KATHLEEN BRYSON ON INSTAGRAM
"Which Came First? Chimeric Archaeopteryx
Levitates WMAP Chicken Egg" 2017
ONCE UPON A SPACETIME
SPACE SCIENCE PAINTINGS
BY KATHLEEN BRYSON
21 ALBERMARLE ST,
LONDON W1S 4BS
19 MARCH 2019
"Two Moons" 2018
I am a self-taught painter and writer. Here are some more particular ideas about my stuff. Alaska is a wilderness full of magic. Spirits live in the trees; creepy insects crawl around the forest floor. Nothing is safe, but everything is exciting.
My Alaskan background has contributed to my general interest in the magical, the numinous, the feral. My strong dislike of what I see as artificial dichotomies and polarisations is one of the many reasons I am attracted to hybridism theory and to subversion itself.
My paintings too are always skewed, knocked off their sacred-cow pedestals, such as an upside-down Eden or a festering strange fruit, a knowing Red Riding Hood confronted with a soulful wolf. I have painted four-foot razor-sharp vagina dentatas, Russian Orthodox churches, sublime demons, decadent angels, dangerous sheep, the snaggle-toothed and terrifying worlds of ugly monsters and more monsters. Previous solo exhibitions have included themes of wilderness, strange things, heavenly things and bumblebees.
More recently I have painted lucky charms and amulets, ghosts and other invisible things, halfway-there things (such as Schrödinger's Cat), candyland foxes with marvellous tails, dissections of magical fairy tales built up as strangely beautiful Frankenstein monsters, Northern lights, evergreen forests, sinister folk tales and eerie ghosts jostling tooth to jaw with anorexic werewolves, missing wolves, wolves in sheep’s clothing and the Gunny Wolf.
These concentrations were followed by a series of other animals, especially the Great Apes, in particular chimpanzees, gorillas and humans, which were then in turn followed in 2017 by a painting project called Impossible Animals, where I created 200 evolutionarily “correct” human/non-human-animal chimeras that went all the way back from when we first separated from the plants and then the fungi forward onto modern genetic intermingling. I then for good measure painted a rather short series of feminist/anti-feminist fairy tales, both traditional and mutated. I painted the bulk of the space-science works for my upcoming solo show Once Upon a Spacetime at the Royal Institution at the same time as the chimeras and the refashioned fairy tales, as I was teaching space science theory and evolutionary theory in a very intense left-wing German academy for bankers (yes) for all of 2017, in the middle of an isolated German woods, so what better place for fairy tales, eh? Throughout 2018, I also created twenty black-and-white illustrations for my forthcoming novel The Stagtress (Fugue State Press, 2019).
In the near future, I will be working on a "magic show" with filmmaker/painter Sarah Wood, and subjects include rabbits in hats, deus ex machina, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz and face cream made from nightingales, and an apocalypse-based exhibition with artist/animator Kevin Rowe called Apocalyptiii (with three “i”s).
Something the casual observer might clock on regarding my paintings is that I often have constructed some unlikely pairings of environment and subject. The main character of a given work often appears to be in the "wrong" environment, such as a "chumanpanzee" at the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, a transvestite licking the Alaska State Highway, a cyborg lying prone in the snowy forest. There are five good reasons for this, but I'm not revealing them here. I'm not sure I believe in the "wrong" environments, and that is informed by evolutionary theory as well.
My art often focuses on and reinterprets cosmologies, myths, fairy tales. Every artist, indeed every human, is a product of fairy tales, imagery, symbolism etc (even including the way we conceptualise the Big Bang itself), as we cannot be divorced from our individual and multiple influencing culture(s).
I am uneasy with questions of religious preciousness and what I see as a holding on to fundamentalisms over syncretisms/cultural transmissions, indeed, cultural evolution; others disagree. Who owns the story? Do we all own all stories? Scientists like Richard Dawkins criticise evolutionary creationists for melding Big Bang cosmology with their own religious cosmologies (as Hindus, Jews and Catholics tend to do, with many religious “authorities” of all three faiths now weaving both space science and evolutionary theory with their respective religious cosmologies). I think we’re back to syncretism and purism again, and who gets to own (essentialise) the story. I am no longer a Catholic and haven’t been a Christian since I was 18; as an apostate, can I comment on Christianity? I say yes, and I say I can comment on other faiths and lack-of-faiths too. I own all stories too, and so do you.
Some of my pieces are purposefully playful but nearly all are also simultaneously deadly serious, and that is my intent as the “transmitter”. But just as a culture has limited control over interpretation by those receiving the transmission, I can’t control interpretation. Art is in the viewer’s experience too; that I believe too; I do not think that I as the artist have authority over another’s experience of my art, just I don’t believe that a cultural authority — certainly including religions — should have authority over how I experience my culture and that of others subjectively or even subversively.
Technically my day job is that of an biological anthropologist, whereby I scientifically explore the same themes of hybridity, animality, empathy, outsiderness, wilderness, feminism, hallucinations, fairy tales and bisexuality as in my paintings, films and novels.
Kathleen Bryson, February 2019
PRESS FOR PREVIOUS SOLO SHOWS:
ONCE UPON A SPACETIME (2019)
“ " – Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, commenting on Once Upon a Spacetime's moon picture "Prime Mover" on July 20, 2021 on Instagram, the actual day of the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landings (best review ever)
THE WOLVES OF CANDYLAND (2009)
“Top 5: There’s so much to do in and around Hackney. From theatre to club nights, art exhibitions to community events. Here’s our pick of what’s on this fortnight: THE WOLVES OF CANDYLAND. Magic, wolves and fairytales built up as Frankenstein monsters [listed at No. 1 out of 5]:” – Hackney Today, London
LUCKY CHARMS (2005)
“MAGICAL ART, GHOSTLY MAGIC: KATHLEEN BRYSON BLURS REALITIES. Bryson paints richly textured, multilayered images that whisper 'Magic is real.' She explores other realms of existence that leave the viewer with the somewhat unsettling, slightly euphoric feeling that comes from believing, if only for a second, that realities beyond what we can see or feel do actually exist. Her paintings imply as much as they leave out, the way the absence of noise can tell you something's wrong. Swirls of pale blues and shadows of barely-there trees are set against a whitened background with wispy air, falling snow and a cyborg lying on theground staring up at the pallor of thesky. Werewolves, mermaids, gorgons and more otherworldly creatures populate her drawings, all alchemical distillations of two fantastical beasts blended, like her paints, into one." – Eugene Weekly, Oregon
"I have a feeling Kathleen Bryson would have been comfortable throwing back a bottle of wine with the Brothers Grimm in a secluded cabin in the middle of an enchanted forest. At first glance, her rich colored, textured paintings appear to be merely picturesque landscapes. However, looking deeper into 'Stravinsky's Bird & Schroedinger's Cat', you see the imaginary pets of a musical virtuoso and Nobel Prize-winning mathematician frolicking amidst tangled vegetation, illuminated flowers and smears of night sky. Stravinsky's bird presides menacingly over a nest of what look like Russian nesting-egg dolls, while Schroedinger's cat leans back, ready to leap into the night sky. You can almost imagine this scene on the tattered pages of a leather bound anthology of creepy children's stories, shoved on a darkened shelf in an obscure used bookstore. You can see this sense of danger and wonder in her landscapes, tranquil and beautiful but with something inherently sinister beneath the surface. In 'Cyborg Letting Snow Fall On Himself', a half- human, half-machine lays sprawled out on an icy winter landscape, flanked by twisting grouping trees. The snow is scattered with marks that look like the entry holes of bullets in glass. Bryson has included all forms of mixed media in her work, including saliva, lipstick, nail polish, needles, fake fur and barbed wire. She is unafraid to inject the ugly into her work, placing the beautiful alongside the grotesque. Currently she has been throwing the other-worldly into her pieces: ghosts, fleeting vapor, low whispers and the glow of the full moon – her latest exhibit LUCKY CHARMS has to do with unreal, superstitions and magic. Sadly, newspaper print can't convey the amazing amount of detail in Kathleen Bryson's paintings. Plus, it's always cooler to see a masterpiece in person." – Daily Barometer, Oregon
"A distinctly mythical quality… intricate and delicate." – Corvallis Gazette-Times, Oregon
"A multitalented actor/writer/painter" –G3 magazine, London
"Glamorous gorgons and beautiful banshees dazzle and dance their way into your subconscious at Kathleen Bryson's stunning art show at the Prowler Gallery, King's X. Engulfed by the body shock of their own existence, cyborgs, sirens and transsexual hybrids enter magickal forests and desolate landscapes, take tube trains as cool as you like, play bizarre musical instruments and at all times defy convention. Imagine the shamanic majesty of Norwegian spiritualist painter Frans Widerberg crossed with the punk energy of Iggy and the Stooges and you won't even be halfway there. In a culture dominated by the tyranny of thebland, miss this vibrant and heart-warming display at the peril of your own beleaguered imagination." – Urban 75, London
"The exhibition here covers roughly a decade of one person's need to create images. A series of mental collages, hybrid beings and iconic wicked-women, created out of what seems like a feverish need to stick things down, cut things up, and embroider with paint and white-out. Here's a gift to the Time Out headline writers: "Mixed Medea". Do you see? It simultaneously reminded this viewer of both Swedish embroidery and an archaeological exhibit of a dead society. Bryson's creative instinct usually classifies her, as she admits herself, as an 'outsider'. I hope this is something she privately despises, as it is a redundant term in this context, and Bryson obviously has a public who needs her, as the successful opening night saw many paintings sold on thespot." – Freaky Trigger/Living Arts, London
"MYTHICAL AND MAGICAL PAINTINGS… Kathleen Bryson is one of those women who can turn their hand to anything. Her name is usually accompanied by a list that includes the words: author, editor, performer, poet, filmmaker and more. This August she's presenting another side to her work; she's also an artist and she's about to unveil some new paintings. WILDERNESS, Bryson's new show, concerns elemental and fantastical themes: air, water, forest, 'wild skin and wild minds'. Don't miss it." – Rainbow Network, London
"ALL THINGS BRYSON BEAUTIFUL…Kathleen Bryson's richly textured mixed-media artwork is beautiful, unsettling and weird. A strange, tusked hermaphrodite cruises for sex amidst the tangled greenery of Nunhead Cemetery. In the other-worldly light of an icy forest, a gleaming cyborg sprawls beneath drifting snowflakes…" – Diva magazine, London
"Intense, colourful" – Gay Times, London
THE HYPERBLED HEART (1997)
"Distinctive… an accomplished and exhibited artist" – Pink Paper, London
"Cruising in graveyards and being gobbled by devils – if this is what religion means to you, then you have to see this show. Indoctrinated faiths are subverted by worldly icons." – Pride Arts Festival Programme, London
"Heavenly" – Capitol Hill Times, Seattle, Washington
2019 Once Upon a Spacetime / The Royal Institution / London, UK
2009 The Wolves of Candyland / Book Box / London, UK
2005 Lucky Charms / Interzone / Corvallis, Oregon, USA
2003 Wilderness / Prowler King’s Cross / London, UK
2002 Strange / Trafik / Hoxton, London, UK
1997 the hyperbled heart / Oval House Art Gallery/ London, UK
1997 Monsters & Monsters / First Out / London, UK
1994 Heaven / Pink Zone / Seattle, WA, USA
1994 Doing Time as a Marionette/ Northwest Actors’ Studio / Seattle, WA, USA
1994 the bumblebee standard or, Wronged / Pink Zone / Seattle, WA, USA
2021 The Absurd / FUBAR Collective / The Crypt / London, UK
2017 Nasty Women Cambridge / ArtWorks / Cambridge, UK
2016 Sheela is a Punk Rocker / Department of Anthropology, University College London / London, UK
2015 Need & Error / APT Gallery / London, UK
2015 Need & Error / ZSenne Gallery / Brussels, Belgium
2007 Satanic / The Waypost / Portland, OR, USA
2007 Reuse2 / S.C.R.A.P. / Free Geek Collaborative Exhibition / Portland, OR, USA 2007 Blasphemy Ball / Dante’s
/ Portland, OR, USA
2005 Heresy / Random Artists Collective @ Selfishes/Selfridges, Dec. 14-23 / London, UK
2005 Alberta Art Walk (x3) / Public Exhibition / Portland, OR, USA
2005 Pegasus Gallery General Public Exhibition (2 months) / Pegasus Gallery / Corvallis, OR, USA 2005 Howland
Community Open / Corvallis, OR, USA
2002 Trafik General Public Exhibition (2 months)/ Trafik / Hoxton, London, UK
2002 Small Works / Insight Gallery / Norwich, UK
2002 Random Artists Group Exhibition / Various Squats / London, UK
2002 NEWD / Tart Gallery / London, UK
1998 Stoke Newington Arts Festival / Bizarre Images / London, UK
1997 Westminster Annual Open (juried) / St. Martin-in-Fields / London, UK
1992 36 Steps Above / O.K. Hotel & Ex-Brothel (erstwhile Nirvana, Soundgarden and Mudhoney venue; first live
performance of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” performed here!)/ Seattle, Washington, USA
1991 Vårutställningen (Stockholms Universitet Spring Show) / Stockholms Universitet / Stockholm, Sweden
1987 Peninsula Art Guild Scholarship Show (juried student competition, First Prize) / Olde Town Gallery /
Kenai, Alaska, USA
1987 Alaska All-State Art Exhibition (juried statewide student competition, Third Prize Mixed Media) /
Anchorage, Alaska, USA
1979 Children’s Painting Exhibition / Olde Towne Gallery / Kenai, Alaska, USA