Katrina Beekhuis (b. New Zealand) | Sand chairSep 15, 2021
My name is Katrina Beekhuis, and I am a New Zealand artist based in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland).
My work aims to slow the process of recognition, which instantly names, codes, and categorises a thing - fixing it as ‘known’ doomed to be used and consumed. This is to move everyday recognisable objects away from easy legibility and towards one that unsettles expectation.
For example, Sand chair, 2020 - part of a solo exhibition, Windows, at Blue Oyster Art Project Space, consists of two stacked chair frames, re-made in mild steel, curved, bent and arced to echo the form of chairs. I have pressed sand with glue onto these frames, bonding the two forms together like a double act or a tight duplication. Sand is clumped and re-clumped around the metal skeleton, layered and chiselled back. It is finished with a coating of granular dust–sand of the colour of muscovado sugar–built up as if dredged from the sea.
Questions swim to mind; a recognisable form but one that is estranged, known but unsettled. Has it been made or found? Glimpsed from a distance, their shape seems familiar, but their material makeup is misplaced at odds with a mass-produced item. It requires a retake, a rethink, a closer look.
What might it mean to look, make a judgment, or ‘know’ a thing? Is it possible, however fleeting, to slow the moment of recognition through tuning of material pitch and frequency? To highlight the rush to codify? A wider aim of this project is to question this spur to know and understand, which seems driven by a Western project of knowledge based on measurable outcomes which reduce and hierarchise.
I have exhibited throughout New Zealand in institutions, project spaces and university galleries. My artworks are held in both private and public collections. In 2017 I was a New Zealand resident at Gasworks, London. I also engage with my local art community as a tutor in the undergraduate programme at The University of Auckland.
I am currently working towards a solo exhibition, 'Exuviae', opening at Auckland’s RM Gallery in August 2021. The exhibition title comes from a term that means the sloughed skin of an insect larva, or its cast husk.
Hundreds of Chorus Cicada’s, a species endemic to New Zealand, shed their exoskeletons in the Auckland summer. Their thin amber forms cling to fence posts and tree trunks like ghostly silhouettes or stand-ins. These moulted husks are intricate in detail and can be mistaken for real cicadas. Until on closer inspection, their hollowed shell becomes apparent. Yet these thin casts still brim with life and hover between two realms; as meticulous and detailed living cicada and as empty, shucked whole. In this dual reading, they resist a straightforward definition.
The term ‘exuviae’ and its resulting materialities are useful as a reference point for this project. The idea is to re-present objects or scenes from everyday life through casting, brazing, welding, weaving, moulding or sewing.
For example, as a starting point, the sculptural assemblage 'Reimagined Scene' will be modelled off an everyday scene photographed on my cell phone, which depicts four chairs of varying shapes and sizes positioned on a decked platform in a friends backyard. The chairs are arranged around a small coffee table as if in communion, sitting silently, as though people musing and waiting.
I will remake each item of furniture in various materials. The aim is to create doubles or ‘thin’ skins–exuviae–which stand outside the originals. For example, a white plastic garden chair, the kind sold in hardware stores and produced in factories en masse, will be painted with layers of epoxy resin to build up a clear yellowed sheath, as if a memory of the chair. This will be ‘cracked off’ from the original as though a thin 'skin' shucked from its whole.
If you would like to see the developments and outcomes of this project, please follow me on Instagram @katrinabeekhuis.