The central theme of Karen Wykerd’s work is the urban landscape. Having moved to Cape Town from Johannesburg in 2014, has been instrumental in influencing her work. This city has continued to captivate her with its abundance of beautiful historical buildings, numerous parks, promenades and harbour; it is truly a city for the people. One of Wykerd’s main motivations as an artist is the pursuit of light – how it defines a scene and changes our experience of it at any one time. How a scene can be entirely different in the morning and then again in the evening. She loves the quote by the artist John Constable. “The sky is the source of light in nature and it governs everything” In her work Wykerd aims to highlight the beauty of the daily commute. These unassuming everyday scenes that become common place due to routine are transformed and elevated through use of colour, light and layers of thin washes. Suddenly the viewer is confronted with something dreamlike and worthy of being documented. Not only does she take a closer look at roads most travelled, but also zooms out and paints large expanses of sky and the city from afar. As an artist, she views the city as a stage on which daily acts, significant or insignificant are played out.
In the series titled “Urban Idyll” Karen Wykerd has taken time out from the bustle of the streets to explore the cities quiet spaces, monuments and gardens, celebrating its rich history and the enclaves of verdant oases where one can reflect and commune with nature. In these works she has highlighted the static, lifeless, manmade statues of bronze or stone set in their contradictory surrounds, an environment, full of life, movement and change.
In a more recent series, “EXHALE” Wykerd has departed from her usual subject matter, leaving the busy streets of the city behind to explore the abundance of nature around Cape Town, capturing calm spaces where one can take a moment to exhale and let out the stresses of our daily lives. The process is an important part of her work, with elements of chance at play, acknowledging the necessity of exploring the unfamiliar in order to gain insight. Making use of translucent washes of colour around figures swimming, strolling, and floating to create scenes of immersion in nature. The dreamily indistinct backgrounds and tranquil colour palette combine to give us moments of rest and reflection where we can be reacquainted with nature, and ourselves.
Wykerd enjoys experimenting with different media including embroidery; she finds this quiet and intricate art form not only therapeutic but it also satisfies her love of detail.
Karen Wykerd is currently showing some of her art at The Artists Gallery in Franschoek