Q&A with Karen Reiss King "In Salon Only"

Art Curator, Scarlett Cibilich talks to Karen about the inspiration behind her works on display at French Revolver Studio.  

Your current show In Salon Only is a selection of photography, painting and printmaking that is reminiscent of the existing imagery and utilities in the salon. What was the inspiration for these works? 

The works reference tropes in advertising and fashion glossy aesthetics but using super simple processes, I get inspired by beauty industry, cosmetic’s names and swatches, colour ranges from paint brands like Karen Walker paints, and products that have a promise to “make you feel good”. There’s a bit of an ironic perspective in using those concepts as subject. I like to reference art history too.

Can you tell me a bit about your process in the studio?

I usually have ideas outside the studio, mainly by reading mainstream fashion magazines, David Lynch films and researching on Tumblr and art history. Then I have some seed of idea that usually starts as a photograph, then that sometimes shifts into other mediums. The ideas come before the aesthetics tho, I go after the aesthetics afterwards. I also had ideas while walking around beauty counters at Farmers Mitre 10 and  K Mart for this project.

High gloss finishes and reflective surfaces in your paintings showcase forms and colours that aren’t always seen. What do you look for in the materials you use?

In this project I was looking specifically into materials that reference beauty products, so mirrors and 'fashion' house paint got me excited. I also like to use readymade objects, here in this show: mirrors, the perspex,  pumice stone I found at K Mart, used on top of photographs.

Viewed from a distance, the pumice stone in your work ‘Exfoliate’ reminds me of the ‘trompe l’œil’ technique; are there some overlaps between painting and photography that come into play?

Yes, definitely, that started in the Baroque era I think. It’s like forced perspective in architecture, and for the billboard print it works as an alluring effect, so common in advertising, but the pumice stone is actually very abstract and neutral, a piece of nothing, covering the model’s eyes, she is almost a mannequin. It does reference painting in a way I guess, but I like that, a photograph-painting, a double thing, it’s in between.

What are you working on next? 

I am graduating this year, so working on an installation for the end of year show, then after some break it’s pretty open ended so far, write a short film, maybe a scary one, using girls and mirrors, I have a photograph of the first frame, so it start from there. Would like to shoot some fashion editorials too, some crazy ones, that I could direct from concept till end result.