Artist Biography

Love, 2000
wooden plinth, discarded cemetery flowers, cast plaster, brass plate, fabric, card, perspex
970.0 cm x 30.0 cm x 30.0 cm


Q: In addressing your work, The Most Reverend Ian George, Archbishop of Adelaide, wrote: 'Mourning is one of those crucial and unusual elements of human expression which none of us can evade but few of us understand.' You have approached death through the themes of memory, love and loss: how have you come to consider
this approach?

A: I see my art as a reflection of my inner self, therefore having its origins at a personal level. The Memory, Love and Loss series was an exploration into the experiences of loss and mourning in my own life. Peoples' response to this work heightened my insight into the commonality of significant life experiences and emotions shared by
us all. I have become increasingly interested in the symbolism which surrounds mourning, not least because it is one of those topics not well explored visually or artistically.

Q: Your interest in discarded objects as materials for your art has particular significance. How have you come to be working with these materials?

A: My attraction to symbolism, I think, led me to explore a source
of materials which could 'speak for themselves'. As an artist I am totally captivated with the potential of discarded objects and materials for making art, not to mention the sheer excitement resulting from the 'experience of the finding'. The discarded object holds the opportunity for the realisation of an idea informed by the object's history as well as its transformation into another meaning.

Q: The manifestation of emotion in a shrine is a fascinating cultural ritual. Are you interested in the significance of ritual in our social environment?

A: Yes, very much. Ritual gives meaning to life, both internally and externally. As social beings we have a deep need to discover who we are. Our search for the meaning of life is universal. On a recent trip to Bali I was enthralled by the sense of ritual which forms an integral part of daily living. For me this was a spiritual feast, feeding my soul and also offering the nucleus for rich artistic possibilities.

What is well planted cannot be uprooted

What is well embraced cannot slip away…

How do I know about the world?

By what is within me.

Stephanie Dowrick, The Universal Heart, 2000

Q: To what extent is your work informed by a consciousness of women's social roles?

A: My early work did focus on issues directly relating to womens' lives and the social roles they play. Exploring themes such as fragmentation, isolation, glass ceilings, metamorphosis, being boxed in and breaking free allowed me to discover where, and how, as woman, I 'fitted in'. This became my own personal soul searching - a journey of self discovery.

Pamela Kouwenhoven in response to questions from Beatrice Gralton, September 2001

click images to enlarge
Love, KOUWENHOVEN, Pamela, 2000
The wash, KOUWENHOVEN, Pamela, 2000
Shrine to memory, KOUWENHOVEN, Pamela, 2000
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Love, KOUWENHOVEN, Pamela, 2000