Kate Rohde - Black Mirror

Kate Rohde ‘Black Mirror’

Kate Rohde’s work is usually a riot of colour, wild shaped vessels, jewellery, and ornate domes and display cases filled with fantastical beasts. A Melbourne artist, she graduated from the VCA in 2001 and has become known for her vibrant sculptural work. 

She is currently working predominately with resin and hand casting techniques, to produce discreet objects, but has also expanded into large scale digital prints and wallpapers to help create immersive environments. 

In 2018, an invitation to explore the idea of Odile the black swan in Swan Lake for a group show, pulled her to the elegance of darkness, its capacity for reflection and lure into an underworld, a chance to explore the duality of our characters, and ideas implicit with good and evil. In her early research, she found the lake in the traditional story was a lake of tears - very Russian, very dark and bleak. She also found that usually the good swan and the bad swan were played by the same person; a duality she said was explored well in the film Black Swan which showed the many facets and the qualities of light and dark in all of us.
Her Black Mirror is an arresting work that imposes a sense of grandeur and place, elegant yet sinister, with its reflective black lustre, fine ornamental frame and artificial intelligence. WAG has commissioned an edition of the Black Mirror sculpture for the Collection, which will feature in the Black & Gold exhibition at WAG in 2021.

Kate said the original was quite theatrical and shown as an installation. Because of the heritage venue, it was created with a black curtain behind it to give the illusion it was floating in the middle of the room. She said the second work in the edition is unique not just because it is sculpted in a free form way before it is cast, but also because she knew it would feature in Black & Gold show, she has added a beautiful array of gold rhinestones. “You don’t really see them until you get quite close. From a distance, it just picks up a nice little glint. This piece is also a slightly different shape to the original and in some ways Warrnambool is getting a much leaner and more refined final work,” she said. 

Kate begins by sculpting freehand in plasticine in a free form way around a rough outline shape, until it feels right. After moulding she casts the piece in a neutral colour resin with black and a tinge of very dark silver added to give it a metallic sheen. “It is a long process there are a lot of points where it stops and starts, when the resin is poured and you have to wait for it to set - it takes about six weeks,” she said. 

The cast pieces can be assembled in a number of formats and that is where the variation begins. Once the frame is completed a piece of black acrylic mirror is added. Kate said because Black Mirror is such an outlier for her colourful work, she has enjoyed exploring ideas of monochrome and darkness to create something different. 

The finished piece is about 2.4 metres by 1.2 metres, holds a fair amount of resin which requires some timber to give it strength, and weighs around 25kg.

Image: Kate Rohde, Black Mirror, 2018, Polyurethane resin, mirror acrylic, rhinestones, false eyelashes, MDF, 240x120x7cm, 2018. Commissioned for WAG. Gift of the Isobel and David Jones Family Foundation, 2020.