Kim Percy’s work occupies the large space of Gallery 1 with full effect. The strength of her show lies in its potency as a series of incredibly beautiful and poetic images, combined with a depth of meaning and underlying foundation in the exploration idea. You could look only at the majesty of her skies and oceans and feel an emotive and sensory impact on your body, or you could unpack the interpretation of a multitude of meaning. I probed some of these ideas with the artist directly.
KENT: Hi Kim. There are some very topical concerns that run through your current body of work, specifically ideas of human flight from injustice and danger. What I particularly like is that these concerns are subtly introduced in the work and not in any way overtly political or prescriptive. What drew you to focus specifically on the sublime imagery of the sky and ocean for this exhibition?
KIM: My work seeks an emotional response rather than an intellectual discussion. As a society, we are comfortable having an opinion about people arriving to our shores by boats. I wanted to remove the hype and rhetoric and take it back to a simple question: What would I do if I was placed in a situation where I had to flee persecution? Would I step on a boat? I read a story about a woman arriving by boat from Vietnam. She got onto the boat at night and when it was dawn she was in the middle of the ocean – no land in sight. This image struck a cord with me. The fear, anxiety, uncertainty of being surrounded by water with no end in sight conjured a powerful vision. I wanted to take viewers into a space where water and sky become a unknowable force and the horizon line is filled with hope, trepidation and possible danger. This exhibition is not a political statement, but rather an individual internal journey.
KENT: There's definitely a sense of the sublime going on in the work - in that philosophical sense, where the power of nature impacts your emotions. That overwhelming sense of wonder at the majesty of nature, coupled with that sense of dread at its power and its all-consuming force. Another aspect to this body of work that has a nice impact is the way in which you have curated the pieces together around the gallery space. There are some red perspex rectangles interspersed with a selection of vertical and horizontal images, and it gives me a sense of musical notation running across the walls. How did you go about the process of forming the layout for this show?
KIM: My process is about vision. I generally have an overall vision of an exhibition – I see it in my mind's eye. It's almost like I have walked into the space with my eyes half closed - I can see the shape, form and colour of the whole show. As I work, the individual pieces become clearer. Simultaneously, I am working on the concept – researching, making notes, forming a story. Taking the images happens later. I look for the image, take a photo and then adapt them to fit into the story. Each image is heavily worked. I use my skills as a painter and printmaker to work into the image – drawing out elements hidden within the digital file. Once the images are ready, I then compile them together on virtual walls to create the rhythm and pace. I like the idea of the exhibition being associated with music. I have always seen them as stances in poetry but music works just as well.
KENT: That reworking of the images is where I was going to prod you next. It's clear the images are photographic, and yet they have other intangible qualities that make them almost vibrate between realism and abstraction. For example, there is a fantastic large work that has an almost green tinge to the clouds, and a mottled, translucent tone that reminds me of skin. Another work appears almost as if it's been changed into a negative. Are there particular processes you apply, in either the capture or printing of the images, or do you work intuitively with each image individually?
KIM: I work with each image individually. I see each image a bit like a drawing. I tease out tones, textures, soften, correct, desaturate, play with levels, curves, blending modes. I use a range of brushes, I invert, prod, blur. It is a bit like SaraLee, layer upon layer upon layer!!!
KENT: There's a couple of other elements in this exhibition, aside from the 2D imagery - a large sculpture in the centre of the space and some texts on plinths. What's the correlation between object and image and text for you?
KIM: Stories have many parts, depths and elements. The story of asylum seekers is also intricate – it is not a single thread. By utilising the whole space I am able to indicate various aspects to this story. It becomes a fuller picture. People also assimilate information in different ways. I am a visual person – some people prefer to read. Other people are tactile. The large central boat is heavy yet it seems to float in space. By playing with different mediums, I have created dialogue. Each element has its own power, together they draw relationships and create tension. I am pleased with the way that the installation has become a whole within the space. It feels complete.
Kim’s photographic prints are each in limited edition runs of 5. For the exhibition they have been mounted directly on to the wall, enhancing the sense of an expansive open space of ocean, but can be framed to take away for placement in the home or office. Kim will be donating 10% of her artist price from sales to the Asylum Resource Centre.