Cool Hunter Predictions: Kirra Jamison - Art Collector

Issue 51, January - March 2010

This profile appeared in the "Cool Hunter Predictions" feature, part of the annual special issue "50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2010"

Before her stunning exhibition of large and intricately patterned figurative paintings at Sophie Gannon Gallery in Melbourne late last year, Kirra Jamison had returned from several weeks in Tokyo with a suitcase full of specialised Japanese art materials – mainly the paint pens and brushes that make her finely detailed graphics as bold and frontal as they are sensitive and delicately moody. But more importantly, she was also bringing back the inspiration and confidence that ultimately radiated from this refreshingly exuberant solo show.

Tokyo culture provides a compass reading for Jamison: both its traditions of mythology and ceremony as well as the pulse of its street level consumer culture. In particular, the development in the past year or two of what critic Matsui Midori has dubbed micropop confirmed Jamison’s sense of direction in her own work. Micropop is a departure from Takashi Murakami’s grandiose, brashly corporate style of cartoon pop which he had called superflat, and which has been dominating in spirit (as well as in commerce) Japanese contemporary art for well over a decade. A more intimate expression emerging among newer artists, micropop puts an accent on furtive rephrasing of iconography derived from the broader genres of pop culture, with motifs caught from elusive memories and cautious desires.

But micropop is only one of the threads in Jamison’s work. After a few years in her late teens at art schools in Sydney, Jamison stepped sideways into fashion design for three years, with her label Birdie selling in boutiques in Sydney and Brisbane. Her style was deconstructionist, recycling panels from vintage dresses and antique lace with the mode of patterned collage that now forms the substructure and sketches for many of her paintings. In 2005 she moved to Brisbane and the Queensland College of Art to complete an honours degree in painting, and scored a Samstag Scholarship for postgraduate study in Los Angeles through to 2007.

With this range of experience and mobility, Jamison’s work has a cosmopolitan edge. Yet it also has a decidedly otherworldly sentiment: her motifs of racoons and owls, derived from memories of children’s book illustrations, vibrate with auratic halos and stare with animistic insight. Her female figures – with ghostly, washed out facial features – move like sleepwalkers or pose transfixed, as if in trances. Their gestures are both sentimental and sinister. Nature, too, has a sense of threat to its decorative beauty. Grass can look razor sharp and tree branches can resemble spiky thorns. The gothic undertow in this work is partly effected by Jamison’s interest not only in fairy tale but also in folk art. Her sharp-edged filigree outlines are responses to paper-cut designs she has found in Mexican day of the dead flags and Indonesian shadow puppets: domains of demons and sprites.

Edward Colless

Share this page: