A few kilometers off the coast of Perth, in a quaint house circled by acres of lush forest, lies the world of Karen Chappelow. Wildly eclectic, the British artist makes expressionist paintings, sculptures, and pottery that exalt the female form and offer a daring commentary on the role of women in contemporary society. Chappelow’s oeuvre draws heavily from history, anthropology, mythology, and pop culture in a way that overthrows the original gender dynamics and hands the reins of control back to women. She does so unapologetically, true to her punk roots, adding a twist of sassy humor to the mix. As such, in “Shoulda Put a Ring on It” Medusa takes revenge on Poseidon, spearing his head with his own trident; Leda mercilessly chokes her attacker–Zeus who turned into a swan to seduce the princess–in “Ledas #metoo Moment”; while Medea takes it all out on Jason in “Jason Had the Golden Fleece All Along.”
Chappelow’s figures are sensual, much like Modigliani’s, but they are also vulnerable and wear their scars proudly on their elongated distorted bodies. Much like her subjects, Chappelow has had to earn her place in the world. Now she lives with her family, surrounded by her artwork, her garden peppered with odd-looking stone sculptures. Locals may think she is strange, cooking up potions or scaring little kids away in that castle of hers, but she likes it that way.
Chappelow moved to Australia as a little girl, as part of the so-called Ten Pound Pom scheme, which offered assistance to British migrants after the Second World War. After a spell as an accountant and the owner of a successful pottery business in Perth, she left the city to devote herself entirely to art. She boasts dozens of exhibitions all over Australia and Europe and has amassed a solid base of local and international collectors.