Kim Sweet: Presence and Absence
The impetus to become modern or even postmodern is still largely misunderstood. Both were concerned with the everyday life of individuals as well as the world outside of the academy, which is to say, that both the avant-garde and the neo-avant-garde rejected the hierarchy of genres and mediums. Artists wanted to make work about what mattered to them personally and politically, but most of all, they didn’t want to serve the will of the monarch, the dictates of state representatives or any commissioning party for that matter. And so today, when an artist’s work addresses us in this same manner – by engaging with every genre equally, by taking up themes that extend from the personal to the transcendental, and by showing us a side of life that we might otherwise never see – then we know we’re encountering a uniquely contemporary voice. Kim Sweet is one such artist.
Whether using figures in a metaphoric refrain, working with a delimited pallet that creates a subtle sense of remove, or adopting a directness in handling that becomes a poetic form of visual notation, Sweet’s work demonstrates a quiet virtuosity throughout. The imagery in her paintings isn't overpowered by a brash, expressionistic handling, nor does it fall prey to a cavalier attitude. Instead, what we are met with in Sweet’s oeuvre might be called images of care, and especially of care in the Heideggerian sense of the term of caring for what is present-at-hand and ready-to-hand, for Being and beings, or merely for touching on that circumspect space were we experience the doublebind of an ontological difference that can never be properly sutured together. Meticulously crafted, thoughtfully portrayed and elegant in execution, Sweet’s work wants you to connect with a sense of remembrance and the poignancy of a singular moment in one and the same image.
This isn’t to say that her work isn’t full of archetypal figures like the swan, the crow and the bull, all of which imply a multitude of different meanings depending on which cultural lens we examine them with, not to mention the place they hold in allegories about the self. And yet, in Sweet's work we get the feeling that these kinds of allusions are meant to touch on the powers of the collective unconscious without ever being wholly reducible to them. In this way we can say that her imagery references a myriad of motifs from the uncanny valley of art history as well as referents from the life of the artist.
If we were to try to place her work in the artworld today, we would have to say that it sits somewhere between figures of a more pop sensibility like Elizabeth Payton and Karen Kilimnik and the slightly more austere figuration of Uwe Wittwer and Wilhelm Sasnal. But what differentiates them is that while Payton pays tribute to famous figures and Kilimnik follows a cartographic impulse, Sweet’s work is sustained by the open display of more intimate and symbolic narratives. Where Wittwer’s work is more about nostalgia and Sasnal’s work makes use of so many uncanny juxtapositions, Sweet’s work relies on creating a kind of iconographic effect that shifts between figure and ground, being and non-being, presence and absence. And for all of these reasons, she is undoubtably one of the strongest voices in a generation of figurative artists that has chosen to use painting to document the human experience, in all of its variable, intangible and fleeting moments. And yet, the real accomplishment here, and the contemporaneity of her work, relies on it being both unassuming and unapologetic in equal measure.
Kim Sweet earned her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. After graduation, she moved to NYC and began working with artist Donald Sultan, ultimately becoming his lead studio assistant. During this time, Kim traveled to install exhibitions and facilitated the management of a team of assistants involved in executing Donald Sultan’s work. After moving to Arizona she pursued her talents as a painter in both the realms of commerical and fine art, evenutally becoming a member of Eye Lounge and attending the Anderson Ranch Mentoring Program.