To visit the studio of Kim Anno, is to immerse yourself into a fluid environment. Anno, an internationally exhibited artist and chair of the painting department at the California College of the Arts, works in an interdisciplinary manner, blending painting, video and photography into a seamless body of work. She is also an avid environmental activist, combining science and visual art to investigate issues related to global warming and water risings. And water, being the eerily poignant signifier that it is, becomes the element that binds her work together. Her videos often feature specific objects immersed underwater, while spools of unfurling pigments wind through the image like expanding mushroom clouds. There is a meditative quality to the deceptively complex dance of elements that she directs. Often an accompanying soundtrack, both beautiful and unsettling, heightens this sense.While, Anno’s videos vacillate somewhere between painting and photography, her paintings are no exception.
Fluidly blurring the boundaries between these seemingly disparate mediums, Anno’s latest body of oil on aluminum paintings feels like something between abstract expressionism and a video still. Her paintings blend photographic images of popular waterside tourist sites with bold and seeping marks of transparent and opaque color. In this way she both references the representational image while breaking it down into a more elemental level. What she captures in these paintings is a distinct moment. The photographic images underneath, initially referencing specific locations Anno had visited or wanted to visit, are slowly dissolved by ominously swirling pigments.
The effect is that of a poison slowly and inevitably diffusing and thus destroying the underlying photograph even as it creates a new and disturbingly beautiful image.
“I paint on top of the photographic image of these places in an attempt to love them to death, to adorn them, and ultimately damage them. I see this as a metaphor for human beings acting upon nature in the same way. We have to touch and touch it until it is erased or disappeared, until the very thing we chose for its beauty and sublime qualities is a shadow.” –Kim Anno
While dissecting uncomfortable issues, Anno’s work is anything but didactic. After all, it is the artist’s hand that lays down the paint, ultimately symbolizing her own participation in the larger picture.
In 2011, Anno attended the United Nations Climate Change Convention in Durban, South Africa. Over 200 countries were represented, including the G8 along with developed and developing world nations. During this conference, Anno was invited to participate in the exhibit “Don’t Panic” curated by Gabi Ngcobo and Joyti Mystry, professors at Witerswand University in Johannesburg. This exhibition marked one of the first times visual arts contributed to the public debate at this climate change summit.
Anno plans to continue her newest body of video work, “Men and Women in Water Cities”, a multi channel film shot around the world visiting post sea level rise societies, at the next United Nations Climate Change Convention to be held in Qatar in 2012. Anno will be projecting the Durban chapter of this video series onto a “floating city” installation during a solo exhibition at the Goethe Institute in Johannesburg in June 2012.
Anno, like her visual art, continually works to blur the line between visual art and activism. She believes art can have a strong impact on the consciousness of global leaders and agents of change. When asked about her role as an artist concerned with adaptation, Anno responded, “My role is to be a lightening rod. I want to rearrange expectations of the viewer. I want to touch the viewer where they live, or where they might take a second look”.