Karen David

Karen David is a London-based artist, curator and lecturer. In 2018 she was awarded a studentship for a practice-led PhD with a studio focus on mythmaking, fictional narrative, communes and para-anthropology. Recent group shows include the touring exhibition Liquid Crystal Display at MIMA (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) and Site Gallery alongside artists including Robert Smithson, Eva Rothschild and Kiki Smith. 

Karen David’s multi-disciplinary practice examines themes and notions of belief systems, namely paranormal and spiritual. Through the use of materials, mediums and subcultures such as tie-dye, crystals, dreamcatchers and The X-Files, which she employs as aesthetic-shorthand for ‘New Age’ and ‘paranormal’ ideas. In 2011, in order to situate ideas in her practice, David generated a fictional narrative about a commune found in the Southwest American Desert.

David’s curatorial projects include Window Sill at Griffin Gallery Perimeter Space (2017), The Waiting Room at Wimbledon Space, Wimbledon College of Art (2018) and The Collector’s Room at JGM Gallery (2020), all of which transformed a gallery space into a domestic space. For Window Sill a 16 meter long window was adorned with lace curtains and artist’s sculptures on the window ledge; for The Waiting Room, David considered the ‘after-life’ waiting area in the 1988 film Beetlejuice and recreated a space complete with TV, fish tank, plants, clocks and chairs; and for The Collector’s Room, David replicated a fictional collector’s parlour room with an interest in stage magic, illusion and Harry Houdini placing artworks from 44 artists in which she found a connection to the ‘Golden Age of Magic’.  

Working through the conduit of fiction, she questions the objects we surround ourselves with in particular environments and ultimately the values these objects hold. Another example of this investigation is her project Cork Lined Rooms; an ongoing artist questionnaire project and documentation of what artists surround themselves with in their studios, with the projects name referencing the ‘cork lined’ room of Marcel Proust.

Artist’s Statement

“In 2016, my research took me to the Southwest American Desert to explore its landscape and mythologies. This led me to collaborate with an eco-urban architect to design a floorplan for the commune, discussing details such as water distribution, sewage treatment, food production, recycled materials and solar heating; ideas informed by Earthship Biotecture of architect Michael Reynolds.

My current project develops this existing architectural floorplan inhabiting it with characters, with fictional narrative and curatorial devices to guide the production of artworks.  The floorplan is treated as a structure or ‘scaffolding’ to lead research, with each ‘rooms’ focussed on a research area. It is a modular eco-structure with living pods, studios, communal gardens, allotments, kitchens and a shop, where residents investigate para-anthropology, counter culture and new modes of biosphere gardening. 

The project can read as a meditation on the central themes of intertextuality in art, film and archetypes, as well as the popularisation of mysticism and the role of the artist as mythmaker.”