"The Empty Hours" is a suburban scene gone awry. The figure in tie and hula hoop seems trapped in a repetitive action expressing the inexorability of time, and its monotonous grip on us. His face is undefined, suggesting he is more cipher than human, and his movement is echoed in the umbrella’s swaying and spinning; its reflection in the swimming pool skull-like as the usual tropes of suburban bliss become unhinged and sinister. I frequently use the swimming pool as a motif in my work to comment on leisure and middle-class values and aspirations; with the accompanying shadow aspects of boredom, carelessness, and debauchery. This painting was made in 2020 at the time of a nationwide lockdown and its associated restrictions and stasis.
"Empty Hours" comes together from a variety of reference materials, pulling together many of the most significant themes that Kate has been working with over the years. The mid-century modern architecture and retrofuturist furniture place the work in the period of 1960s and 1970s that Kate returns to in her work. Placed with the typical suburban leisure-scape of the poolside, a hazy-faced figure hula-hoops. Dressed in a white shirt and a black slim tie – an aspect of mod subculture, first made popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s - the figure speaks to the subversion of patriarchy. A constant reminder of the transience of materiality and of life itself, a skull appears as a ghostly reflection in the pool's depths.