Kit King is an Ontario-based artist who creates large-scale, hyperrealist paintings of the human face. Several of her pieces are created in collaboration with her husband, Oda. Kit's work seeks to capture inner identity by heightening the perception of external reality. The detail she captures in each bloodshot eye, bead of sweat, and minuscule hair is astounding, giving us a view of the subject that is both intimate and unsettling.We had the chance to chat with Kit about her current and upcoming work. See below for our discussion on hyperrealism, the face as a facade, and the infinite subjectivity of experience.
Where are you currently based?
I'm currently living and working in the tiny rural Ontario town of Curran.
How did you get into painting?
My parents were both artists, so it's something I grew up with. Though I'm still fairly new with oils, I've been painting with acrylic and watercolours for as long as I can remember.
Your works show the human form in hyperrealist and expressive ways. Why do you think your style bends towards hyperrealism? And more generally, how do you find hyperrealist art informs "real" life?
I think I'm drawn to hyperreal works for several reasons. One being, since I was young, I admired my father's art in how accurate his figures were, and I always tried to emulate that. I wanted to create realistic faces and figures also. I got caught on this path of seeing how real I could make something look. Hyperrealism was just the natural course of things.
Secondly, I'm an OCD control freak, and I nitpick the teeniest details—not one of my better qualities, and though it hinders me in many aspects of my life, it's helpful for a very specific type of art. Hyperrealism is a way for me to get that OCD—that need to —out of my system, I suppose. There's so many things we cannot control in life, so it gives me peace of mind to feel like I can take it back a bit through art, and it's therapeutic in a sense. I've often wondered if creating in a hyperreal manner exacerbates the problem of control. If I were to relinquish it entirely, how would it affect my works?
Third, I'm very much a loner recluse, and have a difficult time forming interpersonal relationships, so painting in a hyperreal sense is my way of connecting to subjects. With each layer I paint, it's as though a layer of that individual's soul is manifesting in front of me. To see every wrinkle, every scar, it reveals fragments of who they are—like miniature tales that give way to some inner sight. I can't help but form these stories of the individuals being painted in my mind as I paint them on canvas. Whether they are "real" or not, there's this connection that forms. Once I paint someone, I tend to see them in a different light.
In your Bio, you state that you are interested in light and shadow as a means of capturing mood and the quality of transience. Why have you chosen the human face—in surreal, bizarre, or even violent contexts (e.g., "Raw")—to represent these qualities in your art? What does the human face represent to you?
The human face at its core is "identity." But do you ever look in the mirror and feel like it's a sort of a lie? People have become exceptional at putting on these —these facades. We put out there what we want people to identify within ourselves, but they are not always necessarily truly "us." I know I'm not the only individual to struggle with identity, and finding one's place in this world. To me, these portraits I paint are just that—the emulation of that struggle. The human face is something everyone can understand, whether or not you struggle with identity.
There are so many subtleties in a face that we have come to break down. The tiniest hints of expression can create intense emotional responses. Coupled with the alteration of light and shadow, it can evoke this deep visceral feeling. One face shown in the right light can tell an infinite amount of stories. For example, how unnatural under-lighting in a piece automatically gives this ominous sense . . . this off-kilter feel to the piece. Or how a sharp spotlight evokes this atmosphere of seriousness vs., a soft diffused light source creating a lighter mood. Since art is a visual language, and we are only able to see forms through light, it makes sense to use light and shadow to convey the mood we have in mind. Once the mood is established, the viewer without words can then pull their own stories as to why a piece may carry a specific feel. What the viewer sees is not only a reflection of myself as the artist, but of the viewer themselves.
What core themes drive your work, and what do you hope to convey in regards to human identity and self-expression?
The themes that seem to drive my work are of course identity, as well as dimensionality and reality—figures fighting the space they occupy, trying to make sense out of what is real, and what isn't. There's this idea of perceived reality, and how each individual experiences it differently. Take, for example, how I experience space, compared to how you experience space—for me being an agoraphobic, I have this sense of entrapment in open space; this is incredibly paradoxical for someone who doesn't experience it in the same sense I do. To be trapped in open space, where others feel freedom . . . They are too very real yet distinctly different realities for two people with separate identities. My work is a self expression of this difference, in an effort to open the minds of the viewer to their perceived reality, as well as a statement in that it's all right to not know where you fit in. Everyone is experiencing this life in a different way—but that's sort of the beauty of it all, isn't it?
What kinds of upcoming projects can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?
Well, I'm currently booked for 2016 with different solo and group exhibits. Aside from that, I plan to marry other creative aspects of my life into my work along side my husband, Oda, this year. That's all I will say for now, but keep on the look out. Some new things are definitely underway.