Kathy Temin

Small Black Tree, 2008
PVC piping, wood, synthetic fur and synthetic filling
90 x 60 x 60cm

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Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne.
Acquired by the present owner from the above on 21 October 2010

“Temin’s trees and habitat sculptures recur like childhood remnants taking us into a world of fairytale dwellings and forests…Her forest motif reminds us of Brothers Grimm fairytales that were written in the 1800s as tales of talking animals and treacherous journeys often deploying fear as a method of moral instruction. The forest can act as a metaphor for escape and loss: a jungle of our own projections. Moreover, the forest was a place of hiding, death marches and escape in Holocaust history.” (Natalie King, ‘Kathy Temin: Forest of memories’, Art Monthly Australia, No. 224, October 2009, p. 9.) 

Kathy Temin’s Small Black Tree (2008) comes from one of the artist’s most distinctive and personal bodies of work. Having used synthetic fur since the 1990s, it is a material which resonates strongly with the underlying tensions of her work – the natural and the artificial, high art and kitsch, seriousness and play. Her fur sculptures are generally confined to single colours, and their scale ranges from single trees to room-sized installations which the artist titles as ‘gardens’ or ‘monuments’. The use of fur is also deliberately feminine, a counterpoint to the hard-edged abstraction of artists like Piet Mondrian, Kasimir Malevich and Frank Stella, all of whose work has inspired Temin’s own practice.

Both Temin’s father and stepfather were survivors of the Holocaust. In the mid-2000s, Temin travelled to Eastern Europe, visiting the death camp sites at Majdanek and Sachsenhausen and participating in the Adult March of the Living, an annual program to memorialise the Shoah by way of a march from Auschwitz to Birkenau. As a way of processing her family history, Temin has created both single pieces like Small Black Tree and works on a monumental scale comprised of tightly packed faux-fur trees which reflect upon the current topography of death camp sites which are often surrounded by dense, clustered forest. On both scales, there remains the same reflection on the mixed feelings that loss, memory and history call forward – fur trees that are so luscious and tempting to touch, but that also command the viewer to step back and reflect.

When writing about one such work, My Monument: Black Cube (2009), Temin wrote that her aim “is to engage with both private and collective ways of marking the memory of a person or event, an engagement not limited to a particular history or event. I have done this through making repeated forms in the unconventional material of synthetic fur that invokes the emotional content in soft toy imagery. The trees are anthropomorphic through their large scale and physicality.” (Quoted in an interview with Andrew Renton, ‘Running Past a Richard Serra’, in Kathy Temin, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, 2009.)

Jack Howard

  • Small Black Tree
  • Small Black Tree

Image courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney. Photograph by Geoff Boccalatte

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