In his recent series of collage-constructions, British artist Chris Kenny
re-imagines elements of 20th century art using ephemeral found materials.
He revisits subjects from the old masters and celebrates classic modernist
form aiming “to make the transcendence and absolutism of the avant-garde more
tangible, intimate and domestic”.
Kenny reworks the tilting planes of classic Cubism in floating assemblages,
each shape being a fragment of map. He re-enacts the Cubists' games of mixed
graphic languages, cryptic labeling and ambiguous spatial relationships, and
creates an expanding universe of geographical signs and suggestions, with
target-like compositions echoing the work of Kenneth Noland or Jasper Johns.
In Kenny’s map-works, cartographic symbols jostle for superiority as “they
proclaim the significance of their little patch of the earth”.
Another ongoing series of Kenny’s cased, three-dimensional works incorporates
text and typography, poetic cuttings assembled in a complex of different layers
and levels. The horizontal greys and creams of the found printed fragments,
echoed by their cast shadows, paraphrase the elegant minimalism of Agnes Martin
or Sol Lewitt - but here there is a “maximalism of meaning” with stories formed
from the sampling of many other stories; absurd or erudite aphorisms snatched
from many different mouths; or collected bizarre and even sinister questions.
In some of these works, the floating snippets of found text are composed in
sloping ellipses that recall the anamorphic skull in Holbein's Ambassadors,
an association made most explicit in Vanitas, an oblique inventory of ephemera.
Books have long been both source and subject for Chris Kenny. For many years,
he has produced miniature books inspired by ‘found’ titles, most recently in a
series of “Cubist Books” that draw from Picasso and Juan Gris.
Artists' attempt to envisage heaven on earth through painting landscape is
explored in works comprising rows of little houses built from discarded amateur
pictures of idealized Nature, their facades incised with large letters to spell
out mythical paradises such as Arcadia and Elysium. In Kenny’s vision, the houses
“become little streets or queues, identities waiting patiently and dreaming”.
Kenny was included in Slash: Paper Under the Knife at the Museum of Art & Design,
New York (2009); made site-specific works for House of Words at Dr Johnson’s
House, London (2009); and was represented in Mappa Mundi at the Berardo Museum
Foundation, Lisbon, Portugal (2011). This year, he exhibited several works in
Mappamundi: Art et Cartographie, Hotel des Arts, Centre D'Art du Conseil General
du Var, Toulon, curated by Guillaume Monsaingeon as part of the programme for
Marseilles, European Capital of Culture 2013. Kenny has exhibited with England
& Co for over a decade, and has also participated in many of the gallery's group exhibitions, including The Map Is Not the Territory series, Literary Constructs, Persistent Obsessions and City X. His current exhibitions include Telling
Stories, Kaleidoscope Gallery, Kent; and First Cut, a touring exhibition arranged
by Manchester Art Gallery.
Kenny’s works have been reproduced in many magazines, exhibition catalogues,
and books, including You are Here and The Map As Art: Contemporary Artists
Explore Cartography, both published by Princeton Architectural Press, USA.
Public collections that have acquired his works include The Museum of London;
The Victoria and Albert Museum; The British Museum; and Hotel des Arts, Centre
D'Art du Conseil General du Var, Toulon.