Karen Tang’s sculpture draws inspiration from St James’s rich history of gambling dens, gory duels, gentlemen’s clubs and merchant activity, and in particular the famous scales at Berry Bros & Rudd, one of the oldest wine merchants in London.
Tang’s hybrid sculptures are permeated with a Baroque style and ethos. Cross-cultural and historical motifs are fused to create sensuous objects with contradictory and slippery possibilities, revelling in multiple ideas and interpretations. Tang’s work plays with the idea that appearances can be simultaneously simple and complex.
Tang uses a steel silo of the type used by farmers to store grain. It is metamorphosed into lace-like tracery that depicts swirling patterns appropriated from The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Albrecht Durer’s woodcut of 1498. Brandishing swords, scales, and bows and arrows the horsemen are part of an ominous apocalyptic scene that symbolises the threat of forthcoming plague, war, hunger and death.
The imagery from Durer’s original woodcut has been expanded and manipulated into a three-dimensional looping sculpture. This subversively camouflages the hellish scene by using excessively ornate and intricate filigree. By making the work dollar green, the artist interweaves connotations of wealth and capitalism with references to ecology, conservation, and regeneration.
The result is a commentary on civilisation throughout history. It is depicted as a continuous battle against the violence, corruption and misery that effects everyone.
Karen Tang graduated with distinction from the Slade School of Art in 2004 with an MFA in Sculpture. Since then she has won several awards, including the Duveen Travel Bursary, enabling her to travel to Italy and Mexico to research the multiple cultural interpretations of the Baroque. In 2005 she completed a commission for Underbelly in Hoxton Square, London, and the Chinese Arts Centre in Manchester awarded her a Breathe residency for 2006-07.
Previous shows: Contemporary Art Society’s ARTfutures at Bloomberg Space, London, 2005; Wunderkammer: The Artificial Kingdom, The Collection, Lincoln, 2004.