In The Symmetry Of Geometrics, Asheville Artist Kenn Kotara Reveals A Bold, Fresh Style And A Distinctive Voice

Posted on | August 27, 2015 | No Comments

Art and mathematics are not disciplines people readily associate with one another. That is, of course, unless those people are familiar with the works of noted Asheville artist Kenn Kotara. With his grid based abstracts, Kenn deftly bridges the gap between the fluid and visceral expressiveness of art and the order and tidy symmetry of geometrics. Whether he is using acrylics on paper or hand punching Braille onto metal, Kenn’s work is always bold, always fresh and always reflective of his distinctive voice. North Carolina Design sat down with the artist to peek inside Kotara Studio and find out what Kenn’s been up to lately.

Images Courtesy of Kotara Studio ©

Kenn’s passion for art is longstanding. “I’ve drawn and painted since I can remember,” he recalls. “I’ve had no tutoring or mentoring, and there are no artists in my family. I just have an internal drive to communicate through art. It’s really about being a creator – about creating a visual landscape from my own thoughts, and my tiny kingdom.”

Kenn is a versatile artist who lets the soul of each individual piece drive its own creation. He works with everything from canvas to wood to metal, and he uses a wide range of media – sometimes even within the same piece. “I might start in oil and move to acrylic, or something else entirely,” he says. “I base my choices on what a piece needs, as opposed to sticking to one medium.”

Ken presents his view of the world through the abstract, rather than literal representation. He seeks to capture the chaotic and visceral nature of life, while at the same time revealing the intrinsic underlying order that governs all things. “I have always had an interest in geology mathematics and geometry,” he confides. “I try to pare things down to their basic composition, which is always based in fractals and geometrics. For example, we are made up of cells, which are essentially a recurring pattern of circles.”

Ken particularly enjoys working with circles. “I never get bored with them,” he notes. “Circles are a truly democratic shape – in a perfect circle the radius is equal all the way around.” Kenn’s inclination toward grids, geometric patterns and circles made his work with Braille in particular a natural fit. “Braille works in relation to grid and uses a circular pattern. It’s a bas relief code, so it’s tactile and textural. It also conveys literal words, so my work can become a forum for stories, poetry and sociopolitical messages.”

One of Kenn’s most brilliant pieces is a Braille depiction of “The River,” a poem by Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz. The poem is hand punched in copper in both Spanish and English, with a winding blank space in between the translations. “The piece is about a communication gap,” Kenn explains. “A gulf between ideologies and cultures and languages. It’s also an exploration of the idea of impairment. We consider the blind to be impaired, but a sighted person can’t read the poem without assistance.”

Kenn enjoys working with copper, for many reasons. “It has this warmth and sexiness to it,” he reflects. “But it also has a softness. Copper also evolves and changes. Given time, it will darken and develop a patina. It may go through multiple colors, layer upon layer. I think that’s reflective of us – we change, and our memories change. Our stories change, and we change how we view our stories. As time goes on, we will always find new layers of depth and meaning in everything.”

One of Kenn’s copper pieces will soon be installed at the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro. While Kenn welcomes the appreciation he has earned from art enthusiasts around the world, acclaim is not what drives him. “I love coming to work,” he says. “This is an outlet for me. This is how I work out the questions I have about the world, and my existence. It’s therapy. It’s cathartic.” And clearly, it’s what he was born to do.

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