One of two 30 foot triptychs commenced with the fervid inspiration of the city, an ode noted in scale, and was completed after the artist’s American citizenship was granted. Titled, "DTLA As the Garden of Earthly Delights," its bright colors cut through and vindicate the dark, gritty imagery of homelessness, culture, gender, politics, spirituality and all that Los Angeles has come to embrace between its historic architecture. Recalling the melting abstractions of Francis Bacon and allegorical sensibilities of Hieronymus Bosch, Freeman examines the here and now with her tempestuous brushstrokes, layered with a myriad of paints.
With her affinity for large format works, Freeman challenged herself with the first three panel triptych while residing in Australia, awaiting her Visa. The original inspiration for the work lent its title, "The Garden of Earthly Delights." Cultivated on the epochs of birth, life and death, Freeman tangles the human form following its curves through a pushing and pulling whereby the Yin and Yang are found at every edge. Just as in nature, the vivid, raw elements within us as humans, are awakened throughout these various stages.
Kaye Freeman paints to convey. Her canvases are conduits for the transfusion of emotions, ideas, states of being. They are the bone and gristle of what it is to be one among billions on earth. Each brush stroke and field of color is a direct expression of the artist’s self, and when we gaze at her arrangements of tone and form we see the artist, and ourselves, and the countless more with whom we live.
Freeman’s devastating 2012 “Floating Worlds” exhibition in Melbourne revealed an artist caught in a universe of unbearable clarity described in monotone save for a few silken whispers of color washing over but never softening her graphite and lead white drawings of grief, loss and darkness.
Fast forward to early 2016. Freeman visits the Joshua Tree National monument with her sketch book and a handful of crayons. Weeks later, in a tempest of creative activity she conceived “The Joshua Series," an ensemble of large canvases that can barely contain Freeman’s tumultuous cosmos of layered shapes, unabashed color, and her unwavering quest for perfect composition. In these works the desolate landscape, limitless light, and monolithic formations of Joshua Tree are plunged into the crucible of Freeman’s razor eye and unerring technique. There they are reduced, cleansed and abstracted into pure forms, lines and colors. They become the intuitive symbols and totems describing the artist’s personal journey from darkness to light, despair to joy, indifference to unbridled passion.
“Joshua” is the artist’s deepest dive into abstraction. Yet, despite the mystical code of color and light that Freeman has etched, stroked and teased into each canvas, our human appetite for narrative is still satisfied, though not by looking left to right or up and down. Two dimensions are not enough for Freeman. That is why, in order to read the visual poems that are the Joshua Series, one must look deeper, past the surface to the layers beneath, and eventually to the human substrate, upon which we are all painted.
Kaye Freeman is a restless soul, ever in motion, never at peace and always at work. Daily she puts brush to canvas or crayon to paper. Her work can be viewed as a narrative punctuated by evolving forms, deeper abstractions, personal trials and triumphs and a palette that always has room for more color.
New Anatomy began while the artist was “trapped between places” having severed the last ties that bound her to Australia, and still in need of the proper documents for a move to the US. Freeman landed in a nondescript Air BnB flat, fretful in idleness with no studio to paint in. So she began to draw, to test the limits of oil stick on paper. Freeman drew about transport and transition, rage and frustration, the pain of childhood scoliosis and its more painful treatment. She extracted the memories and grief of lost family, lost love, lost dreams abreast the joy of new beginnings, the anatomy of sex, dance, landscapes and even insects. The ideas took hold of Freeman and the drawing pad could no longer contain her work.
Upon renting a studio she began to paint with New Anatomy fully underway. The artist’s earlier work, childhood, travels, obsessions and passions, vexation and fears all came into play as the series progressed. Her overlapping fields of rich color slashed with graphite lines, shapes and forms that began as moments in an artists life have been abstracted into totems that we can recognize as being of the tribe we all wander with.
Freeman eventually made it to the US and she brought with her more than 165 drawings and paintings from her “time between places”. New Anatomy was culled from that collection.
“Nothingness in itself weighs so intensely on our collective consciousness that so much of what we do depends on that which may or may not even exist.”
When someone or something is taken we replace it with a memory. It becomes a totem, a candle we look to for reassurance, a dissemination of our lives that was once whole; now broken and shattered into smithereens. We are left with pieces and called to put together something new, something different, because the Presence of Absence makes us do it.
This is the presence of that which no longer exists; an absence felt so intensely it is palpable. When it breaks into your heart, it breaths out your soul and melts your internal organs.
These paintings represent a turning point in the abstraction of Freeman’s work and came to fruition after intense period of reflection. Freeman dove deeply into the drawings she was doing at the time, like Alice into the rabbit hole, and when she came out the other end these paintings are where the artist found herself.
Freeman links the landscape to the human psyche and form, our subconscious with our true selves. For the artists these are not mutually exclusive environments. The works in the Presence of Absence series are about natural disasters including the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, her home. They are about grief, the loss of family members, friends and community. Her lines indicate pathways by which you may lose your way home, walking away towards intensifying colours alongside emerging forms that then disappear.