GlogauAIR Winter Residency
Berlin, Germany. 2022.
Canadian artist Kate Metten travelled to Germany to further connect her phenomenological research in painting and ceramics to the Bauhaus school of Modernism. While at GlogauAir, Metten is generated abstractions that reaffirm Bauhaus Modernism while embodying contemporary ideas in neuroscience. As a neuro-divergent artist, she is interested in perception as the starting place for artistic inquiry. This body of work was sparked from a dialogue with neuroscientist Radoslaw Martin Cichy, professor at Freie Universität Berlin, discussing colour constancy, pattern recognition, retinal illusions and object recognition. Her approach activates readymade tubes of paint by layering transparent pigments within a grid structure so the colour mixes in the brain, rather than on the palette. She carefully plays with the indexical quality of both oil paint and clay to retain the intuitive logic of the maker’s touch; articulating a material language that demonstrates her dedication to craftsmanship. Metten’s ceramic sculptures are wheel thrown and use a potter’s vocabulary to invert our understanding of the vessel by creating objects that are at once familiar yet functionally ambiguous. She further connects her ceramics to the theme of perception by glazing her pots with Neodymium, a rare earth mineral used in cellphones that has colour changing properties; pale blue in florescent light and lavender in natural light, shifting in hue depending on time of day. This presentation of the still life and oil painting confronts the viewer with the conditioning of their own subjectivity.
Vision is fundamentally a constructive process. There is no way to know the world as it is directly. Instead, our minds make out of the constant flow of photons hitting the screen of our eyes a conscious precept of the world. From the building blocks of photons the house of vision is built every time we throw a glance. The machinery works so well and automatic that we usually do not get aware of it – we are fooled that the world is just there for us. However, phenomena such as optical illusions powerfully demonstrate that rather the opposite is the case: here the usually well functioning machinery breaks down, revealing its existence.
Kate Metten's work explores the constructive process of vision from a novel perspective. Starting from the painter's elements such as form, color, and material she builds phenomena of vision that attest to its made character. Through abstraction in the painting single aspects of the constructive process are isolated, put to work, and thus revealed. Stripes, patterns and geometrical assortments of color interweave into visibly made experience. An experience, however, that does not renounce its human making: the pieces' material reveal Kate's most skillful techne. The ensuing tension between the Kate's doings and the illusion it creates is in direct dialogue with the workings of our mind and the way we see the world, as if in metaphor.
-Neuroscientist Radoslaw Martin Chichy