On Kylie Manning
On Kylie Manning

Dancing Between Abstraction and Figuration

Jetsam by Kylie Manning

Kylie Manning, Jetsam, 2023 © Kylie Manning

Lurid and warm, Manning’s new work … is not an escape from reality but an immersive celebration of it.

Ted Barrow, art historian and writer

Populated with tangled, genderless bodies moving through dreamlike spaces, Kylie Manning’s paintings have a distinctly theatrical edge. Informed by her experiences growing up in Alaska and Mexico, her atmospheric landscapes often capture the light and environments specific to those locations while also recalling the grand 19th century history paintings of Winslow Homer and Gustave Courbet.
Following its run at the X Museum in Beijing, Manning’s solo exhibition Sea Change is on view at our Hong Kong gallery through May 9, 2024. The show features large-scale paintings and a selection of drawings created by the artist last year, after her project with choreographer Christopher Wheeldon for the New York City Ballet. Here, we’re taking a close look at how Manning depicts moments of balance and precarity in her latest body of work, cultivating a sense of constant flux within static, two-dimensional mediums.
Scroll down to listen to conversations between Manning and her longtime friend Ted Barrow, who wrote an essay on the artist for Pace Publishing’s new catalogue accompanying Sea Change.
Detail of Undertow by Kylie Manning

Kylie Manning, Undertow (detail), 2023 © Kylie Manning

Coming Together and Falling Apart
The works that Manning is presenting in Sea Change reflect her deep interest in enactments of fluctuation, of cohesion and fragmentation. These radiant new paintings were made in the last year, on the heels of her collaboration with Christopher Wheeldon for the New York City Ballet production From You Within Me, for which she made monumental stage backdrops and designed costumes.
Photo of New York City Ballet by Erin Baiano

Photo of New York City Ballet by Erin Baiano

Click to learn more about convergences of levity and darkness in Manning's paintings.

Applying rapid brushstrokes to these recent canvases, Manning conjures a feeling of push and pull to hint at tempo, oscillation, and perspective. In these expansive compositions, abstract elements that coalesce into figurations also threaten to obliterate the narrative scenes they make up.

Space is both vast and intimate in Manning’s oeuvre. Figures huddle together while gestures bound outward.

Ted Barrow, art historian and writer

The drawings in Sea Change are gestural studies of motion that Manning sketched in real-time as she watched rehearsals for the ballet a year ago. Each of these staccatoed maps of movement is an ode to a specific time, place, and performance, and each is named for a different dancer in Wheeldon’s cast.
Indiana by Kylie Manning

Kylie Manning, Indiana, 2023 © Kylie Manning

Roman by Kylie Manning

Kylie Manning, Roman, 2023 © Kylie Manning

Seeing how her work had distilled and reframed the themes of collective solitude in our current desolate empire underscored for me how we survive through the disconnected intimacy of family and friends, teetering on the edge of a proverbial cliff.

Ted Barrow, art historian and writer

Detail of Metronome by Kylie Manning

Kylie Manning, Metronome (detail), 2023 © Kylie Manning

Evolutions Within and Beyond the Canvas
Not only do Manning’s latest works hinge on formal enactments of change, but they are deeply linked to a project—and a period of the artist’s life—rife with other kinds of transformations. The artist’s stage backdrops responding to the music of From You Within Me gave way to the choreography of the ballet, which in turn informed Manning’s work with the New York City Ballet’s famed costume department. With Sea Change, these encounters between art, dance, music, and costume are transfigured into an entirely new body of paintings and drawings.
Photo of New York City Ballet by Erin Baiano

Photo of New York City Ballet by Erin Baiano

Photo of New York City Ballet by Erin Baiano

Photo of New York City Ballet by Erin Baiano

Because Manning develops her works in tandem in the studio, each painting plays off another. Passages of paint and even pigment are threaded through each gesture like strands of DNA.

Ted Barrow, art historian and writer

Click to hear Manning discuss pregnancy in relation to art history and art making.

What’s more, the artist was pregnant with her first child throughout the production of the ballet and while she was creating her latest works on canvas and paper. As Manning put it just before the opening of the ballet in 2023, she was “creating internally and externally at the same time,” and she has likened the experience of pregnancy to the process of art making.

The process of pregnancy is like a supernova or the Northern Lights—these things that we can’t explain. It’s really alien, it’s obscure, and it’s odd, and we’re supposed to talk about it like it’s very natural and easy, but it’s like the creative process, I think.

Kylie Manning

Detail of Little Wild Bouquet by Kylie Manning

Kylie Manning, Little Wild Bouquet (detail), 2023 © Kylie Manning

Sea Change Across Asia
Sea Change, as an exhibition, has itself moved through different spaces and iterations. The show debuted at the X Museum in Beijing in December 2023 and, following its run at Pace in Hong Kong, it will be on view at Space K in Seoul starting in August 2024. With this tour through East Asia, Manning is presenting her first-ever solo shows in each of these three cities.
Installation view of Kylie Manning: Sea Change at X Museum, Beijing

Installation view, Kylie Manning: Sea Change, Dec 17, 2023 – Feb 25, 2024, X Museum, Beijing © Kylie Manning

Installation view of Sea Change by Kylie Manning

Installation view, Kylie Manning: Sea Change, Mar 26 – May 9, 2024, Pace Gallery, Hong Kong © Kylie Manning

Few painters today would confidently fuse together the hot pinks and emerald greens that she does, masterfully combining the newest, radioactive-looking pigments with the most traditional and organic.

Ted Barrow, art historian and writer

Click to learn more about Manning's approach to color and pigment in her work.

In many ways, the velocity and vibrancy of her latest paintings reflect the rhythms and metamorphoses of the cities they’re visiting. In Manning’s hands, the art historical, the personal, and the fantastical come together in sprawling scenes that speak to universal questions of identity and malleability.
Sea Change (Diptych) by Kylie Manning

The Exhibition

Conceived as part of a tour throughout East Asia that includes presentations at the X Museum in Beijing, Pace in Hong Kong, and an expanded iteration at Space K Seoul, Sea Change brings together large-scale paintings and a selection of drawings made by Manning following her project for the New York City Ballet in 2023. The canvases in the show capture moments in which abstraction is forged from figuration in motion and vice versa, and the works on paper are studies of movement that reflect the draftsmanship in the artist’s paintings.

Read More About This Exhibition

Kylie Manning Publication Cover

The Publication

Our new hardcover publication on Manning’s latest body of work includes an essay by art historian and writer Ted Barrow as well as images and full-bleed details of Manning’s recent works and projects. Manning’s first-ever catalogue from Pace Publishing, this book sheds new light on her practice, from her process and technique to her interest in exploring motion and change in two-dimensional mediums.

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  • Content — Dancing Between Abstraction and Figuration, May 6, 2024