"I am intrigued and inspired by the physical and linguistic expressions that binds us to one another or keep us apart, and the spaces that are settings for, or reminders of those interactions - spaces of crisis, deviance, exclusion, loss, absence, confusion, and isolation."
Alluring and intricately painted, Susanne Kerr's beguiling paintings often disguise a more sinister element simmering below the surface. Drawing the viewer in with exquisite colours, patterns, and gilding, her work takes you on a visual journey to reveal her explorations on what it is to be human. She considers the narratives within her mind that drive the paintings to completion as transitive, as metaphorical threads to encourage deeper reflection; pointing out that “it is not the events in life that provide our truth but our interpretation and reinvention of them through the stories we tell”.
For over a decade, Kerr has been interested in the psychological world, and in the context of subject and object, where stories exist in the inanimate objects and structures of our lives. In her practice, she visually collages together fragmented thoughts, observations, and imagery, re-contextualizing them and piecing them together to imbue her work with a new, and sometime puzzling meaning. This process involving lengthy research and multiple re-drawings of each work enable a connection between the abstract spaces and the human characters that populate her works to become more concrete. Her small-scale figures, contextualized in surreal spaces of overwhelming proportions, dwarf the human form and lend a sense of confusion, loneliness or fragility to her characters and narratives. While the narrative strengthens through the drawing and painting process, it is quite often disconnected to a reality that she, or the viewer is most familiar. This is what she loves most. With this disconnection comes a sense of seeing again with fresh eyes these moments that are metaphors of our humanness, reflecting contemporary life and the psychological connection we have with others, the objects we use and possess, and the spaces we inhabit.
From early 2012, complex hanging or built structures, and shimmering glossy ribbons started to appear in her work, providing a visual structure and narrative unlike many of her previous paintings. Informed by her time looking at contemporary sculpture on Waiheke Island while artist in residence, Kerr has continued to find inspiration in these forms. In many paintings, ribbon-like forms bind and gag, caress, threaten, entice, or wind around structures becoming visual allegories of human intent.
Recent works re-purpose the ribbon-like shape and transform the lines of hundreds of ribbons into larger abstract forms resembling cloud-like structures. These structures overwhelm the picture plane to provide a backdrop, and catalyst for narrative. Since 2017, Kerr’s works have been informed by the concept of the promised land where fictional narratives are populated with humans, boats, birds, cast shadows, and household objects. Many of these objects have been ever present in her work, forming a backdrop, and evoking what it means to belong, to leave, to metaphorically become landlocked or to lack anchor.
Kerr finds inspiration from many things, historical and contemporary Japanese, Asian and Indian art, sculpture, ceramics, architecture, travel, literature, and theatre. Visual sources include wallpaper and fabric patterns, shoe catalogues, fashion magazines, and interior design, nature, science, and architectural magazines. Susanne's works on paper from 2011 onwards are created with water-based gouache paint, many of which are embellished with gilded gold, palladium and silver leaf. Over the last two years she has also been developing a series of works that use the technique of gilding on glass called verre-eglomise.
Milford Galleries, Dunedin & Queenstown, New Zealand