Growing up in a family of scientists, her father was Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at St Andrew’s University and her mother is a lecturer in human anatom. Whiten has spent her life absorbed in the study of human existence, physicality and forms of storytelling. Obsessed with the lines between animals and humans, Whiten started making ‘imagined’ anthropological objects. Images of centaurs and cross-cultural hybrids appeared in her work along with images of boys in hoodies. Everyday people merged into the gods and deities of her present work.
Made up of drawings, watercolours and large scale oil paintings, Wronger Rites illustrates a utopian vision of a society in which gender is universal and key stages of life are celebrated with spectacular and often shocking ceremony.
The recurring theme of Whiten’s work is that of a world in need of ritual to celebrate freedom and gender. Whiten asks us to celebrate our universal needs and our oneness with our past, present and future. Her work deviates and deconstructs social norms, enabling us to envisage freedom with sexuality and gender. Her work plays with ideals of beauty and adornment and demonstrates a fierce and earthy sexuality in the new androgyny.
Whiten’s work is confrontational but bright, tender and joyful. With skill and detail she invokes ancient religious iconography with her use of animal masks and costume. The balancing, tumbling and dancing figures are reminiscent of the body techniques and tricks of primitive cultures and ancient ceremonies, the roots of which are lost in the deep time of immemorial tradition and practiced in temples, royal courts and more recently the circus acts of the last century.
Kirsty Whiten says “The work attempts to link us to our ancestors and other humans globally, drawing new archetypes from the language of myth and costume. I am challenging the notion of petite and polite femininity and the way men have been excluded in this culture from being able to adorn themselves. Androgyny now is universal, I celebrate that.”
She continues “I'm striving to make frank images of people, dealing with their psychology and socially constructed behaviour; making the viewer aware of the sexuality, control and neuroses underneath appearance. I aim to discomfort the viewer by presenting a character very directly and intimately.”