects of my overall practice that is situated within simultaneity. Simultaneity in my practice is about how two different languages (that can be historical and/or visual) are brought together to create a new relationship/language within the finished work. The projects are: ‘MonoHome’ that deals with monochromatic painting and the idea of the artwork being a foundational point for contemplation. This involves me making paintings, mailing them to people and then they send me a photo of the wall it is placed on in their house. These photos will be presented in a book that is being published at the end of the year.
‘Position Point’ paintings deal with various cultural relationships with geometric abstraction and music. These are based off of fanzines I use to make in art school. ‘Cut-Outs’ which are artist books that deal with the layered, the repeated, the void and how the double negative of shapes when placed over or next to each other create a new composition through what is missing. I’m also working on wall paintings for various locations and projects as well as just studio designs that could be utilised in the future.
Finally, I am making monochrome paintings that involve hand cut and organic shapes painted one colour. They deal with the tension between the hand made, representation and conceptual-based painting.
As for music the band I am in Suicide Swans are currently finishing the mixing of album #2 which will be out at the end of 2016 and then we’ll start finishing off recording and mixing album #3 which has already been mostly recorded. It will get mixed & mastered end of 2016 so we’ll release that sometime early in 2017. I am recording an album with a friend of mine that will be more textural, atmospheric. That project is called Sierra. I’m also in a garage band with a couple of friends called Man Moot. We’ve already recorded the album just waiting to mix and master. That will be released in 2017. Also have started a label to release various music projects called Near Enough so that has been taking up some time. Plus I’m going back to my art school days and have started a fanzine/magazine called ‘Buttons and Zippers’. This will be about music and culture and mostly based around interviews I undertake but also inviting other friends to participate as well. So again most things, as I get older, are about my art side and my music side coming closer and closer together.
Your work explores the structure of space through abstract forms, colour and lines. Can you tell us about the differences you encounter when creating work for the enclosed gallery space compared with large-scale works in public spaces?
Kyle: The various artworks aim to expand upon the aesthetic possibilities of structures and how these are a way of examining the world as a series of abstract compositions and constructions. Through this the composition of the work/s is a procedure of sampling and layering space, ideas and theories using the collage, the overlapped and the fractal not only as technique but also as a strategy. The work as a whole is a series of relational forms or fields of opportunities rather than separate and limited objects, and thus creates a system of references, hybrids, negotiation and reinterpretations from work to work, image to image.
More specifically to answer this question, it really depends on the type of work I am doing. For example in a gallery setting I like setting up visual dialogues between different types of work e.g. organic wall paintings with hard edge abstract paintings (‘Position Point’ – sometimes with printed images / sometimes not within their composition) over the top. It creates this layering within the gallery space just like the actual pictorial compositions of the canvases are layered as well. It means that the gallery space becomes a larger part of the composition as it is brought into play and as a result the audience when entering become a part of the space of the work. Like even though a band may be on a stage performing, being present while watching is about participation on a visual and auratic experience and it’s the same when I think about the installations I set up with the various objects etc. Rather than just being a wall or walls to hang things on, the architectural surface becomes another field within the work. I don’t think so much about the division between inside and outside in terms of it changing the intention of the work, but rather it becomes a factor in terms of the composition of the work. Within the studio I am interested in the printed images within the canvas ‘Position Point’ paintings potentially transferring these into an urban setting which I have started doing as ‘test’ experiments. The main consideration I have within all the work is the architecture ‘as site’ and the painting having a symbiotic relationship where different images/patterns/designs are forced together, don’t appear to go together, but over time start to have a relationship.
You have talked about the desire to explore the aesthetic possibilities of structures in your art as a way of examining the world. You recently painted the Kelvin Grove Road Inner City Bypass walls in Brisbane as part of the Brisbane Canvas program. Can you describe how your works, Position Point #51 and Position Point #52 continue the exploration of structure?
Kyle: Well for that work it was about the relationship between the architectural structure, the composition and the colours of the wall paintings (both inbound and outbound walls were painted in two different compositions). The work was designed to be able to be seen from a vehicle very quickly as a form of speed-based immediacy. It’s different to the immediacy other locations allow where you are able to walk and be present in the same space as the work and slowly look at the various aspects of the piece. The inner city by-pass is just that, ‘a by-pass’. An area to allow people to move quickly and efficiency through the city, thus it isn’t designed to have people stopping and experiencing the space on a contemplative level, so because of that the work needed to encompass and engage with the size of the walls, the architecture of the site and the way it is used daily. The contemplative part comes from looking at the work every day as you move past in a car, or a bus etc. and through that type of renewed relationship you can start to consider the various relationships of aesthetic possibilities within the works structure, composition, colour relationships etc.
These two wall paintings were an extension of my practice but at the same time fit within the overall aim of my practice and the various works that have been produced so far. Through the very basic elements of line, colour, form and surface the work investigates how the double exposure between what the images/design look like and how they are constructed and the displacement of space can lead to new spatial experiences. This method of working further investigates the connections between formal and informal systems of abstraction and the work constantly examines the mapping and reconstruction of imagined urban terrains, geometry, colour, representation and fractural compositions.
When speaking with Tarn McLean of Raygun you said; “artworks give us faith in things we can sometimes see and experience but in other moments make us rethink things we take for granted” (2011). Do you think art in the public space can positively impact those spaces and our perceptions toward them?
Kyle: Of course they can because art isn’t just about creating aesthetically pleasing (pretty images). Its about seeing the world through new eyes by constructing artworks that become new propositions and new ways to consider how we think about ourselves, our place, maybe thoughts / concepts that needed to be expressed, any number of things really. I think the most engaging art is multi-layered and incorporates aesthetic, conceptual and propositional elements that can really create super exciting ways in which to experience life. For me the greatest gift to art was the camera being invented because it meant art didn’t have to be utilised as a form of visual documentary evidence any more. Instead it could be, can be and is about exploring deeper relationships between the artist’s concepts/intentions, the visual aesthetic of the work, the site it is situated in and the community that inhabits that space. Artwork can become a vehicle (especially wall paintings in a public setting) to make us rethink and reconsider familiar urban spaces.
Wall paintings, due to their size, can also generate a shared encounter that allows for a transformative effect to be generated in a multi-layered experience. You don’t have to understand conceptually the work to be engaged and have a relationship with the work because that relationship is purely individualised from viewer to viewer. That can have a major impact on our perceptions towards the urban environment because instead of looking at blank, industrial voids, wall paintings / murals (whatever you want to call it) can be a window for people to look at, through and beyond into a different mental, emotional and visual realm. The great thing is that with multiple wall paintings and the various artists associated with them, allows everyone on many different levels as a maker, organizer, viewer etc. to be engaged in an ongoing positive dialogue about the sheer possibilities that are present in our urban spaces.
You have mentioned that to truly see we need to, “to forget how you’ve been taught to see and to instead starting looking beyond the obvious” (2011). What techniques do you employ in your art that puts this idea into practice?
Kyle: Well the way my work is designed conceptually and visually is that all the different pieces I make are layered in a way that multiple meanings are inherent within each work, series and collective. Visual and cultural associations are always being developed within the work. In a really simple explanation all the work is designed from my own personal, selfish interests. I have never considered the audience when making my work because that’s not my job. My job isn’t to work out if someone would or wouldn’t like a type of work because if I started doing that I wouldn’t be following my artistic intuition, which is situated within all the artwork, exhibitions, projects, and research I have undertaken, completed and still engaged with for the past 20 years. Instead what it does allow is the work to be a meeting place between my intentions and the audiences perceptions because even though I don’t consider the audience in terms of making the work, I do find people’s various reactions to the work interesting, engaging and important because for me its their individual reaction that give me a new insight into what the work is or could possibly be. I never want the work to be about a pre-prescribed way of thinking where if you don’t understand the concept behind the work then you’re not allowed to look at it, or have an opinion about it. That would be arrogant and myopic. Instead I find it really interesting when people freely express their thoughts and I think for me this has always been a key aspect of my practice. What this means in terms of ‘seeing’ I think its always important to think beyond what you are looking at and instead to consider the wider possibilities of what is being seen. That’s what was meant by the quote, to not just look at something, but instead to see beyond it and the possibilities that are in it.
Lastly, where are your public works in Brisbane and Toowoomba located? And how do we keep up to date with your upcoming art projects?
In Brisbane, Kelvin Grove Road Inner City Bypass and in Toowoomba, the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery has 4 wall paintings and Chronicle Lane in the CBD there is one black and white wall painting that was part of the First Coat Festival in 2015. Most, if not all the wall paintings I do, nationally and internationally are non-permanent as they appear and then over time disappear by being painted over, only lasting as a photograph and an experience after the initial period of them being made. I like the transitory nature of the work because it means less emphasis is solely placed on the visual and more is placed on the temporal viewing, discussion and dialogue that they produce.
– Danielle & Kerry
Feature Image: Kyle Jenkins, Position Point #52, Kelvin Grove Wall Painting (In Bound). Image courtesy of the artist.
Tarn McLean, Interview with Kyle Jenkins, Raygun, October 2011, https://raygunlab.com/2011/10/05/interview-with-kyle-jenkins