A STRANGER AT HOME
Mason Kimber is concerned with where we come to fool ourselves, and given he has dedicated his practice towards a medium that is all about trickery and illusion it is a pertinent topic to address. Kimber is a painter and he paints on the topic of memory.
Painting, particularly in the West, has dedicated itself towards that difficult to pronounce term tromp l’oeil, which is French for ‘trick/deceive the eye’. Painters strive to create realistic impressions of the world, faithfully rendering what the eye sees into a masterful illusion. A founding myth of Western art is the Greek story of Zeuxis and Parrhasius, two painters of repute who pitted their skills against one another- firstly Zeuxis painted grapes so realistic that the birds would try to eat them. Parrhasius then asked Zeuxis to judge a painting in his studio kept behind a curtain. When Zeuxis attempted to draw back the curtain he realized it was the painting. Thus Parrhasius was declared the winner and from Parrhasius onwards, painters have dedicated a sizable portion of art history to the art of tricking the eye: painting itself is synonymous with the art of trickery to most people.
Kimber swerves the direction of painting to an altogether more pressing issue embodied within this medium, that is the trick of the mind, specifically memory. When you gaze into one of Kimber’s pantings the first thing to strike you is the torrent of perspectives, vanishing points and rendered shapes, all of which are recognizable yet just beyond your grasp of understanding. You can see an interior here, or a landscape there, yet all confirmation of what stands before you is either absent or seemingly blurred. They’re like a dream. Now we are part-way to understanding what we’re seeing, but the dream-like memory that Kimber is recalling on canvas is a symptom of our age: the Screen Memory.
Father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud first theorized the Screen Memory. It denoted a memory that stood for a repressed or traumatic memory, effectively blocking it from recall. This term gathered further significance when a study conducted in Marseille in 1977 by a team of sociologists found that it was common for their subjects to recall a memory of a film as though they were their own.
Kimber constructs his images by piecing together stills from Hollywood movies into a depiction of the ambiguous nature of the human memory where fantasy and reality readily intermingle. In turn, your experience of the painting may too become a reality. These canvases are a trick of the mind symptomatic of modern man delivered to us by a trick of the eye from ancient man. Kimber is an architect of a tromp la memoire.
-by David Greenhalgh