Anxieties, and our concomitant urge to assuage them, could be said to characterize one of the conditions of being human. For Danish artist Eske Kath, the uncertainties and frailties that underpin even the most stable life serve as fuel and fodder for his bright paintings, sculptures, installations, and performance pieces. “I’m working with a paradox,” he once explained. “I am trying to control chaos in my work—general chaos and my own chaos. It’s what you cannot do in real life, but you can in art.”
In Kath’s hands, controlled chaos takes the form of compositions at once roiling and tightly structured. They are centered upon single-story, simplified houses, with pitched roofs and rectangular windows—stand-ins for the human beings they are supposed to shelter. But these houses are never shown upright and ordered into neighborhoods, towns, or cities. In his paintings, they are completely unmoored, in the midst of being tossed about by natural disasters—ranging from tsunamis to earthquakes to intensely overgrown, muscular vegetation—and by the inchoate dread of the unknown that can set the heart racing and the mind reeling. The houses have lost their foundations in his sculptures and installations, too, piled in heaps in the middle of the floor, trailing electrical cords and lit from within with flashing lights, or deconstructed into their component parts of cracked ceilings, walls, and floors.
These houses, in various states of submergence, return in Kath’s new body of work, which forms his solo exhibition “Arena,” on view at Charlie James Gallery in Los Angeles this month. From raw linen canvases the color of sand to vibrant acrylic tableaux resembling mountains, forests, and bottomless pools of darkness, Kath’s perfectly rendered rooftops persistently emerge from environments gone awry. “[For] me the house is a symbol of the private center, the idea of something safe from the rest of the world and a refuge,” the artist says. “I mean that in both a good and a bad way, we all need the idea of a safe haven and on the other hand, there is no such thing.”