Melbourne artist Kevin Chin was on a residency in Yellowstone National Park in the US when Donald Trump was elected in 2016. In an increasingly partisan America he started on his latest series of paintings, Structural Equality. From within an artistic milieu that seemed much more open to discussing politics and power, Chin began these new works as meticulously assembled compositions that ask how social, cultural and economic structures shape the world in which we live. “It was strange that my paintings were read as so much more political in the United States, and this has really influenced how I’ve approached this series,” Chin says.
Chin’s work is deeply engaged with aesthetic concerns – his paintings are beautiful and technically accomplished. The compositions balance negative space with finely rendered detail, shapes and colours. At the same time, relationships between manmade structures, power, landscape and our sense of place have become more apparent in Structural Equality.
This suite of eight paintings builds on his previous work, which stitches together symbols and people from landscapes and places across Asia, Australia and other parts of the world.
The works in Structural Equality unite disparate perspectives, structures and people to create images that are observably impossible. Inverted forests, mountains, and houses sit in the foreground of compositions, which are set against incongruous landscapes. In the face of divisive politics which dominate our contemporary landscape, the inhabitants and buildings in Chin’s work make earnest attempts to hold it all together. For his first solo exhibition in Sydney, Chin asks: who has permission to build, who takes ownership of meaning, and who has the right to acquire land.
This article was originally published in the May/June 2019 print edition of Art Guide Australia.