Art for its time: social distance painted in oils


Artist Kevin Chin is not the poster boy for digital uptake. “I have an Instagram account, but I’m just really shit at using it. I’m still painting with oil on linen.”

He’s caught up with the Renaissance at least, then. “Probably more like the Middle Ages. I’m definitely a stickler for the physical. That’s one of the things I love about painting, that it’s a tangible medium. You can smell the oil paint.”

Kevin Chin in his studio: 'I’m definitely a stickler for the physical.'

Kevin Chin in his studio: 'I’m definitely a stickler for the physical.'

Creating large, ethereal works that meld Australian, American and Asian urban and natural landscapes, each painting in his latest show Social Distance includes figures dwarfed by their surroundings. It was a year in the making, but the encroaching pandemic heightened the sense of solitude.

“We’re supposed to be more interconnected than ever, but in world politics, we were already seeing this us versus them mindset,” he says. “Now it’s on a much larger scale, because of the way we’ve had to close our borders. For all the rhetoric around globalisation, that feeling of distance is greater than ever. That’s what I’ve tried to put into these paintings."

Although Fitzroy’s This is No Fantasy gallery is open, there won’t be an opening night, so Chin’s going social after all. He secured grants from Creative Victoria and City of Yarra, the latter funding a series of short artist talk videos. They’ll be posted one a week on Instagram. “Given I’d normally answer people’s questions and tell them about the inspirations behind the paintings at the opening, it’s a way for me to try to do that in 60 seconds.”

How you can help: Follow the artist on Instagram @Kevin_chin_art. Social Distance opens at This is No Fantasy in Fitzroy on July 7.

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