010. Clare Kenny

Clare Kenny, Installation shot ‘Yesterday’s labour is the Future’s folly’ VITRINE Bermondsey Street, 2013. Image courtesy of VITRINE.

Basel-based artist Clare Kenny explores reality and representation via work that spans sculpture, photography and installation. Here, she talks to Traction about the ideas behind her current solo exhibition at VITRINE Bermondsey Street.


You are the first artist to show in VITRINE’s new space, so you could not have known exactly what to expect. How did this knowledge steer the development of your ideas?

It was exciting to be the first as there are no preconceived ideas on how to use the space, no previous shows to compare to.

It was exciting to be the first as there are no preconceived ideas on how to use the space, no previous shows to compare to. Being so free to interpret the use of the space always throws up challenges and it’s sometimes difficult to pin down the direction a show should take. With this show I was quite clear on a few particular elements in the show beforehand from which the rest of the show hinges on, then the further works were developed around those pieces in the space itself.

The show features several works that function as entirely site specific. Do you consider this to be a new direction for your work?

I have been dabbling with this for the last few years, especially in the use of sticky-back plastic, which I adhere directly onto the wall. The site specificity of these works does have the disadvantage for me of materials not being able to be re-installed elsewhere. However, I do try to reuse most of the plastic and plaster elements again after the installation - the plastic, in particular, I often use again, but as a three-dimensional object as it can’t revert to its original condition.

Clare Kenny, Fiction follows form, 2013. Steel, spray paint, A4 inkjet print and varnish; 126 x 72 x 3 cm. Image courtesy of VITRINE.

In the past, you have sometimes inserted yourself into your works via self-portraits. Do you consider these new works to be representations of the self or have you moved away from this?

My work always starts from a personal perspective. The self-portraits in the show also have their own history: the last step in this history was the application of the spray paint and their subsequent framing. However, they were printed when I was at Chelsea around 2002 and taken five years before then when I studied photography. They formed a part of my archive, in my studio which is full of life’s souvenirs.

Since your work deals so closely with memory, it must feel extremely intimate to you. How do the status of memories as 'real’ or 'false’ affect your personal relationship to them?

I cannot be 100% certain of the accuracy of any of my memories, so it is quite difficult to say which are true or false, so, in this case, I think my relationship to them all stays quite consistent.

Clare Kenny 'Yesterday’s labour is the Future’s folly' installation shot. All images courtesy of VITRINE.

Your work has typically gone through several stages of manipulation before it reaches the gallery. What is the personal significance of the period of time that you spend forging this evolving bond with the work before it enters the public realm?

When an unexpected yet interesting consequence occurs, I try and work with it until it comes to a logical conclusion.

Over time the works change in many ways, both planned changes but also through neglect, storage, repeated installation etc. The traces and marks build up on the objects, which begin to tell their own stories.

Several of the complex material manipulations that you put your work through result in unexpected outcomes. How central a role does the accidental play in your work?

I’m interested in pushing materials as far as possible and this often happens by trying things out; trial and error. When an unexpected yet interesting consequence occurs, I try and work with it until it comes to a logical conclusion.

Clare Kenny, Legless, 2013. Jeans and plaster; 35 x 69 x 19 cm. Image courtesy of VITRINE.

At VITRINE’s invitation, you nominated W. B. Sebald’s novel 'The Emigrants’ to accompany your exhibition. How has this text influenced your practice?

In the weaving of fact and fiction, vague and faded images which somehow hint to a truthfulness, a record, whose authenticity is questioned.

Alongside this solo exhibition, you have been working on several projects with other institutions. Can you tell us a bit about your recent news and what’s coming up for you next?

Over the next few weeks, I am preparing three exhibitions taking place in La Kunsthalle Mulhouse, France; Accélérateur de particules, Strasbourg; France and FABRIKculture, Hégenheim, France. They form part of a larger annual tri-national Swiss/France/German exhibition called Regionale 14. Also, I have just been awarded a grant from the city of Basel in Switzerland, which includes a financial award which will help support my practice for the next months and also the prize includes a group exhibition to take place next summer at Kunsthalle Basel to be curated by Ruth Kissling and Adam Szymczyk.


'Yesterday’s labour is the Future’s folly’ runs until 22 November at VITRINE Bermondsey Street, 183-185 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3UN. For more information on the exhibition, visit VITRINE's website.

Find out more about Clare Kenny’s practice at http://clarekenny.com.