Kirsty Lowry works predominantly within the mediums of sculpture and installation. Well designed and precise in its execution, pragmatic and economic in its use of materials Lowry’s work is characterized by an understanding and appreciation of materials and their physical properties. Strong functional architectural forms and a palette of monochrome and primary colour details are present throughout. She strikes a balance between the aesthetics of domestic environments, working environments and institutions and 1950’s sci - fi films. Her work is at once reassuring, familiar and disturbing.
Initially motivated by sensitivity to space and place and innate emotional intelligence she has developed a methodology for exploring and testing theories around environmental psychology. Her approach has been informed and evidenced by her additional work as a freelance art education specialist to expand, redefine and innovate around social engagement. This work directly feeds into and compliments Lowry’s concerns around shared experience, communication, and shaping reality in response to identified commonly held needs. She is particularly interested in the socio-political context of built environments, including arts organisations, and the contribution an artist or creative practitioner can make to interrogating the use and development of such spaces and to making visible the associated paradigms, economies and relationships which drive their construction and use. Lowry’s work subtly makes these factors apparent by offering up for examination what are generally assumed to be given conditions. She draws the audience’s attention to their experience through placing them in a specific environment that she anticipates will affect them in specific ways. By making the audience aware of their own perception and experience within an installation she encourages them to consider how they feel and why they feel in relation to environmental factors.
Lowry’s focus on environmental conditions reveals a process beginning with a personal sensitivity and awareness of the qualities of different spaces, extending from physical qualities to their impacts on the body and the mind. Her concern radiates outwards from the personal to much wider societal implications. A concern which is supported by her research, education and outreach work which makes the connections between environment, experience, individual well being and wider society tangible.
I had the pleasure of working with Kirsty to bring ‘The Light Café’ project to her Weekender residency at CAZ in January 2013. The café is part of an ongoing investigation into the physiological and psychological affects of exposure to light and dark environments. Within that project Kirsty installed specifically designed and fabricated lamps in the CAZ basement project space, suspending the lamps at intervals from the ceiling and placing café tables and chairs in the space to create the light café environment. She invited Dr Rebecca Jelbert as an experienced practitioner in the use of light therapy to treat depression to present her findings whilst the large and diverse audience drank tequila sunrise cocktails and ate mood enhancing foods such as chocolate, nuts, salmon canapés and spinach pakoras. The event transformed the cold dark basement space into a hive of social activity fulfilling Kirsty’s desire to animate the work through the audiences’ presence, experience and engagement within it and her understanding of people as a central component to this work. The event combined various aspects of Kirsty’s impressive skill set and her desire to make a positive difference; such as the creation of the light café installation, engaging a new audience, organising an educational talk by an expert from another field and offering an entertaining event with her allowance for reality, complexity and doubt. It’s this allowance that communicates her understanding of the fragility of things, and of people and which makes the work really interesting. This doubt and unease persists even when things are apparently fine, even when the space has been made safe and welcoming the black shadowy spaces outside of the reach of the mood enhancing lamps remain. Lowry’s work quietly shows us that we cant always deliver the work it takes to make things better and that there is a gap between the way things are and the way they should be which those that recognise this struggle with.