Biography (extracted from the artist’s website in 2008)
Kongthin Pearlmich or simply, KP is an artist, an interior designer, a furniture maker, a painter, a sculptor, a poet, and wilful isolationist-cum-secretive recluse. He has long been a mysterious enigma to the art world at large .He appears to have a pathological distrust of journalists and he does not normally give interviews of any kind.
However, with the recent placing of Kongthin’s iconic masterpiece – the Corpus Christi Crucifixion triptych – which is now on display at the famous and magnificent King’s College Chapel building at Cambridge University – he might struggle to keep himself and his extraordinary artworks secret for much longer.
Further, with no fewer than four very high profile knights of the realm – all of whom have known the artist for many years – now ready to present the work on behalf of the artist to officials at Canterbury Cathedral – ( in an altogether more pleasant act than four infamous knights of the realm who murdered Thomas Becket in 1170 ) – I suspect this artist’s anonymity is almost bound to be exposed.
Each of the KP triptychs, ( there are three in all ,Nos. 1 – 3 ) ,carry with them twelve separate sculptures. Each sculpture representing a different artistic concept. The triptych forms the centrepiece of a work known as, ‘ The Man Delusion’. This artwork consists of the crucifixion triptych which has been individually entitled, ‘Hand Of God, Foot Of Man, Heart Of Eternal Life ’ , and , the twelve further art works collectively entitled – ‘ The Twelve Apostles Of Man’. The whole piece forms the work entitled, ‘ The Man Delusion’.
Kongthin Pearlmich – of all the artists active from the middle of the twentieth century to date, is probably one of the more versatile. He is certainly one of the most reclusive and publicity/exhibition shy perhaps of all time. In relation to his art – little is known of him. KP is known only to a very tight circle of friends and an even closer group of extremely loyal patrons.
Unlike many of the more media savvy, publicity seeking artists one may encounter today – Kongthin has never produced ( other than the pending Cambridge Archbishop of Canterbury private view ) art work either for public exhibition, or display in any gallery or for sale by any auction house – anywhere in the UK or abroad.
Further, his poetry has never been published under his own name. As an individual of private means he has never had cause to showcase or promote his artwork or his poetry for material profit in the usual manner. For reasons known only to himself – he has always preferred the anonymity of a pseudonym to accommodate and to fiercely protect his privacy from the ever-intrusive voyeuristic world in general and the media world in particular.
Obviously, such a strategy on the artist’s behalf has inevitably meant that the artwork and poetry of the artist has not enjoyed the recognition that may otherwise have been associated with his work.
The fact that KP has managed to retain such a low profile in the profoundly voyeuristic, celebrity driven culture that we have today is a remarkable achievement in its own right. More especially so when you consider the profile of some of the patrons who are dedicated collectors of his work.
Luminaries from virtually all sections of the business, country house and celebrity world are known to have commissioned work from the artist’s studio with or without the very coveted signature of the ‘KP’ initials together with the two secret inscription marques. The artist’s work also comes with a catalogue number, and, of course, a real oyster pearl. The artist is also known as ‘The Pearlman”. This is owing to the fact that every piece of artwork that he releases accommodates either a single pearl or a series of pearls either in real form as in the sculpture work or painted as in the artist’s paintings and drawings.
Clearly, for much of the latter part of his life – KP has been a determined and wilful isolationist. One can understand, therefore, at least in some respects, why some observers have referred to him as the – ‘Howard Hughes’ – of the international art world. Kongthin himself, however, feels that such a tag is unwarranted , because, other than being an intensely private individual, his life and behaviour in all other respects can be fairly described as being absolutely normal and unexceptional.
Such a lifestyle approach for a modern day artist is of course an anathema to many contemporary artists who’s own personal strategy appears to be, in some cases, the very antithesis to such an approach to one’s life and art work. Others have come up with every conceivable publicity stunt to bring their work to the attention of the media and the wider public. But not this artist.
KP has deliberately never held any form of public art exhibition. Obviously, the private view at Cambridge was organised originally strictly for the benefit of officials from Canterbury Cathedral and it was not expected that ordinary members of the public would also get to see the work. The artist tells me:
“ Unfortunately, the University could not prevent the tourist traffic entering the King’s College Chapel building before the installation team had time to dismantle the exhibition. So the piece became available for the general public to view other than the Canterbury Cathedral people – I was mortified when this happened – but it was simply unavoidable.”
The artist shuns the art scene and the so-called official art establishment, – “ like the plague” – and as if his life depended on it.
The artist has never used art galleries to promote and sell his work. He has avoided all major and provincial auction houses that one might normally have expected to have at least heard of his name. This is how he likes it.
It is clear that KP has adopted this cloak of secrecy with a commendable determination. It is obvious that the artist has never needed to promote, sell, or, showcase his artwork in the more traditional manner. Lucky for him – he is a man of significant private means which enables him to keep his work guarded and protected in this way.
There was no surprise therefore, when everyone in the so called traditional art world – dealers, gallerists, auctioneers and the art media in general were left simply nonplussed and scratching their heads when Kongthin’s crucifixion triptych (somewhat unwittingly) appeared into the public domain at Cambridge for the very first time. Not a single art critic could be found who had even heard of the name Kongthin Pearlmich let alone seen any of his work. Those that had, like Tim Kendrew formerly of Christies – were all sworn to secrecy.
It is understandable why the artist’s reclusive nature leads to speculation and rumour. Further, such a strategy inevitably means that his work (both the artwork and the poetry) may not have received the critical recognition that his works may otherwise have enjoyed – but this position has never troubled the artist:
“ I am not interested in seeking great reviews or platitudes for myself or my work. I am not an artist because I want recognition, fame, money or anything else for that matter. I am an artist because it is what I want to do. Without my art, I do not exist. You see my art – you see me. ”
A fact that further compounds the problem of name and work recognition – is that any work that Kongthin has sold to his private patrons – then he insists upon a condition of sale – is that the buyer must enter into an agreement that gives Kongthin the right to a first option on the artwork should they ever decide to dispose of the work by selling onto the open market.
Indeed, this was one of KP’s conditions that he laid down before the officials of Canterbury cathedral when they were given the opportunity to view the KP Corpus Christi Triptych. The cathedral gave very serious consideration to the prospect of providing a permanent home for this work.
So one can begin to appreciate the sort of lengths to which the artist , hitherto , has been prepared to go to simply in order to protect his privacy and his real identity. It is a fact that KP has turned down the opportunity to take part in various TV, radio, and various art lecture programmes over the years. There have been many attempts by his close circle to persuade him to reveal more of himself and his artwork – but all without success. Such pubic exposure KP has always refused to countenance.
When a website was first muted – he also insisted upon, you would not be surprised to learn, that absolutely no personal information of any kind should be included on the pages of his art website. The web was, hitherto, only seen as a useful tool to keep in touch with his tight circle of personal, longstanding and trusted friends, and, of course, the collectors and patrons of the artist’s work.
The archive collection amounts to hundreds of artworks. Many are currently in storage in various parts of the globe – including – Paris, London, New York and the UK provinces. Many pieces are stored in three vast former Yorkshire textile mills and here the contents have been hidden away under wraps for years away from and out of public view.
As well as his all-embracing love of the visual arts – he is a lifetime student of philosophy, comparative theology, anthropology, and, despite the intense wilful isolationism over the last decade or so – he is passionate about current affairs and very interested in other peoples lives.
Artist Kongthin Pearlmich – By Those Who Know Him Best:
Compiled by: Ioannis Goss-Taylor.
The use of pen and art tools came readily to Michael, who has been intensely private in respect of his identity as an artist. He is better known in art circles as, Kongthin Pearlmich, or simply, KP (a pseudonym). There are over 6000 art works many of which, if not housed in his studio, are stored in former textile mills in Yorkshire, England. He is also a prolific poet and has written a collection of some 3000 poems to date.
Like his poems – the art works cover a wide range of styles and skills. Indeed, one art commentator, Tim Kendrew the former Christies Applied Arts specialist who ran Christies Australian Sydney and Melbourne offices, from 1969 to 1975 – and who is familiar with his creations, described his body of work as warranting the birth of a new art term – that of ‘Kongthinism’. Kendrew said:
“ An artist like K Pearlmich, who demonstrates such a superb mastery of a wide range of artistic skills including, but not limited to, furniture design, sculpture, painting, drawing, ceramics, photography – together with the ability to employ such a wide range of materials shows an ability which is truly astonishing. I have long been an admirer of his work. His artwork possesses almost a poetic majesty. He is very important British artist. Clearly, his rather unorthodox approach to the wider art establishment does not help to promote his name and his work – on an international scale – but should that ever change then because his work has real quality – it is of a quality which would enable this artist to become a seriously prominent figure in the art world and across the globe. ”
Every work, which the artist has produced, is signed with the initials ‘KP’ along with two further secret marques, a catalogue number, and, of course, a natural oyster pearl. Michael is largely self-taught. He has a naturally creative gift with a flair for form, structure, shape and perspective that he is able to cleverly weave into interesting metaphor and often with the use of vibrant colour to magnify the impact even further for the viewer. He clearly demonstrates perceptive vision with an amazing ability to convert his creative ideas into artistic reality.
He admits to having an unquenchable thirst for all forms of knowledge. There are more that 30 thousand books in his vast library. When not working in his studio producing his creations, he has travelled the world spending many years visiting museums and galleries to study the great masters. He is also a great admirer and himself a creator of cutting edge contemporary art.
One intensely thought provoking piece of work created by the artist and exquisitely executed is entitled:
‘ The Man Delusion’. This work was produced from designs that the artist created more than 20 years ago. The centrepiece consists of a Christ Corpus Christi crucifixion triptych. Here, the artist has combined the style of the neoclassical with a contemporary symbolic emphasis – to stunning effect.
This Faith based triptych piece sits at the focal point of a further series of twelve individual art pieces that the artist has named, ‘The Twelve Apostles ’. The triptych element itself is called – ‘ Hand Of God, Foot Of Man, Heart Of Eternal Life.’ The triptych and the apostles together as a collective group is entitled – ‘ The Man Delusion’.
Each individual apostle piece carries its own title and metaphorical conceptual message. The artist tells us that he was inspired to create this piece when he was interested in exploring the relationship and interaction between the human condition in modern day life and this sits in association to and with the relationship of the teachings of ancient religions.
KP produced three crucifixion themed triptychs (nos. 1 –3). Each one carries 12 different ‘Man Made Apostle’ ideas. Some 48 works of art in all under the Christian faith theme.
In the past – the artist has been spoken of as the “Howard Hughes” of the art world. This is due to his intensely private nature and determined refusal to reveal himself to the wider world at large. It is true that he has worked hard, hitherto, to deliberately avoid all manner of public exhibitions. He has never sought the recognition of the art establishment. As a man of private means he has not found it necessary to promote his work in this way.
My personal dealings with the artist came about once a friend of a client of mine who had introduced me to his work at a time when I used to work for a prominent provincial fine art auction house.
However, it was only after weeks of jumping through impossibly high hoops and my finally agreeing to a very tight confidentiality agreement in respect of the wider media and the topics to be discussed at interview – that I was eventually granted a meeting. This occasion enabled me to undertake the interview, and, gain a brief but fascinating insight into the enigmatic and intriguing life and work of the artist.
I should now also declare an interest here – because I have since been invited to become a member of the Kongthin Pearlmich estate collection curatorial team. An appointment I was extremely pleased and excited to accept.
About Ioannis Goss-Taylor:
Iaonniss Goss-Taylor graduated from the Southampton institute/university with an honours degree in Fine Arts Evaluation. He is also a graduate of the Royal Society of Arts Antiques studies programme.
An experienced antique furniture and fine arts specialist. He also spent four years as an antique furniture restorer.
Previously, Ioannis has worked at numerous leading provincial fine arts auction houses as a specialist valuer and full time furniture and works of art specialist.
Now an independent fine arts consultant and writer – his book
‘The English and their tea’ – a study of the history of the traditional English love affair with tea, which incorporates the historical development of the tea caddy – is to be published in due course.
Although Ioannis’s his work takes him around the globe – he is primarily based in the UK.
KP – Quotes
My work, of course, from the critical perspective, may be considered as nothing more than a complete irrelevance – that is for others and for time to decide.
Art is but a window through which one can see the world
I seek to be an artist not just for my own time but also for times past and times future. Indeed, an artist for all time. For me, this is the only acid test by which one should evaluate my work. Critics must ask – is my work relevant today, will it be relevant in the future and does my work connect to the past? Show me these qualities in an artist ‘s work – and I will show you work to which I can relate.
I hope that all my work – at least in some way – can be seen to be closely attuned to nature, to mans spirituality, to mans imperfections, to mans perversity, to mans insecurity, to all the eccentricities of the human condition. I hope, too, that my work can be intellectually vigorous, to be rebellious, to explore all there is to mans psyche, to make the viewer think. I want the viewer to enjoy the piece-and I want it to move them emotionally in some way.
Much of my art is quite simplistic in its abstract ideas. I only have one essential rule when I am creating an artwork and that is this: – above all else – I try, always, always, always, to produce work of a quality. A quality that enables a piece of artwork to dare to presume that it can have the singular and bold audacity to think that it can sit along side the work of the great masters from history; with those artists that are accomplished today, and, to be considered a reasonable piece of art – by the artists of the future – all of whom – are my constant inspiration.
My art is me, ’tis ‘I’ – I am my art
Without art – I am nothing – I am dead
There have been times in my life – when my art has saved my life – it is the reason I exist. That may be sad, it may be shallow and selfish – but it is still a fact.
See my art – see me