My Artist Practice is grounded in being an Urban Explorer
In the environment of our city streets I find inspiration in architecture, construction sites, signs and road markings. My self imposed joy of industrial colour, geometric shapes and lines is magnified by my playful propensity for seeing oversized structures in small details. I hope to capture this sense of superimposed urban materiality by fast drawing with tape and a scalpel, painting, printmaking and installation work with an emphasis on the space and space between within the place I am documenting.
Since 2018 through collaborations with artists, I have found the act of talking while walking through urban spaces both liberating and a way to connect with others forming a vessel for positive dialogue in the form of conversational poetry. A simple edited poem of my other world words accompanies most of my drawings and paintings.
NEW WAVE - Group Exhibition - Sky Gallery at Spitalfields Studios. Part of White Chapel Gallery 1st Thursday’s Program, London, UK
July 2023 (3 month program)
REFLECTIONS - Contemporary International Artist Group Exhibition
Anna Steinhouse Art, London
BIALE ESTREMOZ - the first international art biennale of Alentejo, Portugal in the county of Estremoz
March 22nd to 26th 2023
GALVANISE - Exhibition for Spitalfields Studio Artists at Spitalfields Studios. This included an Artist Talk with Karen & James for Urban Rural Exchange. Part of WhiteChapel Gallery 1st Thursday’s Program
July 2022 (3 month program)
FROM SCRATCH - Exhibition for Spitalfields Studio Artists at Spitalfields Studios. This included an Artist Talk with Karen & James for Urban Rural Exchange. Part of WhiteChapel Gallery 1st Thursday’s Program. Showing work from Lock Down 2020
December 2021 (3 month program)
MATERIAL WORLD - 44AD Associates Annual Exhibition - at 44AD artspace Bath, January
INSIDE / OUTSIDE Exhibition - The Laboratory of Dissent Residency (5 weeks) - at Winchester Gallery - Winchester School of Art (Chapel Artist Studio Associate submission)
November - December 2019
URBAN RURAL EXCHANGE - Reception and Artist Talk at Spitalfields Studios, together with a weekend Live Walk Talk Draw Make workshop in the East End. This exhibition followed a year-long collaboration with James Aldridge exploring crossovers within place-based art between urban and rural settings, documented on instagram. Part of WhiteChapel Gallery 1st Thursday’s Program
DRAWING THE BIGGER PICTURE - Live Drawing Walk Workshop - Lead Artist, promoting drawing on the streets of Salisbury as part of the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize exhibition (Chapel Artist Studio Associate submission)
REFRESH Exhibition for Spitalfields Studio Artists at Spitalfields Studios. This included an Artist Talk with Karen & James for Urban Rural Exchange. Part of WhiteChapel Gallery 1st Thursday’s Program
DRAWN IN - Exhibition involving 9 artists, all with drawing at the core of their practices. Bridport Arts Centre. Experimental Playful Industrial Materials Drawing workshop for adults/children led by Karen Wood as part of the exhibition
May to June 2019
IN THE ROUND - Associate Exhibition, celebrating 10 years of CAS (Chapel Arts Studios)
PLAYING HOOKY - drawing and Poem - Dyadic visual poetry published by Sum Journal
Note: A full listing for 2007 to 2018 will be added to this Bio by the end of May 2023
AWARDS & RESIDENCIES
QUALIFICATIONS & ASSOCIATIONS
Awards & Residencies
2019 Residency Outside/Inside - Winchester School of Art
2018 Residency BlockChainDissentArt_online
2016 Honorable Mention Award - NYC4PA Same but Different
New York Center for Photographic Art - Exhibition on-line
2011 Residency Cabot Circus, Bristol UK
2008 Andrew Brownsword Award, Bath Society of Artists, Bath UK
2007 Best in Show winner, Hot Bath Gallery, Bath UK
Qualifications & Associations
2022 to current - with ICAG (The International Contemporary Artist Group)
2017 to 2020 Associate with CAS (Chapel Artists Studios)
2012 Masters in Fine Art (MFA), Bath Spa University, UK
2007 Diploma in Foundation Studies, Art & Design, City of Bath College, UK
1988 BA Humanities (Communication, Realism & 20th Century Culture, Law & Politics, Knowledge & Power) Griffith University, Queensland, Australia
KIRSTY KERR - Curator, November 2019
Urban Rural Exchange - Collaboration
Karen Wood and James Aldridge
8th November – 27th December 2019
Spitalfields Studios, London
Sky Gallery is pleased to present Urban Rural Exchange, a new series of paintings and a mixed-media installation, the culmination of a year-long collaboration by place-based artists, Karen Wood and James Aldridge. Together, Wood and Aldridge walk regularly in their respective locations of London and rural Wiltshire, documenting their journeys via a shared Instagram account - a digital space and visual diary for their ongoing dialogue.
Using a range of media, they record their interactions with ‘place’, including architecture and debris, signposts and markings, pathways and waterways, wildlife and people. Back in their studios, they create works in response to these findings, encapsulating their local environments, and together interrogating the notion of a perceived Urban-Rural divide.
Based here at Spitalfields Studios, Karen Wood calls herself an ‘Urban Explorer’. Walking in her East London surroundings, Wood draws and photographs architecture, road markings, road signs and construction sites, documenting a pre-occupation with industrial colour and geometric form. Using these source-gathering explorations and further editing processes, she shows permutations of cityscape through drawing, painting and printmaking, with a specific emphasis on how space and movement are controlled and restricted. For Urban Rural Exchange, Wood has created Urban Edit, a series of paintings developed from her observational electrical tape drawings, referencing urban markings, architecture and minimal colours. Layers of paint with varying levels of translucency create a sense of space, which counters the flatness of their planes, along with structural lines and geometric shapes framing what she calls the ‘spacebetween’. Wood’s industrial colour Palette, playfully presented alongside this triptych, gives the viewer insight into her making and editing process.
Note: Full Press Release 2019 - to be linked in May 2023
D.S. GRAHAM [Editor] September 27, 2017
Art Aesthetics Publications 27/9/2017 Top 5 Artists at the Other Art Fair London (TOAF) Link
Karen Wood isn’t just an ‘artist’ but an ‘urban explorer’ who conjures art out of the mundane road markings that we abide by—without ever properly seeing—every day. Sam Jacob of the University of Illinois at Chicago and visiting professor at Yale University recently wrote for Dezeen that ‘[r]oads are super complex landscapes. All those speed bumps, arrows, double yellows, zig zags, kerbs, red men, green men, zebra, pelican, puffin and pegasus crossings are both the surface over which we travel and codes that modify and instruct how we travel. They are simultaneously map and territory, abstract markings on the surface of the city that become the city.’ Wood’s Back to the Road (2017) abstracts such road-markings from their “natural” environment. They’re cut-out into modernist works of art. It’s as if they’re inspired by the cut-outs and découpage of Matisse or the De Stijl of Mondrian. Interestingly, the latter is often referred to a neoplasticism and road markings are similarly made with thermoplastic paint in bright colours along predominantly straight edges. It’s interesting, then, to witness the coincidence of the high-brow and the lowly infrastructure of the world in which it all takes place.
Wood’s artworks explore these super complex landscapes in which we live and, especially, the ways in which we’re allowed to move through them. David Harvey’s excursus on Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s renovation of Paris in ‘The Right to the City’ (2008) states that Haussmann ‘created an urban form where it was believed—incorrectly, as it turned out in 1871—that sufficient levels of surveillance and military control could be attained to ensure that revolutionary movements would easily be brought to heel.’ Haussmann sought to control the same city that the flâneur sought to explore. Merlin Coverley’s Psychogeography (2006) states that ‘[l]ike London before it, Paris in the nineteenth century had expanded to the point where it could no longer be comprehended in its entirety. It had become increasingly alien to its own inhabitants, a strange and newly exotic place…characterised as a jungle, uncharted and unexplored, a virgin wilderness populated by savages demonstrating strange customs and practices.’ It’s worth reconsidering the struggle between control (of movement, traffic, etc.) and urban exploration in contemporary London. We’re constantly moving through space. We’re constantly exploring the city. We’re constantly curtailed by the directions for movement therein.
Attila Kotányi and Raoul Vaneigem’s ‘Basic Program of the Bureau of Unitary Urbanism’ (1961) stated that their first task was ‘to enable people to stop identifying with their surroundings and with model patterns of behaviour…We must encourage their scepticism toward those spacious and brightly coloured kindergartens,’ for ‘[o]nly a mass awakening will pose the question of a conscious construction of the urban environment.’ Wood similarly suggests that the colours of ‘controlling signage’ might be described as the ‘hyperreal’ as described by Jean Baudrillard who’s work shares much in common with that of Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle (1967) and the other members of the Situationist International as Kotányi and Vaneigem.
Way Through (2017)
Pigment on Canvas
Wood’s Way Through (2017) is in much the same vein of critical and artistic thought in that it distils the experience of walking the city into white, black, and blue. It’s a really pristine reduction of the cacophony of the city into one of its purer forms—not through the eyes or artist’s vision, but through the actual movement of the body through the built environment. Furthermore, someone who collects these artworks collects a part of our contemporary moment: more people live in cities than the countryside for the first time in our history. From gentrification to Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS), the city is increasingly subject to new political and aesthetic visions.
Wood successfully intervenes in these contemporary debates.
WILL SORRELL [Director] September 29, 2017
SAATCHI ART The Other Art Fair - Design Junctions 4 Must See Artists at The Other Art Fair (2017) London Link
Challenging Borders (2016)
Etching on Somerset Paper
Perfect Suspension (2017)
Karen Wood describes herself as a painter, printmaker, & installation artist. She uses her source gathering explorations to show permutations of architecture, cityscapes and roadmarkings with a specific emphasis on how space and movement are controlled and restricted. Out on the streets of London, and other cities when visiting, Karen takes photographs of road markings, road signs, construction sites and architecture. Karen’s photographs document her pre-occupation with industrial colour, geometric form (with a specific interest in the void-like shape), and the ‘spaceinbetween’ created within and by these urban landscapes.