The power of Kathy Temin’s seductive fur sculptures often lies in the unexpected combination of two contrasting ideas. In the major three-part work, Black Gardens, Temin contrasts Minimalist abstraction with pathos. The bulbous spheres of stuffed fur and slender, simplified trees are at once a formal exercise in the arrangement of volume and an emotionally charged account of loss and remembrance. Each of the three components in Black Gardens is structured around a wooden box reminiscent of a sarcophagus that is topped with fur growth and supported by thick fur roots. The melancholic rectangular forms reference Temin's dialogue with her familial history as the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, but they also function more broadly as metaphors for our own private journeys of loss and survival. For it is from these panelled volumes that sprightly trees and dense thickets sprout, signifying the inevitability of growth and renewal.
Temin counts Yayoi Kusama and Eva Hesse among her key artistic influences. Kusama is known for her obsessive approach to repetition and Hesse has been credited with humanizing Minimalism. Both these strands feature in Temin's garden sculptures. Abstract motifs are carefully repeated bringing a visual rhythm to Black Gardens. In Temin's practice, repetition is punctuated by variation, highlighting the handmade aspect of her work. Short-haired fur is contrasted with occasional tufts of long-haired fur, or recurring horrizontal panelling is interrupted by references to suburban decoration.
In keeping with Hesse’s legacy, fur introduces an emotive element into Temin's rarefied, monochromatic forms, humanizing the underlying Minimalist aesthetic. The synthetic fabric is loaded with connotations of domesticity, childhood and kitsch (think soft toys or plush 1970s interiors), all of which interfere with the refinement of Modernist simplicity. The soft, silky fur is overtly tactile and subtly sexual – the desire to stroke or pat the sculpture must either be repressed or succumbed to. Unlike the diminutive soft toys that fur references, Temin's triptych of trees and hedges is impressively-scaled and ends up enchroaching on personal space. In Black Gardens there is a direct relationship to the human body that must be negotiated. The senses are engaged as the viewer interacts with the sculptures to find a path through the comforting landscapes of fur. Standing still, one can lean into the minature gardens and hear a muffled silence. Temin’s sound absorbing fabric quiets anxieties and offers a space for reflection, rememberance and ultimately optimism.
Kathy Temin has exhibited extensively in Australia and internationally since 1989. In 2010, Temin was selected to create a major, large-scale work for the Contemporary Project Space at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, titled My Monument: Black Gardens, which was subsequently acquired by the gallery. In 2009, Temin held a 20-year retrospective at the Heide Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne. In 2007 an exhibition of Temin’s work was held at the Victorian College of the Arts, Margaret Lawrence Gallery in Melbourne as part of the completion of the artist’s PhD candidature. Temin has been included in numerous important group exhibitions, such as Louise Bourgeois and Australian Artists at the Heide Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne (2012-2013); Soft Sculpture at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra (2009); Contemporary Australia: Optimism at the Gallery of Modern Art, Queensland (2008); ART TLV 08 at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2008); High Tide at the Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw and the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius, Lithuania (2006); New05 at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne (2005); She was the recipient of an Australia Council Residency in London during 2003 and at PS1 in New York in 1997. In 1999, Temin won the prestigious Moët and Chandon Art Fellowship. Her work is held in all major Australian public collections. Kathy Temin is Associate Professor at Monash University in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture. Black Gardens is Kathy Temin’s seventh solo exhibition with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.