Winner of the 2019 Artereal Gallery Mentorship Award, presented annually to one graduating Honours student from Sydney College of the Arts, Kate Coyne is an emerging artist to watch.
Working with unconventional materials such as foam and lead, Coyne has an almost magical way of taking unremarkable everyday materials and transforming them into elegant works of art imbued with a sense of both beauty and pathos that immediately captivates the viewer’s attention.
Interested in the intersection between time and gender, Coyne is concerned with the way in which the ageing female body is both perceived and embodied. Transforming queen-sized sheets of foam into a series of both monumental and intimate wall based forms which hover between painting and sculpture, Coyne evokes the female body through its various permutations over time – shifting, moving, growing, reshaping, absorbing – yet underlying this initial sense of movement or the passage of time is a sense of stillness. A sense of waiting.
The metamorphosis or alchemical process which is so essential to the way that Kate Coyne works, allows her to create artworks which conjure and evoke an experience of the ageing female body which is both powerful and poignant to witness.
“There is a magic that comes from the transformation of simple materials. Creating an unembellished form from things that refuse to be other than what they are – bits of foam – transforms them into something more. This ‘magic’ actually comes from experimentation and continuous refinement.” – Kate Coyne
“My recent body of work, Waiting… waiting for the mirror to tell me I’m old, questions how the purity of substance connects to an authentic sense of the body and being. My work addresses the ageing female body, and the physical and mental embodiment of the experience of ‘waiting’. An experience which is at once universal and unique for all women.
When encountering my artworks, (which hover somewhere between ‘painting’ and ‘sculpture’) an experience of temporality and the progression of past, present and future is unavoidable. Ideas to do with time and waiting are inherent in the physicality of the artworks, with the polyurethane foam from which the artworks are made discolouring over time, and gravity taking over form and identity, in the same way that it does with an ageing, sagging body.
Permeating my work is an optimistic strength and a willingness to relinquish control. When I am in the studio creating my work, there is a physical transformation which takes place over time. This element of my process is essential, embedding within the work a psychological intensity that emerges between the act of creation and the final artwork.
In thinking about, researching and creating this series, there have been many influences which have informed my work. From the language of materials, including the processes of American sculptor John Chamberlain (in particular his use of polyurethane foam and metal) and my re-reading of Post Minimalist sculpture as embodying the transformation of materials and the human body.
Philosopher Judith Butler’s theories also provide an important link in shaping how I have been thinking about the fluidity of gender and sexuality over time. Feminist theories of ‘women’s time’ and ‘becoming’ provide hooks to visually represent the ‘unfolding of time’ in my studio practice.
My most recent artworks are of a large scale, utilising ‘queen’-sized foam mattresses. Each piece embodies the ageing female form, and a feminist view of time and gender. In an increasingly heterogenous and fluid world I am interested in exploring the relationship between gender and time in the ordinary, mundane world of lived experience.
The definition of waiting is “the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or event” and in this sense my artworks can be seen as anchored, intertwined and waiting. Whilst my work can be seen to allude to a physical manifestation of the abject look of the body, the mental embodiment of the, at times, tortuous repetitive acts of womanhood and ageing are also portrayed.
In thinking about these themes of time and gender, I was particularly drawn to the early works of Faith Wilding and her performance Waiting in 1972 which is a powerful representation of both time and gender. With this poignant performance piece in mind, my recent artworks reference Wilding’s monologue in their titles – illuminating and further illustrating many of my own personal experiences of waiting and womanhood.”
– Kate Coyne, Artist Statement (2019)
“For a while, as I was developing this body of work, my worlds of foam, the body, gender and ageing collided. I was cutting, stapling and draping material elements. The physical transformative process and materiality had a psychological intensity, as did the outcome. I was marrying the concept with the process and the method and found that to be a vital relationship.” – Kate Coyne
Kate Coyne graduated from Sydney College of the Arts at the University of Sydney in 2019 when she was awarded a Bachelor of Visual Arts with 1st Class Honours. In the same year Kate was also the recipient of the 2019 Artereal Gallery Mentorship Award, an annual prize given to one graduating Honours student from SCA. Kate was also the recipient of the 2017 Sydney College of the Arts Undergraduate Painting Prize, and the 2018 Fauvette Memorial Artists Exchange Scholarship which allowed her to spend a semester in Boston at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
As a promising emerging artist, Kate’s work has been included in a number of group exhibitions. She has also been a finalist in the Ravenswood Art Prize (Emerging Artist), the Women’s Art Prize and the Mosman Art Prize.