Born in London in 1978, Karen spent many of her school years in Geneva, before returning to the UK to attend Hampstead Fine Arts College in London. In 2014 she moved to Eye in Suffolk, where she has a home studio.
A figure and portrait artist, she works mostly in oils and seeks to highlight pigments in the skin that can often go unnoticed, emphasising and exaggerating them to accentuate their extraordinariness.
In 2020 Karen’s work was selected for the Portraits for NHS Heroes exhibition and the accompanying Bloomsbury book, and in May 2021 she was awarded the President’s Prize at the Institute of East Anglian Artists Open Exhibition. In June she was selected as a finalist in the Holly Bush Emerging Woman Painter Prize.
A figure and portrait artist, at the heart of my work is the question of the human condition and the elements that make up a person. We are a series of layers (of our lived experience, our DNA, our medical history) and it is these layers, along with those that we choose for ourselves (whether out of a desire to fit in or to stand out) that I seek to examine through my paintings.
Working in oils I build my subject with thin layers, shade over shade, colour over colour. I aim to keep each layer barely perceptible – much like many of the elements that makes up a human – each one contributing to the whole in ways that can’t always be seen. Colour is crucial as I seek to highlight pigments in the skin that can often go unnoticed, emphasising and sometimes exaggerating them in order that I might accentuate their beauty.
Women feature prominently in my work, and my focus frequently is on the physical body and the impact that it has on a woman’s life and sense of self. Often my figures are close cropped to represent the direct scrutiny a woman’s body is regularly placed under, judged not only on its ability to look pleasing, but also on its ability to live up to expectations around reproduction and motherhood.
A common theme in my work is absence. In some cases parts of a figure will bleed away to nothing, and in almost all she will be depicted devoid of surroundings.
What does “Gaze” mean to you & how do you connect it to your work?
Most of my work considers what it is to be a woman, what is expected of women, and in particular what is considered acceptable as regards a woman’s appearance. A woman’s body is so often subject to judgement, and it is this scrutiny that I consider the ‘Gaze’. My paintings are intended to recognise not only the burdens placed on the female body, but also the strength inherent in it. They aim to place a woman’s body in the light, and to celebrate it.
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