Karen Densham at The Minories

Being reasonably new to the Essex Art’s scene, having only recently moved back, I was surprised to find how much was going on in my area and not just by amateur landscape watercolour enthusiasts but by real, interesting, contemporary artists. How very exciting I thought to myself! So, on one of my weekly trips to Colchester to eat cake and soak up a change of scenery I had a little mooch around The Minories and took in Karen Densham’s exhibition, Form and Dysfunction. Her medium is vast, encompassing ceramics, film, photography and sculpture. She has exhibited in many of London’s major galleries, including the V&A and studied at The Royal Collage of Art and Wolverhampton Polytechnic.

Densham’s satirical take on kitsch, questions our perceptions and relationships with objects and in turn the kinds of people whom might enjoy such items. Seemingly harmless porcelain figurines have been transformed to become sinister and displaced items. It is interesting to see how a simple object can become something else when altered (even slightly) and when viewed out of context the object can develop new meaning and deliver an alternative message.

Karen Densham, Choker, 2014

I can’t help but think that Densham is also making clever observations about the bourgeoisie and the ideals/lifestyle they choose. All is not quite so civilised and rosy as we might be led to believe in suburbia. She makes reference to death and murder (or assisted suicide?), a figure of a rabbit is given a hangman’s hood, another a noose and a helping…paw. Headless chickens reminiscent of the kind found in souvenir shops in Spain and Portugal stand confused in a corner, a Lego wall divides two golden statues of children, a miniature piano and beneath it small mould of an elephant. I try to recall the elephant and piano, I’m sure there is a joke about it but I can not remember. These objects are almost painfully British and familiar, representative of the middle classes in the 70′s and 80′s and as comfortable and common as Tupperware. Densham plays on our existing notions and knowledge of these items and then distorts them, leaving us to question if we ever really knew what they meant in the first place.

Karen Densham, Gimp, 2014

Suzie Silk. 2015