Katrina Palmer

First note: the artwork of Katrina Palmer is very different, especially when compare to the other two artists talks by Liv Wynter and Dawn Mellor. I like it. Because of this difference. Because it is different.

As per usual, a little ‘briefing’ that we received of the artist;

Katrina Palmer’s art is sculpture, though not as we usually encounter it.

Her stories unfold physical, psychological and sexual encounters with materiality, so that things and thoughts collide, ideas become as sensual as external reality, and banal, vulgar or obscene objects are formed in writing, as imagined sculpture.

The objects from which Palmer’s stories begin – pages, books, desks and chairs – recall the scenario of writing, and the object repertoire of conceptual art, a witty reminder of dematerialisation’s overlooked materialisations. But art-historical allusions merely provide the setting for the real action. The subordinate or enfolded spaces of these objects, the cavities under or within them, become the refuge for vivid fantasies.

Source: Art email, sourced from artreview.com

Katrina Palmer’s work is of words.

She read a piece to us at the beginning of her talk, and if I am honest, I cannot recall as to which piece she read to us. However, in this work she read, items that were being described became very constructional and chemistry-like. They then moved on to become very technology based and then dramatically changed the subject to toxic waste being transported to Africa. This was all to do with describing a piece of rock.

This piece, Katrina later revealed, was to do with a fictional character of a grave digger. She is now developing this work further as she wants more work to come out of his character. There was also an emphasis on the developing as the work that Katrina makes is constantly evolving and changing. From the story and the book that she has written, Katrina created a visual representation by writing out a certain passage, and then rewriting several times, but moving the lines closer and closer, compressing the lines, until the lines of the passage are one on top of the other, on top of the other.

The End Matter Project

Portland was described to us like a sculpture, carved out like an inverted monument. Katrina visited the island in order to gain first hand experience through walking,  photography and other mediums. Throughout her time here, Portland stone was found, which is often seen as paler, refined stone and is typically used for buildings. This was found in the quarries where the further down they dug, the further into the past you could go. This was an idea that Katrina felt like she wanted to explore in her work. The removal of ground was an interesting concept, especially when looking at the layers of ground and the layers of different time periods. Katrina wrote about this in one of her works.

Katrina was actually trained as a sculptor, and so this is the way in which she looks at images, places and other artwork. At the same quarry that she visited often while in Portland, on one side there was a ‘hole’ from where the quarry was, and the other side of a thin pathway was a graveyard where all the stone were made from the Portland stone. This links into her exploitation of the land in the books that she has written. There is a paradox in which the ground is literally taken away from the people, and yet they survive on this very thing. Unfortunately, the people of Portland could quarry no more, and so they moved on to mining. They wanted to mine under this very cemetery.

I found that the images of Portland that were taken while Katrina was there, were often in black and white. This for me allowed me to envisage the place when the quarrying was happening, when black and white photos was all there was. There was also a sense of melancholy, for a reason that I am unsure of. Overall, the effect of the photographs being black and white was very powerful. I do not know whether this was intentional.

Another publication of Katrina’s was in 2014:

The Fabricator’s Tale

The Fabricator’s Tale was described and shown to us as a dark, long corridor with a 3mm gap within one wall, in which you could view a scene. There was an earlier version of this in London, where the corridor was lighter than compared to the corridor in Void, Derry. This 2016 exhibition was darker in order for the scene to become more vivid. Within both versions of the Tale, it depended on where you sat, on what part of the scene you could see and depict.

The Tale itself is almost entirely made up of a list of objects. These objects can be seen, revealed or completely absent from the entire scene. For me, hearing that the story is of how a landlord rents out a room to a girl and then tries to control her, up to the point where she is a threat to anyone whom enters her space, it is hard to come away and envision that it was made mostly out of a list of objects. The music behind the piece, however, shows the romance of opening a book.

Reality Flickers

This is another piece that Katrina made which considered of a music stand, the book of reality flickers and metal chairs. This was developed upon and in a version of the work for Void, Derry, 2016, the text on the music stand is reformulated onto the wall. This tells the visual story, and the story of words, how reality has confessed to the murder of her partner, and how she screws it up and puts it in a locker, where reality itself can be distorted, and reality can distort the story.

Another version of Reality Flickers in 2015, it was a mixed media installation audio recording with a duration of 14:14 minutes. Accompanying this, was Adam Williams on the keyboard.

Overall, the story is of meeting a man who exploits her. He has sex with her, or in other words fucks and rapes her, and she, in return, fantasises about eating his eyeballs and adding him to her collection.

Katrina started doing her BA in Art and was a maker. She found that she wanted to explore what sculpture was, but then writing became more important. Her material now, is her voice. Used found and everyday objects, yet words were her material. The themes that are explored in Katrina’s work are those of violence and sexualisation, what is revealed and concealed, who can be heard and who cannot. She often found she was concentrating on bodies, especially in her BA Art where she looked at squished body sculptures. Katrina also described how for her, risk taking was a sense of freedom.

The Neropolitan Line

The series of pieces that were based around the Necropolitan Line were held in the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, 2016. This was a series of installations, including a platform that look at the history of the line. There were pieces that were spoken on the talloy system. There were also ‘normal’ announcements that were linked to the general running of the line, for example, late trains and disturbance warnings. For this as well, she created her own tone that announced these announcements.

There was also a free newspaper that was included as part of the exhibition and Katrina wrote all the articles to this herself. Some of these, she admitted, were based off of facts, and some were pure rambling.

Through the gallery, you would get an extended tune and story which would guide you through all the installations. The platform, chairs etc where there to allow people to interact with the work, rather than stand back and stare at it. This as well guided people through the gallery.

Katrina also incorporated the goods lift into the exhibition. Once an hour, there would be an announcement that the lift would leave. The lift was also part of the gallery as a mashed up version of the song ‘Is That All There Is’ could be heard in the background, just like ‘cheesy’ lift music. However, once you packed into the lift and were out at the bottom, you were not allowed to re-enter the building or the exhibition space. This is a point Katrina made clear, so then people could enjoy the exhibition once, and gain those memories and those thoughts about it, instead of re-visiting pieces multiple times and altering our perspectives on it.

Overall, Katrina said that she wanted to push ideas as far as she could. Sculpture. Character. Book. A space in which the book inhabits. She also mentioned a new rule that she has recently made herself; no text on the walls. This is because this isn’t what she wanted more of in galleries – you would want to be off on your own to read and enjoy it.

Her books are accessible as stories, but parts are accessible as parts of artworks. Different aspects of different stories come out in different forms.


Sources: PortlandThe Dark Object, 2010Reality FlickersThe Cross BonesThe Fabricator’s TaleKatrina Palmer

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