Karen Tang makes sculptures and installations that explore themes from science, sci-fi, architecture and city life. Her works present surprising structural and material combinations; industrial steel and fibreglass with fluid, painterly surfaces. Colour is intrinsic to the works’ physical presence and the perception of their sculptural forms in space. A variety of making processes are central in Tang’s practice, including epoxy ‘glassing’, carving, modelling, painted or powder-coated metal.
Tang’s sculpture Cedrus Maximus (2015) was commissioned by Ealing Council for a site near Pitzhanger Manor in Walpole Park. Pitzhanger Manor was designed and occupied by Sir John Soane; Cedrus Maximus references the Regency architect’s fascination with natural forms, science and optical experiments. Inspired by microscopic cross-sections of leaves from a Cedar of Lebanon (of which heritage examples stand in the park), Tang’s sculpture suggests the trees being enlarged to huge, science-fictional proportions. Subsequent sculptures in 2015 such as Forest Bathing (A-Pinene) and Regeneration (Helichrysum) also stemmed from botanical and pharmaceutical research.
The public sculpture, Synapsid (2014), was exhibited in Bermondsey Square, October 2014 – March 2015; an Arts Council funded sculpture commissioned by VITRINE gallery. Synapsid was inspired by Golden Age sci-fi films including ‘The Giant Behemoth’ and ‘The Blob’. Synapsid is protean in its appearance and encouraged audience interaction with its apertures and enclosed spaces. Synapsid developed concepts from Modern Molluscs, an installation created for Jerwood Space in 2008, which juxtaposed mutated nature with the built environment. In Modern Molluscs, a structure based on Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation was playfully invaded and inhabited by imaginary marine creatures.
The manipulation of surfaces and materials to appear shifting and pliable runs through Tang’s works. For instance, the ‘molten’ immersive environment of Scopodrome (2010), transformed the interior of a Victorian South London house into a disorienting space reminiscent of spaceships and alien landscapes.
Karen Tang was featured in Contemporary Art Society’s ARTfutures 2005 at Bloomberg SPACE. Karen was commissioned by The Economist, curated by Contemporary Art Society Consultancy, to exhibit at the Economist Plaza in 2006.
Walpole Park Summer Art Commission: Cedrus Maximus (8 June – 31 August 2015, open 24 hours):