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Khari Turner - It Washes Over Me

Words:

Edd Norval
May 5, 2021

Drawing on his own ancestry, Khari Turner paints realistic facial features abstracted as a part of a distorted face in his surrealistic and ethereal portraits. Utilising the theme of water, as well as the physical chemical compound in his paintings, Turner explores the spiritual links of black identity throughout the past. 

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Recognisable for the noses and lips in amongst a sea of oily white noise, Turner’s paintings are textural expositions of his own personal philosophy and thoughts. Identity is a hot topic and has been largely polarising over the last four or five years. Depending on how we choose to celebrate it, or disregard it, one can quickly become valorised or villified. 


Turner’s paintings shy from any outwardly political proclamations and focus on something deeply personal and often kinetic. His paintings are like snapshot moments of internal thought, packed with deep personal power. Each character, barely shown beyond their select features, is a physical manifestation of their psychology. 


Although this could be said of all moments at all times, Turner has made this outward projection of the internal a solid theme, running concurrently with his idea of water as a uniting force. The semi-obscured faces are covered by something raw and organic, without the controlled precision of the realism employed for the facial features, yet without the abandon of true expressionism. They are washed over by something real or ethereal.

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These markings, largely mirroring the motion of water on canvas, can be viewed as reflections of larger social issues shared by the global movement of humans throughout history, but also of water as a spiritual tool for cleansing. 


Painting with the intention to “create a deeper connection to my identity and history as a Black American,” the artist has found solace in water - both what it means, and how it can be used in painting. Using water to mix his paints from water sources like oceans, lakes and rivers, Turner chooses each source for its connection to black history. Not any water will do. 


This holistic practice, where the painting has invisible layers that are crucially important to the artist, despite possibly never being seen, imbues his work with a sensibility more in line with ritual than art as an aesthetic pursuit. Reconciling Turner’s present understanding of identity with the ancestral connection he longs to achieve has meant that his paintings evolve as an autobiographical dialogue between past and present.

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Built on his own dedicated work ethic, Turner’s paintings have and will continue to evolve technically and thematically. Still an artist in his infancy, he has begun to find his voice at the right time, when the world is open to new voices in art and when identity is something that has become increasingly fractured in a globally homogenous digital age. He is an artist who represents something: the personal, the historical, the present, the future.

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