A remarkable exploration of sensorial experience is taken up in the biotic, undulating ceramic sculpture of James Kemp. In his work, Kemp privileges a connection to natural materials and processes in a way that fetishizes the unashamedly organic. His sculptures twist and turn, unsure of themselves as they take on new characteristics from different perspectives. They engage through their unpredictability, as surface and shape compete for attention. Kemp’s thoughtfully applied textures result in surfaces that are spackled, gouged, and impressed with bite marks and crevices which act as evidence of the artist’s hand. The marks provide onlookers with a moment of recognition and uneasy attraction, and incite the instinctual need to understand through touch. The wrinkles and folds in his materials are at once familiar and unidentifiable, and the sculptures, more akin to rolling flesh, are haphazardly stacked or warped into impossible shapes. The discomfort provoked by Kemp’s pieces seems to reveal the extent to which we are repelled by a close encounter with the organic or instinctual, being more accustomed to the processed and aseptic.
Kemp, a graduate from Emily Carr University of Art and Design and winner of the 2012 Circle Craft Graduation Award, has recently completed his term as Artist in Residence at the Port Moody Arts Centre. Kemp has been an artist assistant for David Robinson and Liz Magor, the latter with whom he has worked to develop public artwork for the Surrey Museum and a recent exhibition at Catriona Jeffries Gallery, among other projects. A number of Kemp’s works have joined the permanent collection at the Genesee Center for the Arts in Rochester, New York, where he exhibited in 2013. He has participated in group and solo shows throughout the Lower Mainland and in Montreal, and was a nominee for the 2012 BMO 1st Art! Award.