Kate Dunn

The Tabernacle - Welcome to Pharmakon

2 June - 3 July 2021

TJ Boulting is proud to present our first solo show with Kate Dunn. The Tabernacle invites you to experience the travelling tent of wandering, with a multi-sensory painting installation through the lens of gabber music’s pharmakon. The tabernacle was a tent built by Moses in ancient times under the premise of being God’s dwelling on Earth; the tent was omnipotent, well known for its potential to emancipate or destroy. Gabber music began in Rotterdam in the early 90s and was quickly adopted by hardcore ravers in Thatcher’s Britain, it is characterised by its relentlessly fast, loud and distorted sound. Creating an environment in which the audience becomes one collective body, worshipping not the DJ but the experience itself. Pharmakon in definition is poison, remedy or scapegoat, the tabernacle conceptualises this in two formats: through the bodies and the spaces we inhabit (particularly during lockdown) having potential to be or become pharmakon. 

Using UV reactive pigments, Kate has created paintings that exist in three stages within the installation – under normal gallery light, then UV light and finally darkness. Under UV light the pigments charge, absorbing and reflecting light and becoming their own light source, which they then emit in darkness, adjusting the opticality of the painting. The pigment acts as living organism, reflecting back at us our own cyclical nature. ‘I liked the idea of these works taking us from day to night, especially as they’re essentially built around an unexpected gaping hole that lockdown created in me: the party shaped hole. I’d listen to this music in my room, on my walks, and immediately be in a dark room, sweaty bodies surrounding me. As I dug further into my research I discovered the term collective effervescence, describing how communal spaces such as churches, protests and raves intensify our experience of union to the point of electrifying the quasi-religious experience.’ 

In her previous work SKIN OF LIGHT, Kate looked at our attempts to reach ascension, this new work however, attempts a return to the body. Referencing the altarpiece, Kate uses the Gothic arch as a structure to the paintings to experience the figural gesture. ‘Making my work is a bodily act, even before the painting there is the cutting, sanding and priming of the panels. Then I begin, purposefully working on a scale that reflects my own body or larger, I want the work to impose on me, to try and intimidate me, so I have little option but to attack with my whole body.’ 

Kate’s use of the arch began in response her training in Florence where the Romanesque arch appeared everywhere. However in time the arch has become symbolic of many things including iconography, the Renaissance and sacred space.  Space is an integral part of THE TABERNACLE, centering on a tent, historically a communal and impermanent space. Yet in lockdown we all became acutely aware of the destructive potential of spaces; it is no longer the tabernacle but our bedrooms and kitchens that could emancipate or destroy us, the only way out – a final return to the body. 

The performance is seven minutes long and involves fantastically loud gabber music by Shoobz Darg.

Read text by Charlie Mills HERE


Kate Dunn (born UK, 1993) studied her Foundation at Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design, followed by four years in Italy at The Florence Academy of Art before returning to London for her MA at City & Guilds of London Art School. Kate has exhibited in the UK and Italy, including SKIN OF LIGHT (solo) at SET Alscot Rd (2020), WHEN SHIT HITS THE FAN with GUTS Gallery (2019), The Contemporary British Painting Prize 2018 and The Great Women Artists x Palazzo Monti Residency 2018. Kate makes work pulling on themes of renaissance, rave, light and sacred space, to create an environment in which the only thing left to worship is the act of ascension itself. Since 2018 she has used structures reminiscent of the altar to discuss the internal archive one experiences when faced with such a shape. In 2020 she staged her first solo show SKIN OF LIGHT which combined her painting with music, a multi-sensory experience as a means to address her concern with the potential to be passive in the age of information overload. Kate uses sight-specific installation and UV reactive materials to manipulate the display of her paintings and create a confrontation with the viewer. Kate also teaches at City and Guilds School of Art. She lives and works in London. 


Kate Dunn & Vinca Petersen in conversation

at TJ Boulting 30 June 2021

Although working three decades apart, the two artists discussed rave culture, aesthetics, politics and history and other shared themes in their work. They were joined by Hannah Watson and Charlie Fellowes, directors of TJ Boulting and Edel Assanti where their respective solo exhibitions were on show.