Kristin Tennyson

Sunday Best

July 19 - August 3 2014

When Kristin Tennyson migrated from the icy wildernesses of Canada to tropical far northern Queensland in 1993 it was more than the patent, environmental contrast that stimulated her creative impulse. An ongoing rumination about how a sense of place shapes the human psyche and the means of relating to one’s habitat ensued. “I am concerned with the impact that our country of choice, country of origin and cultural heritage have on the identity of the individual,” says Tennyson. “My work focuses on cultural markers through an exploration of themes pertaining to immigration and the need to fit in.”

Tennyson’s art uncompromisingly expresses her personal journey. “I trust my instincts and don’t force things. It’s my job as an artist to create something unique for myself and the viewer,” she says. Tennyson wants her audience to respond viscerally to imagery roiling in cross-cultural nuances. Earlier series referenced the utter distain she felt for the collective, ‘pack mentality’ that equates honour with slaughter. Tennyson had experienced firsthand the outcomes of stag hunts in Canada and the culling of wild boar in Cape Tribulation that had deviated into a local sport with vicious pig dogs slavering for the kill. It was in these works that she developed the iconography of “identity markers” or “trophy” emblems.

“Australia has a fascination for the underdog and the tall poppy syndrome,” reflects Tennyson. “Certain paintings have been influenced by this dominance hierarchy which arises when members of a social group intersect, often aggressively, to create a ranking system.” Subsequent paintings continue the theme of identity being shaped by societal allegiances. “Creed, empire and nation” affiliations have now extended into popular culture adherence. Tennyson describes how the actions of fictional superheroes and villains embody the moral dilemmas of contemporary times. “They are like us, but with something extra,” she declares.

With thoughts of how Australia’s national heroes have evolved since the Colonial era, Tennyson’s new works also question what values are now relevant. “Considering the maxims of contemporary culture and globalisation, for many Australians patriotism is a negative concept,” she comments. “In the Colonial era, patriotism was a threat to British rule and discouraged accordingly.” A combination of historical characters and modern logos, certain paintings depict the likes of Ned Kelly in a T-shirt emblazoned with a Holden car. In an another work a young boy, the epitome of “juvenile nobility”, is elevated on a milk crate which is his “trophy base”. It queries the allegiances of today’s youth and the “search for recognition upon their domestic pedestals”.

Against vacant backdrops, usually isolated figures sporting their various “identity trophies” materialise through washes and runnels of oil paint. The forms are gestural in essence, deliberately ill-defined and often depicted with incomplete limbs. Evocative of the multiple strata constituting an artist’s anima, the “feminine stitch” is sometimes juxtaposed with “aggressive line work” and aerosol spray. There seems no solid anchorage to the picture plane, symbolising the transitory nature of such allegiances and perhaps Tennyson’s own lingering uncertainty of a personal cultural connectedness.

Kristin Tennyson holds an Honours Degree (Creative Arts), James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland 2010, a Bachelor of Arts (Visual Arts and Political Science), University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1989 and is currently studying a Masters Degree in Creative Arts. She was a finalist in the SCAP, Sunshine Coast Art Prize 2014, 2012; a semi-finalist in The Doug Moran Portrait Prize 2013, 2012; a finalist in The Churchie, Brisbane 2009; won The Blunt Edge of Portraiture, Cairns 2009; a finalist in the Duke Prize, Gold Coast City Gallery 2008 and the  Kilgour Prize, Newcastle Regional Gallery 2008.


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