Kendall Nordin – Artist

Kendall Nordin is a Washington DC based Contemporary Artist who recently had an exhibition at ARS upstairs @ the Napier (the Napier Hotel in Fitzroy). I recently caught up with Kendall for a quick chat.

Why did you choose this venue?
I did my masters at RMIT with some of the folks who began the ARS Upstairs @ the Napier so it seemed a natural place to apply for a show.  When I heard about the space and saw images, I thought it would work well with my work– a space that has been repurposed.  I hadn’t seen it in person before I arrived to get ready for the exhibition and it was a very pleasant surprise.  The pressed tin along the wall and some of the ceiling textures work very well with some of the textures in the paper pieces I make.  And the big windows really allow the pieces to change with the day.  It’s a beautiful, quirky, and large space.  And I couldn’t be happier with how my art sits in it.


Why these works?
These works represent the major pieces I’ve been working on for the last year and a half to two years.  Though the approaches are different, it has been a pleasure to see them finally hanging all together and commenting on each other, reflecting some common ideas and spinning off on their own tacks.


What’s your methodology/philosophy with this show?
In my work I am chasing after the circumstances of being human—the topography of skin, the accidents of our origins and evolution, our ability to symbolize and find meaning, play, the desire for relationship, the fact of dissolution, and the constant of the unknown.

Because of this my art involves a lot of incidental pieces—created moments of randomness that then get built upon—or layers and layers of meaning that might be obfuscated—or multiples that are completely different but arranged in a way to suggest connection.  I use paper, ink, watercolor, thread, cutting, sewing, drawing, pouring, ball bearings, letting things do what they do and reacting with attention to spontaneity, precariousness, organic form, and transparency. Some pieces disappear entirely from certain angles and only reappear when the angle of view changes or the available light moves.

My forms are all raw data, it is up to the viewers to come up with narratives.  I want people to find something familiar, something plausibly organic, in my work but a something that is not quite comfortable nor completely recognizable.  The result, I hope, is a shift in the quality of attention that someone brings to the space.  People approach my work and get drawn into the small details, the subtle shifts in tone and walk away with slower, quieter eyes.


You’re in the USA? then how come Melbourne?
I came to Melbourne to do my MFA in 2005 for many reasons– and couldn’t have anticipated what a good fit it was for me as cities go.  The sheer quantity of art and music being produced and shown on a daily basis here is stunning– and a wonderful experience coming from a place like Washington DC where we have a lot of beautiful big museums with important historical art but not a great deal of local galleries who are showing Contemporary Art– particularly non-commercial spaces.  I had never heard of an “Artist Run Space” until I arrived here.  They simply don’t exist in the model back home.  Beyond the amount of work that’s out to be seen, there is work that really challenges me and engages with the International art scene– which is where I’d really like to be located rather than chasing after the US/New York art scene.  I’m not so interested in that world.  So Melbourne feels like a productive place, a place where boundaries can be pushed and dialogue is readily had.


Your history is interesting tell us a little…
I’m a bit all over the place with my “history”.  I’ve played music, tour managed a band, helped produce documentary film, worked in a 4 star restaurant, lobbied for Low Power FM Radio, taught preschool, written/performed/published/taught poetry, studied Religion.  I’ve lived in DC, Portland Oregon, Costa Rica, Glasgow, Nanjing, Melbourne and did a long residency in Tallinn, Estonia this past summer.  In terms of art making I really started with a focus on photography, then did some drawing, then painting, now this– whatever it is you might call it.  Usually I call it “installation work with paper”.  I think I use different modes of making things in order to do really different things.


How about your method of working?
Sometimes a material grabs me, sometimes I just have an idea that needs to get worked out, sometimes I let a pen and paper react to what’s around me.  I think like all artists I get stimulation from a lot of different avenues and its a matter of following up on those impulses, pushing them to where they need to be and then seeing how that might fit or not.  I have pieces that are ongoing, which will take many years to complete.  I have a list of pieces that I keep for when I have some serious funding to make big ambitious work.  And then there are the pieces, which just seem to appear and I put my head down, I work at it, and they often surprise me at the end.

What’s next?
The week after the show comes down I’ll be doing a Skype “Studio-to-Studio conversation from 16 hours in the future” from my studio in Melbourne to the big annual open studios event at my building in DC.  It’s going to be part performance, part serious conversation about making art, the difference between DC and Melbourne, and what art is anyway.  After that I’m looking forward to making some new work.  Seeing this body of work hang together makes me have some good sense of where I might go from here and where I might decide to pick up and go in a different direction.  My colleague here, Hannah Bertram, and I will be doing a 24-hour drawing project (the 6th one we’ve done) in May.  It looks like there might be a 22 piece all girl rock orchestra PANIC might get a show while I’m here as well.  That’s all before June.

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One Response to “Kendall Nordin – Artist”

  1. Contemporary Visual Artist Interviews : Art Re-Source on June 12th, 2010 8:47 am

    […] Kendall Nordin […]