Dena Kahan’s work is a meditation on desire and the gap that exists between fantasy and reality, imagination and execution. She is fascinated by the idea of perfection – the elusive and impossible – be it in the man made or the natural world.
With a professional background in art history and art conservation, her art practice is informed by an awareness of European pictorial and technical traditions. However, in her work classical qualities of balance and perspective are gently subverted. She plays with ambiguities of scale and distance. Small objects may dwarf a panoramic landscape. Balls of string may loom large, unravelling weightlessly or gathering solidity. Transparent floating spheres may be great or small, lenses or soap bubbles, with no horizon line to anchor them or to act as a point of reference. These subversions may be humorous, contemplative, lyrical, unsettling.
In the installation of her exhibitions, the paintings often work both as individual pieces and also as part of a larger, more speculative whole. In this context spatial relationships between the works indicate a continuity and movement through space. Abstract qualities inherent in the compositions become more apparent and patterns are created. The work may read as a kind of jigsaw puzzle whose pieces do not fit together. The desire of the viewer to find coherence and order is never quite fulfilled.