A quick chat with Kirtika Kain the winner of the 2017 Lloyd Rees Memorial Youth Art Awards

Gallery Lane Cove would like to congratulate Kirtika Kain on winning the 2017 Lloyd Rees Memorial Youth Art Awards. Kain’s winning artwork 5 is a beautiful example of the printmaking process, a stunning text based work silk screen on 3 layers of Japanese rice paper fused together by paraffin wax.

Winner - Kirtika Kain

Image: artist and 2017 winner Lloyd Rees Memorial Youth Art Awards Kirtika Kain and her artwork 5.

Kain is a Sydney based artist, born in India and currently completing her Masters at National Art School. Her practice explores two divergent cultural systems, unraveling the contradictions and complexities of a global identity. Utilising the processes and aesthetics of the printmaking process her textured text pieces draw upon political writings from the archives of India’s history, screen printed and etched upon linoleum through toxic and corrosive chemical reactions. In an attempt to parallel meaning with the means of production, Kain’s experimentation with the alchemy of print is suffused with themes of language and the politics of identity.


Kirtika Kain, Pariah ll, 2016, silk screened image on etched linoleum

Gallery Lane Cove caught up with Kirtika after winning the Lloyd Rees Art Awards to ask a few quick questions about her practice; how the printmaking process is used to explore and depict the themes developed within her practice and to find out what she plans to do with her prize money.

  1. Congratulations on winning the 2017 Lloyd Rees Memorial Youth Art Awards! Your winning work 5 is a stunning example of the printmaking process, can you give us an insight into the processes you did to create the artwork?

Thank you! Printmaking to me is alchemy; just like a science experiment, once you learn the method you can change all the variables. For this work, instead of traditional inks, I screen print my composition with loose black pigment over three sheets of rice paper. I then take this work over to a hotplate where I apply wax. This seals all three sheets and shifts the pigment in unexpected ways. I assure you, it comes at a high failure rate!

  1. Culture and identity play a key role in your printmaking practice, can you talk a little bit about why these themes are important to you and why the printmaking process has been your chosen medium to explore these ideas?

These themes define the experience of many Australians that exist between two entirely different cultures. I was born into the lowest caste group known as the Untouchables in India yet I was raised in Sydney with no idea of the implications of this. Screenprinting is the work of the labour class within textile industries in India yet I use it as a fine art medium. I often screen print with iron filings, silicon carbide and other heavy waste materials yet create refined prints to deal with this idea of pollution and filth associated with the Untouchables. Art is my way to challenge identity and printmaking is the means for this transformation of meaning.

  1. Text is depicted throughout much of your practice, would you be able to explain why?

The text I use was published in a historic essay that articulates the 15 rules and 5 duties to define the life of an Untouchable. My work is about redefining, re imagining and recasting the implications of this language. Sometimes I obliterate, layer, conceal and play with the text. I haven’t grown up in India so these rules form my only knowledge of caste as an outsider.

  1. The two artworks you submitted into the 2017 Lloyd Rees Memorial Youth Art Awards were both prints but were interestingly displayed on two different canvases. Your winning piece was printed on Japanese rice paper and your other artwork on etched linoleum, these are really interesting canvas choices, can you explain why you chose those materials and if that decision had any relationship with the themes you are exploring in the work.

When I’m working in the studio, my choice of material is not an intellectual decision. It’s only in hindsight that I consider the qualities of these surfaces to be fragile, to be flesh like. I heat the rice paper and when etching linoleum, I print with bitumen, pour corrosive caustic soda and scrub away at its surface to acquire the raised text. Both surfaces are so delicate yet the treatment of them is harsh and laborious. The Untouchables are relegated to cleaning and the disposal of waste. For me the meaning of the work becomes embodied in the process of scrubbing and working with these surfaces. Also, because caste is contextual, I focus on the process to encourage people to reflect on wider themes of power and subjugation.

  1. One part of winning the 2017 Lloyd Rees Memorial Youth Art Awards is a solo show in 2 years’ time and the other was winning $5000.00, how are you planning to utilizing that money towards your practice?

This prize is an extraordinary gift for any emerging artist. At the moment, I’m completing my Masters of Fine Art at the National Art School. The funds will see me through and the solo show will be a platform to showcase my works. I hope to see you there!


Kirtika Kain, Pariah lll (detail image), 2016, silk screened chalk dust on Fabriano Artistico 300 gsm

If you would like to check out more of Kirtika’s work her website is www.kirtikakain.com

Gallery Lane Cove would also like to thank all the participants of this years Lloyd Rees Memorial Youth Art Awards, what a fantastic selection of emerging artists from around Australia and we look forward to doing it all again in 2019.


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