During the past year, artist Kevin Chin has devoted himself to reading widely about the global migrant crisis. Mass media imagery has been on the artist’s mind as he’s developed works for his upcoming exhibition ‘Refuge’, which comprises five large-scale oil paintings.
‘I’ve restaged what became like symbols that I found kept repeating, and that resonated – temporary shelter structures, children in queues, and domestic refuge,’ the artist explains. Kevin feels that by recreating such scenarios and rearranging their context, they’ve been translated away from specific world events, and into universal aspects of the human condition we can all relate to – themes of journey, transition and sanctuary.
The Brunswick-based artist has been working across painting, installation, and photography since graduating from an art degree at VCA in 2006, and has been concentrating on painting full-time since signing on with This Is No Fantasy + Dianne Tanzer Gallery in 2013.
Kevin uses only pure pigment paints, mixing all the colours himself. ‘I am meticulous with controlling the nuances of colour – as a result I’m the only artist I know that washes their brushes every single day, to keep my paint mixes OCD clean!’ he says.
A trip to Indonesia last year was particularly influential to his latest work, ‘Refuge’. ‘I took an interest in what happens to the refugee boats that Australia turns around, and that are forced to land in Indonesia,’ says Kevin. However, myriad influences come through, as various different locations are conflated within a single canvas. ‘I’m interested in breaking down ideas of borderlines and nationalism – creating a sense of somewhere familiar but foreign at the same time,’ Kevin tells.
‘Grittier’ in comparison to past work, this exhibition also references the US election of Trump, the resurgence of political parties like One Nation in Australia, and continuing debate around who belongs and who doesn’t. ‘I think we get desensitised to mass media imagery of the situation, especially when we can shrug things off as being far away,’ tells Kevin. ‘I think art is a means of translating things going on in the world into a more poetic space, where we can pause for contemplation; My aim is to subtly reference these issues in a way that’s gentle, that makes you want to look closer, and then ask more about what’s going on.’
‘Refuge’ by Kevin Chin
July 1st to July 22
This Is No Fantasy + Dianne Tanzer Gallery
108–110 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne.
Thanks to an Australia Council Career Development Grant, Kevin Chin is heading to the US for an art residency at Teton Artlab, at the base of Yellowstone National Park. Follow his work here.