Kristina, how would you describe your practice in 3 words?
Landscape. Metaphor. Memory.
With your recent exhibition, tell us a bit about ‘Adrift’, your collection of works?
Adrift is my latest collection of work. It is showing at The Lightbox Museum from 4 December – 2 January 2022. It is part of the Ingram Contemporary Talent Series and is a part of the 2020 Ingram Prize, of which my work Banksia Seeds was selected for.
This exhibition which expands on the themes of collective memory and felt history, whilst drawing inspiration from the works found in the Ingram Collection, specifically the works of Charles Ginner and William Turnbull.
The inspiration for these began in the Blue Mountains, Australia, documenting the approach of the 2019 bushfires that ravaged New South Wales, Australia, where I witnessed nature’s capacity for renewal, regrowth and resilience. In the following months, it evolved, taking on a wider meaning, representing the strength and perseverance not only within the landscape but ourselves.
To this effect, two stories are being told – one is physical, tangible, and geographic. Another is metaphorical – how we approach the very idea of where we are and the stands we take when we near our edge.
I see the landscape as metaphor. I use it to address the idea of memory and place. I am interested in how we imbue objects and places with meaning. This series is particularly special to me as it marks my return to sculpture, and my background in bronze casting. It’s been a long time since I’ve sculpted and it’s an entirely different language. My main medium is photography and printmaking and in Adrift, the three coalesce.
Tell us how it was to win The Ingram Prize last year?
It was humbling. Like I said, Banksia Seeds was the first sculpture I’d made in years, and on the brink of lockdown. I picked up the work from the foundry the day lockdown hit and was faced with this question of how to clean and finish them without any facilities. At times I felt a bit like a mad scientist, rummaging through my solvents and printing acids finding applicable equivalents.
There was a lot of heart in these pieces, their making and their story. They are over 170 different species of Banksias and most of them are native to Australia. Banksias are pyrophytic plants, meaning they have evolved to germinate in fire,
I cast them in bronze because of this strength I found in them. I think in lockdown it meant that much more. Winning the prize with this piece in particular, meant so much to me. It was actually pretty overwhelming.
How did the works in the Ingram collection inspire ‘Adrift’?
I was inspired by William Turnbull’s Strange Fruit and Charles Ginner’s Houses in a Valley. Turnbull’s sculptures are both natural and totemic at the same time, and they have this immediate air about them. There is a balance, quite literally and conceptually, that I love. Often there is a fulcrum, an edge, a precarity suggested in the work that always makes me wonder what hangs in the balance?
With Ginner, it was his viewpoint that caught me. In many of his works, particularly the piece in the Ingram Collection, there is this outpouring of narrative that flows from his work. It is painted from afar, curious and distanced.
For me, both works possess this sense of peculiar precarity. They hold a sense of stillness which I just can’t quite figure out is tranquil or eerie. And I oscillate between being at peace and on edge. I need to know more, and I think I’ll always find this depth intoxicatingly curious.
Ahead of the exhibition, I have seen you quoted as saying: “For me, it has always been a question of re-routing, in this moment between before and after. It is still and waiting, anticipatory and held. It becomes its own type of landscape, of precipice.”
Could you expand on this a little bit? And the ideas of renewal, regrowth and resilience?
Absolutely. The works in this exhibition are really close to my heart. Inspired by an incredible landscape and even more incredible people, they all stem from an artist residency I did in the Blue Mountains, Australia with @bigciaustralia. I was there during the bushfire season, and everything became tied into that narrative and when I returned to the UK, into lockdown, I remember thinking a lot about how we look at this idea of waiting, approach and apprehension, and of isolation.
And it is different in the city vs in the wilderness. They hold different connotation. In the wilderness, we use words like returning, peace of mind, solace, and healing, but in the city it is almost always isolating, imposing, claustrophobic.
In both cases, we are alone with our thoughts. We imbue our surroundings with our memory, experiences, and emotions. We create a new landscape that is experiential, individual and collective all at once. I think this has an incredible potential for growth and renewal, but it must be reached, like a peak or outcrop. It is a kind of pinpointing, geographically, but more so metaphorically. That’s what I mean by precipice. We must reach our edge before we know where it is we stand.
How was the title ‘Adrift’ born?
Adrift is this idea of floating, of this in between I always feel with my work, the spaces I inhabit: the syncing between memory and place, the individual and the collective.
It’s a holding pattern, a circling without landing, without steering. For me, it’s a waiting, a held breath, an anticipation for everything to come. At the time, it was the fires, then lockdown, then its end. There is always a pattern, a cycle – sometimes it is seen, mapped, and plotted and at others it is felt.
Who and what are some of your biggest inspirations?
I take a lot of inspiration from poets and writers, some all-time favourites include Aislinn Hunter, Jeanette Winterson, and Ben Lerner.
Then of course, history – but remote and minor ones. I love learning about a place, anything and everything. It’s always so inspiring and brings a place to life. They become stories and these are so important, so human.
What does a day in your studio look like?
What I like is that it is different every day. It depends on what is coming up. Some days are ink-ridden and filled with the sounds of plates going through presses, the hum of exposing new images in the dark room or the sliding of the printer across the paper.
Some days there are a hundred things going on at once, while other days I sit and think. There’s a huge whiteboard in the studio and it just get filled with ideas and doodles, deadlines and to do lists. Some days I just read and write, get my thoughts in order.
Do you have any rituals you observe?
I must, right? I think it happens before I get into the studio. I’m a huge fan of a quiet morning and there is absolutely no rushing me when it comes to coffee breaks. I run quite regularly, which has become quite meditative. It’s the time I use to order my thoughts, troubleshoot and try to resolve issues in a piece. It lets me visual alternatives and solutions.
Who are your favourite practicing artists at the moment?
Do Ho Suh
Amy Leigh Bird