MARTA KOZERA: A Polish Illustrator Incorporating Inspiring Quotations in Her Drawings

Interviewed by Gabriella Alziari

“I’m a literature lover, so it’s natural for me to look for inspiration in the quotes of my favorite authors.”

-Marta Kozera

Marta Kozera is an illustrator based in Warsaw, Poland who graduated with a BA in Graphic Art. Her precise use of line and color offers her work both an organic and aesthetically pleasing tone. Forever the literature lover, Marta incorporates some of her favorite quotations in her illustrations. Excerpts from Albert Camus, John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, E.E. Cummings, Stephen Hawking and Charles Bukowski have made an appearance in her work, among others. She hopes that her viewers find humor and inspiration in her art. 

How did your journey as an artist begin?

My father is a sculptor and art conservator. My grandfather was a painter so being an artist was one of the possible ways for me to follow, but I can’t say that I always knew this was the way for me. Watching my father, I knew the reality of this way of life. Finally I decided, and now I have graduated in traditional graphic art techniques.

Tell us about your work.

I’m in a very interesting moment of my artistic way. After graduating, I started working for a big international company connected with the clothing industry as a graphic designer. After a few years, I gave birth and decided to be with my children for a while. This time gave me an opportunity to find my artistic way once again. My Marta Kozera Illustration profile on Facebook is the effect.

Do you have a favorite subject to illustrate?

I think women are an important part of my art due to the fact that I’m a woman. I was always fascinated by women in art.

Can you describe your working style?

This is hard to describe my own work. The way an artist should express himself is his own art, but I can say that I think that my inspiration is Art Neuve and pop art. Technically I use mixed media. The start is always a hand drawing and then I also use digital media.

Could you talk about the use of line in your artwork?

I think this is the consequence of my inspirations, but I didn’t choose the line. It chose me. Whenever I want to leave this way of working, it comes back…

Many of your illustrations include quotations from authors. Can you say more about this?

I’m a literature lover, so it’s natural for me to look for inspiration in the quotes of my favorite authors. When I was young I had a special notebook with quotes. The project of illustrations with literature quotes is very inspiring for me and I think it will last some more time.

How long does it normally take for you to complete a piece?

It is hard to say. It happens very rarely when I have time to do all of the graphics at once. I collect ideas in my head. At the right time, I realize the project, but most important is the conception, which comes when I do other things.

What does being an artist mean to you?

To develop myself all of the time.

Do you find it challenging to be a woman in your field? If so, how have you come out of this difficulty?

As we live in a patriarchal society, it is surely part of the reality that we have to fight for a place. The other fact is that there was no better time to live for women in all of human history than now. It is our duty to make use of the possibilities and our time for the lucky women living in countries where their place is starting to change.

Are you working on any projects currently?

I’m working on two projects now. One is Marta Kozera Illustration and the other is a Facebook profile “Sztuka raz dziennie. Codziennie.” (Art once a day. Every day) which is the place where I share the work of other artists that inspire me.

What advice would you give to aspiring women artists?

Work every day! Develop yourself! Don’t waste time!

Learn more about Marta Kozera hereCheck out her Behance and Instagram pages, too!

Presented by the International Foundation for Women Artists.

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MARIE BOURGET: A San Francisco Based Painter

Interviewed by Gabriella Alziari

“I made a conscious decision to leave a successful and lucrative business career in order to do what I love… Generally there is no place I would rather be than my studio.”

-Marie Bourget

Marie Bourget was born in Santa Monica, California. After a successful career in high-tech she followed her true passion for art to Paris where she received her BA degree in Fine Arts from Parsons School of Design (Ecole Parsons). Upon her return to the US she began an in-depth exploration of patterns- especially those of the Islamic world which still fascinate and preoccupy her time. 

Tell us about yourself and your artwork.

Being a visual artist I would much rather have my work speak for itself than talk about it, however I will tell you that I’m a second generation Californian born in Santa Monica. I spent eight years in Paris, France during which time I went to art school at Parsons. This experience influenced my point of view about form and content and began to shape my work into something much richer than if I’d just rented a studio and started painting. Having an international experience influenced my ideas about the world and later informed my Islamic series.

Most of my work shows my near obsession with patterns though I am equally obsessed by chance. I like to have a certain amount of randomness in my work so I have several set of dice I use when I want to take an undirected course. I do this as a kind of artistic practice.

How did your journey as an artist begin?

My childhood dream was to be a fashion designer. When I started at art school in Paris each of the various disciplines presented their programs. Opening his presentation, the Dean of Fine Arts said only one thing, “If you don’t know what fine arts means then this is not the discipline for you”. I wasn’t exactly sure what the fine arts were but I was nonetheless intrigued. And here I am now, a painter.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I have more inspiration than time. Sometimes I’m inspired just by looking out the window of my studio in San Francisco onto Mission Street. Of course, my Islamic Works Series was inspired by current events— specifically the 2003 US led invasion of Iraq.

Step Out of Line I

Step Out of Line I

What is your favorite medium to work with? Why?

Sand paper is probably the most essential media I use. I would be lost without it. Because my work depends on many layers and ends with a very smooth surface I paint primarily on wood panels or other hard surfaces where I can sand as I paint. I’ll use just about any water-based media at hand including acrylic paint, graphite, colored pencils, charcoal, adhered paper and water colors.

Describe your creative process.

I have only a general idea of what I’ll paint before I get started. Any sketching I do ends up being a part of the finished project, even if the work goes in a completely different direction. Sometimes I’ll draw and redraw the same image numerous times; even with purely geometric designs there are several iterations. My work depends on the repeated application and removal of paint. The residue and traces remaining from earlier applications are an integral part of each work.

Poets To Come

Poets To Come

Can you tell us about your use of color?

I feel that color is made to be put through its paces! I either use a hundred colors or very few. I love reading about color and trying out unusual combinations. I’m interested in the absence of and subtlety of color combinations or the saturation of many colors and their interactions.

In your Islamic Works project, you incorporated Whitman’s poetry and translated it into Iraqi. Can you tell us more about this process?

One of the most insidious aspects of war is the dehumanization of the enemy, especially when we know nothing of the culture or history of our perceived opponent. In a plea for tolerance I used the combination of Islamic design and Arabic script (specifically excerpts of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass translated into Iraqi) in a series of paintings. The inclusion of these excerpts as Arabic script was important to me on both a personal and an artistic level.

I wanted Whitman’s poetry for this project because of his iconic status as an American poet who was also a celebrated unifier and embracer of cultures and customs. It took me almost two years to finally track down a copy of a translation but it was such an integral part of this work that I didn’t start painting until I found it.

Walt Whitman I

Walt Whitman I

What was the most significant thing that you learned from your Botanicals project?

Botanical shapes— flowers, leaves, vines— are some of the first things we draw as children. We often learn how to draw these items from copying other pictures and do this without looking at the actual subject at hand. It was important to me to relearn these designs by looking at plants with intent, not copying them, but understanding them and then reinterpreting them.

Storage Jar I

Storage Jar I

How has being an artist influenced your life? 

It’s the fulfillment of dream. I made a conscious decision to leave a successful and lucrative business career in order to do what I love. Now painting is my job and I have the same disciplined work ethic that I had in my earlier career. I set out creative challenges and tasks which inspire me to create new bodies of work. Generally there is no place I would rather be than my studio.

Do you find that your surroundings inform your work?

I titled one of my paintings We Breathe the Air that is in Front of our Face. It paraphrases a quote I read long ago and could never forget. So, yes, my surroundings inform my work. In what way I am not quite sure, but I can guarantee you that if I were back in Paris my work would be different that it is today.

Gray Interference

Gray Interference

Is it challenging to be a woman in your field? If so, how have you overcome previous challenges?

I find that I am not that sensitive to this issue (even though I very proudly call myself a feminist). My work is my work and it has been shaped by all that I have experienced. The fact that we live in a male dominated society certainly has its influences but it’s not something that overtly challenges me.

Are you working on anything currently?

Amongst other things I’m working on a series of prints for the al-Mutanabbi Street project. It is a project commemorating the 2007 bombing of the historic center of Bagdad book-selling. It’s a challenging project for me, because I am not a print maker and need not only to learn a new skill, but also to look at my process from the opposite direction— no sandpaper allowed! It’s also exciting to be invited to be a part of this wonderful project that promotes the very thing that my Islamic Series is about.

Learn more about Marie Bourget here. Check out her Facebook page, too!

Presented by the International Foundation for Women Artists.

ELLIE BALK: A Teaching Artist Collaborating with Students to Beautify Brooklyn

Interviewed by Gabriella Alziari

“I’m very into the idea of taking artwork off a pedestal and putting it into the hands of real people.”

-Ellie Balk

Ellie Balk is a teaching artist from St. Louis, Missouri. She graduated from Bowling Green State University in Ohio in 2002, where she earned her BFA in painting. She later earned her MFA in painting from Pratt Institute in 2005. Ellie has lived in Brooklyn for 12 years, where she does a number of curriculum integrated projects in schools. She is also the President of SONYA (South of the Navy Yard Artists), teaches painting and drawing at the 92nd Y, and is the co-founder of Art Camp @ Alamander, an arts camp for children ages 8-14.

What was your first exposure to art?

I never knew I wanted to be a painter until I became one. I took a longer road than my peers to get to college, but when I got there, I took a course in philosophy and was awakened by Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. He spoke about the lack of aura and authenticity of artwork when we see it in reproduction: “Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.” It was when I was studying in Italy that his ideas came alive to me. Everywhere I would go there were works of art that jumped out of the textbooks and postcards. I started to become enraged with all the restoration that was happening. In efforts to stop time and preserve history, I felt like we were erasing the life of the work behind the work.

I became really inspired to create work that could be an experience and allowed for participation and interaction. My first pieces were what I called 2D sculptures, where the viewer could touch and manipulate the work by moving things around, opening doors, participating in the creation of the resulted image. When I got back to the States, I had a big studio and started painting a lot and really big. I would invite people to paint with me and started making a lot of collaborative work. This process made sense to me and took the preciousness away from the work and created an experience.

When I moved to Brooklyn to get my Masters at Pratt, I was interested in exploring these ideas more. I started learning more about the New York art scene in the 50s and 60s and was really inspired by the Flux movement and Happenings. My work became about documenting my life and other interactions between people through art. Public art is in line with my ideas of making art present and authentic to the experience of now. I like the fact that murals are temporal. They are not precious, they are open to the elements, they allow for interaction and collaboration, they create ownership for everyone involved, they are specific to place and experience, all while carrying the power to change a landscape. I’m very into the idea of taking artwork off a pedestal and putting it into the hands of real people.

RePop Mural

RePop Mural

Tell us about your work.

In Grad school, I started documenting everything around me and creating some of my first infographics. Through color and abstraction, I create systems to tell information. I am inspired by the information and want there to be an investigation and interaction with the work. I want people to “read” the work. The murals I create look formally abstract, but when you step into them, they reveal information. In order to do this, my role as an artist shifts from creator to composer. There is a double meaning for those involved and those who see it. It is important when making work with the community that they feel a sense of confidence and ease. I find the infographic murals to be a great tool for this. The data and color coding provides a strict structure. I thought that the connection to the work would be hurt by the structure, but I find that people feel more connected when they have a specific direction. It then becomes even more collaborative in a way, because everyone is working towards a finished piece. I love when people walk by the work and say, “I did that!”

Underneath Brooklyn

Underneath Brooklyn

Describe your creative process.

My creative process is part magic, part luck and a whole lot of planning.

What are some of your goals as an artist?

My goal in making public art is to involve the community as much as possible and to get people to experience a connection to the space and to each other. This direct engagement with the public facilitates a dialog that builds community. Artwork made with the public needs to employ this intimacy with the community and allow a direct link to the space. Each mural I make speaks to different needs depending on the wall, the community and data that is being visualized. Underneath each set the goal is always connection and experience. I’d like to say that I embrace change. Maybe it’s being in Brooklyn for the last 12 years that just makes this a reality. As a muralist, I get to work with communities and give them a voice for change. Murals allow a very direct approach to a connection to space and an ownership to a place.

Planning Visualize Pi Noise

Planning Visualize Pi Noise

Visualize Pi Noise

Visualize Pi Noise

Visualize Pi Noise

Visualize Pi Noise

Can you talk about the work you do in schools?

I work with high school students to create permanent installations in their schools and neighborhoods. For the last 8 years, I’ve been working as a teaching artist. I go into schools and do artist residencies, creating permanent installations. I do a lot of curriculum integration, which consists of working with teachers and creating artwork to help students better understand information. I also do some beautification projects.

I started my residency work at The Green School six years ago. Initially, my schedule was structured so that I taught during the first and sixth periods, so I spent the remaining time sitting in on classes. As I sat through math classes, I became fascinated by math again—all of a sudden, the teacher was teaching, and I would be drawing pictures. That is where the idea of creating images for math came from.

For example, in my Visualize Pi project with The Green School, I assist students with creating visualizations, which helps them learn. I don’t come at the students as an expert. We learn things together.

The math we do together is not really high-level; it’s mostly just measuring. However, it makes the students more confident. We are tracking test scores and watching them rise, and the kids are gaining friendships from these projects that continue beyond school. This idea is changing lives… not a lot of them, but about four at a time, and that’s amazing.

This year, I am working with three schools—I found two of them through my agency, BRIC Arts|Media|Bklyn.

Visualize Pi

Painting Visualize Pi

Painting Visualize Pi

Painting Visualize Pi

The end result of Visualize Pi

The end result of Visualize Pi

How do you find being an art teacher?

I feel like an artist first and a teacher second.  I love the opportunity to collaborate with the teachers and the students and to create an experience that is at a different pace then they are used to.

How long does it take you to plan the projects you use in schools?

It depends on the project. Generally, I come in with an idea and start working with students. I’m really into data visualization and creating visualizations for the curriculum they’re given. I think that this helps visual learners comprehend the information.

I don’t only do art projects with the students, either. I spent the first half of the last school year with students who were taking the Regents Exam. Once a week, I would go through their notes with them, helping them to color code things and think of creative ways to process the information. This brought how I see the world into the classroom.

In the second half of the same year, the students and I worked on a mosaic project, focused on geometric transformations in mosaic. In this case, I had the idea before I walked in to the structure of it.

It’s tough doing a permanent installation in a school. There is a lot of planning involved, such as talking with the building master and the principal.

Creating the Geometric Transformation Mosaic

Creating the Geometric Transformation Mosaic

Geometric Transformation Mosaic

Geometric Transformation Mosaic

Can you tell us about your wedding maps?

One summer I went to 5 weddings, so I started making wedding maps of the geographical history of both partners, mapping them out on top of each other as if they were always together. I wanted to track how their different paths led to one another.

Wedding Map- Ryan and Megan

Wedding Map- Ryan and Megan

Wedding Map- Lauren and Peter

Wedding Map- Lauren and Peter

Choose a favorite piece and tell us about how it was made. What are you proud of?

I love every project for different reasons, so I can’t choose a favorite. Each project is an experience both during its creation and afterwards. I love that public art is an experience that’s still ‘happening’.

Visualize Pi is great because it has a following. We included the hashtag #VisualizePi on the mural, so there is a new person who posts on Instagram every day with it. It was interesting for me to get that voice. The whole thing was painted and put up pretty quickly. I remember just laughing when I saw the end result—it was kind of ridiculous! It’s this bright, abstract sound wave. People are always trying to figure it out. It’s probably my wackiest visualization. To me, the system that I came up with for representing the prime numbers as colors makes sense, but it’s really not obvious at all.

Visualize Pi

Visualize Pi

A project I absolutely loved was the sound wave I did in 2011. The project was supported by Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership and funded by an NEA grant and took a year of preparation. The wall is owned by the state, so there were lots of approvals to be made. It’s the biggest mural I had done and it inspired by a lot of other projects. There was true collaboration between other artists, including musicians, which ended up inspiring so much of my work. I feel like that’s something that is still going.

Creating Soundwaves

Creating Soundwaves

Soundwaves

Soundwaves

Is it challenging to be a woman in your field? If so, how have you persevered through previous challenges?

I haven’t found being a woman challenging in that way.

What is the best part about being an artist?

I don’t feel like I chose this necessarily… it was a privilege to be able to take this risk and I’m grateful for that. So I would say that the best part about being an artist is having the privilege to take the risk.

Are you working on any projects currently?

I’m collaborating with musicians to create the beat of Pi and to represent what Pi sounds like. The project will roll out next spring. One of the artists is Bill Brovold; he has his own band and he’s a sound artist. He’s currently creating a composition based on Pi. I hope to give people the image as a graphic score. I want to put together a Pi concert. There’s a lot of wacky Pi people out there!

One day I was walking with another teacher, and as we were passing the fence that goes all the way around the school, I mentioned that it would be cool to visualize Pi on the bars of the fence.

There are endless and irrational ideas!

Learn more about Ellie Balk here. Check out her Facebook and Twitter pages, too!

Presented by the International Foundation for Women Artists.

EVELIN KASIKOV: An Estonian Embroiderer Based in London

Interviewed by Gabriella Alziari 

“I admire designers whose work is intelligent, audacious, fearless, inimitable.”

-Evelin Kasikov

Evelin Kasikov is an Estonian-born designer and illustrator based in London, England. She received her MA in Communication Design in 2008 from Central Saint Martins, where she also developed CMYK embroidery. (CMYK refers to the four inks used in some color printing: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key-black) . Evelin’s work experiments with grid systems, typography, design techniques and digital and analogue processes to develop new styles of embroidery. Her designs are both mathematically accurate and created by hand. In the past, Evelin has created stitched illustrations for The New York Times, NIKE, WIRED, and ELLE Magazine, among others. Evelin also collaborates with publishers such as Bloomsbury and Laurence King to create book designs. 

Tell us about yourself and your work.

I was born and grew up in Tallinn, Estonia. I did my BA in Fine Art but looking back, I don’t think I was passionate about art back then. Instead I got a job in advertising and I worked as a designer and art director for a number of years. It was great fun but as the years passed I realised that design and advertising are not the same thing. I knew that if I ever wanted to become a good designer then there was a lot more to learn. In 2006, I quit my job and moved to London to study at Central St Martins, and in 2008 I graduated with an MA in Communication Design. During the first year of my MA I didn’t really know what I was doing; my work changed radically and change is not necessarily an easy and comfortable process. As I came from a commercial design background, having been sitting in front of a screen day in/day out, I wanted to explore more tactile, slower ways of designing. This is how I got excited about handmade design. I discovered that stitching/knitting/crocheting skills are easy to pick up and it was intriguing to marry craft techniques with graphic design processes. CMYK printing is a universal language for designers, but what happens when you add handcraft to technology? How does material affect perception? The idea of stitched print started from a simple idea: what if I could add a third dimension to a printed page, and make the inner structure of it visible and tactile?

Now that you have worked with CMYK embroidery for an extended period of time, how does it feel? Has your approach to the process changed at all?

It’s essentially about technology versus craft, and CMYK embroidery is just one idea in that context. It was born as part of my MA project in 2007, and the idea of graphic craft is still very much alive in my work. Although the technique has not changed, I try to push my work to new directions and find new contexts and mediums. A dream project would be to work on something large scale, like a fully stitched billboard poster.

CMYK Embroidery

CMYK Embroidery

Handprinted alphabet in CMYK embroidery

A piece from Evelin’s handprinted alphabet series in CMYK embroidery

Where is your inspiration from?

It’s hard to pin down where exactly inspiration comes from. Inspirations change constantly and they come from many sources. I admire designers whose work is intelligent, audacious, fearless, inimitable– Karel Martens, Irma Boom, Fanette Mellier, Sonya Dyakova, to name but a few. Also, I often travel between two cities, Tallinn (where I’m from) and London (where I now live and work). This two-hour flight is a great opportunity to think and reflect on ideas. It always makes me see things with fresh eyes.

What do you try to achieve when making a piece?

It depends on a project really. Design is not about pleasing the client or satisfying the designer’s ego, it’s about the subject at hand. In personal work I create countless studies letterforms—I experiment with different forms, shapes and materials. These are nearly always geometric, organised, grid based. They might seem like aimless sketches, but sooner or later, most of these ideas find their way to more substantial, conceptual projects.

Staples Letterforms

Staples Letterforms

Exuberance is Beauty

Exuberance is Beauty

Craft and Graphic Design Letterforms

Craft and Graphic Design Letterforms

If someone with no experience in CMYK embroidery were to try it, what advice would you give?

Above all, it requires patience and lots of it. It’s hugely time-consuming: crosses are stitched on paper layer by layer, with threads in Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black colours. Embroidery has to be precise, and also quite dense for an image to be visible. The smaller the crosses, the clearer the image.

Tell us about your experiences with bookmaking.

During my MA at St Martins I took a couple of short courses, and I loved it. These gave me essential skills and experience with different materials. I have been experimenting with book forms ever since. I like to take a simple, well-known technique, and see what I can do with it. For instance, my MA books have colourful stitched spines and students often ask what kind of binding it is. It’s actually just coptic binding but done in a slightly different way. French-folded sheets all have colourful stitched spine-edges. These thread colours correspond with the ones used on pages– this way, the content becomes visible on the spine too. The actual binding structure is not immediately obvious, because instead of heavy cords, I used very thin neutral-coloured threads.

MA Books

MA Books

Books

MA Books

You have collaborated with a number of companies and publishers. What has one of your favorite collaborations been and why?

Illustrators are hired for their style and I’m okay with that. But it’s super nice if the client trusts you enough to go beyond style. For instance, when WIRED approached me for HOME illustration, they said straight away that they want me to be able to benefit from this too and encouraged me to try whatever ideas I wanted to. As a result, this illustration turned out very differently from the rest of my work. It was also the first commercial piece where I didn’t use CMYK-stitching and it was a liberating experience for me. Recently, I created a series of fashion illustrations for ELLE Magazine that didn’t use grid at all. It’s not natural for me to work that way, but I was quite pleased with the outcome.

WIRED US Home Magazine

Hand embroidered typographic illustration for WIRED US Home Magazine

Yves Saint Laurent for ELLE Magazine

Yves Saint Laurent for ELLE Magazine

Louis Vuitton for ELLE Magazine

Louis Vuitton for ELLE Magazine

Can you talk about the importance of mathematics in your artwork?

My analytical approach to craft grew out of my personal interests and preferences. I am fascinated with sequences, multiplications, permutations. It’s all very obsessive but so is embroidery. I always look for system and structure in design and start with a grid. I can’t imagine working in any other way. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been working on a handmade book of stitched CMYK-swatches. It will have over 500 colour combinations that are created using 4 colours and screens in 30% increments. It’s more like mathematical exercise rather than a crafty one. You can see the process on my blog.

How do you find being a woman in your field? How have you risen above previous challenges, if there have been any?

I don’t think I have experienced any gender-related challenges in the workplace. Before moving to London, I worked at advertising agencies in Tallinn, Estonia and both of the companies I worked for were run by women. But now, working with embroidery has been challenging in many ways. My work belongs to the graphic design/typography area but it’s not always perceived that way. It sometimes makes me sad, but it is definitely a challenge and it has forced me to think about the essence of my work. Embroidery is loaded with feminine associations, all of which I have chosen to ignore in my work. People often assume that I must like DIY (do it yourself) and everything crafty but I don’t. My approach to embroidery is somewhat non-traditional. I think I can work with this medium only because I’m not emotionally attached to it. In my work, typography comes first and craft comes second.

Letterforms on Moleskine

Letterforms on Moleskine

What advice would you give to aspiring women artists?    

When you are just starting out you are often told to grab every opportunity. I feel this is wrong. The creative industry can be exploitative. Yes, it’s important to gain experience, but it’s also important to keep in mind that your time and ideas are valuable.

Are you working on any projects currently? 

My practise is two-fold, I create stitched illustrations and I’m also a book designer. Currently there are a couple of book projects in the works for Laurence King Publishing.

Learn more about Evelin Kasikov hereCheck out her FacebookTwitter and blog, too!

Presented by the International Foundation for Women Artists.

CORNELIA KONRADS: A Traveling Installation Artist from Germany

Interviewed by Gabriella Alziari

“Once a viewer put it very well: there is a “moment of catastrophe” in my work– but I also hope a moment of humour.”

-Cornelia Konrads

Cornelia Konrads is a German installation artist. She creates site specific installations and objects, exhibiting her permanent and temporary work in private gardens, sculpture parks, and public spaces. She also enjoys participating in a number of Land Art Projects. In the past, Cornelia has exhibited in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Belgium, Sweden, the United States, Taiwan, South Korea and Australia. Her combination of art, philosophy, and traveling gives her work a unique vibrance that fits well with the settings she chooses. 

What was your first introduction to art?

For my parents, giving me a pencil and a piece of paper was the best way to keep me silent in my place… maybe this was my first introduction to art.

Later I frequently visited an art museum close to the town where I grew up; it’s called “Island of Hombroich”. This museum has a special concept that I liked very much: presenting modern occidental art and art from other cultures in a direct dialogue. It was fascinating for me to study the languages of form and colour, the different techniques and materials in this cross-cultural ambience. They also have a big outdoor area where I saw the first land art works and site specific installations.

Tell us about yourself and your work.

I have three passions: art, philosophy and traveling.

Thankfully, life has offered me a way to combine them all, but it took me a while to reach this point. First I worked as a teacher and did my artwork beside the job. I learned printing techniques on my own and worked for a while as an assistant for an elder sculptor, who taught me a lot. I started to exhibit drawings, prints and objects and became increasingly intrigued by site specific installations. It started with small interventions on hiking tours and became more and more important for me. Finally, in 1998, I had a first big outdoor exhibition and received a grant, which encouraged me to quit my job and become a free lanced artist– it was kind of a jump into the cold water, but I never regretted it.

Becoming a member of an international network for site specific art helped me to exchange with other artists, and I received information about land art projects and residencies all over the world. For some I applied, and was quite successful. This ushered a new era of my life: being a traveling artist.

All of my site specific works are preceded– and followed– by a travel. In a certain way the travel is a part of the work: meandering in an unknown territory in search of the site and the form for a planned installation, I collect what lies on the edge of my path– stories, shapes, materials, local habits and occurrences– until I come to a place, where these collected impressions condense into an image.

I understand the site not as a background, but as a texture. The goal is that my work becomes a part of this texture– in the end, it is unclear if it has always been there or if it will change or disappear in the next second.

The Gate

the gate

Philosophy is the art of posing questions. Visual art is also all about posing questions, but beyond the limits of language, so I feel it’s more free.

The questions I put in my work deal a lot with the perception of time and movement– often my installations appear as if a film has stopped for a moment– a moment of “frozen time”.

Passage

passage

I’m intrigued by this transient thing, called “moment” or “presence”– the intangible rupture between past and future. Consequently I try to create a moment of irritation, by adding an element to the scenery, which refuses to fit into the expected order. If something doesn’t behave as it should, within the twinkling of an eye the inner monologue gets interrupted. One “arrives here and now”, in a mysterious world, where strange things (including oneself) have a unique meeting. For this moment of irritation I like to challenge what is supposed to be “reliable”: the laws of gravity, the solidity of walls or the ground under our feet. Once a viewer put it very well: there is a “moment of catastrophe” in my work– but I also hope a moment of humour.

Maison de St. Flour

la maison de st. flour

Ejection Seat

ejection seat

Pillar

pillar

What inspires you?

The process of searching and finding “my site” as I described above. Coincidences. Accidental arrangements.

Other inspirations come from the work of Anish Kapoor, Louise Bourgeois, Tadashi Kawamata, Joseph Beuys and Banksy. And I love street art!

I’m also interested in architecture and admire architects like Terunobu Fujimori or Frank Gehry – and the spiders in my studio!

Australia House

australia house

Much of your work is set outdoors and uses natural materials. How did this come about?

I also do indoor works… however, all of the places I work have in common that they are not neutral, not just a background. None of these places really resembles the other– you can’t just put up whatever there, you have to respond to what’s given– this is the challenge.

About materials: I often use materials I find at the site, or connect my work to existing structures. But it’s not at all a dogma for me to work with “natural” materials only. Actually I use all kinds of materials that are suitable and not destructive or harmful for the place. Anyway I doubt that there is a strict limit between “natural” and “artificial”. But this is another subject…

Precarious Times

precarious times

Precarious Times

precarious times

How do you go about constructing your structures? Is it not physically demanding?

Of course it is. But other people do sports, or go to a fitness studio; all those things I don’t need.

In fact I like to move, to feel my physical limits, to get my hands dirty– it keeps me mobile. And if something is really too heavy, I ask for assistance…

Of course for the really big works, for “settlement” for example (realised in Ireland 2010), the organiser provides assistants. In this case it was a team of Irish stone masons who did the basement. These kind of collaborations are also a challenge for me: I meet people who rarely had any contact with art, especially with a woman working in this field. But until now, encounters like these have always been fruitful in the end: I learn from their skills, and they learn that there are different ways of perception.

Settlement

settlement

What has one of your favorite pieces or projects been, and why?

My favourite piece is always the next one!

In general I appreciate projects where nobody asks for a previous idea or proposal, so I’m really free.

Under this circumstance ideas can emerge, which are unexpected and surprising for me—for example “walkaway” in South Africa 2013, “knotty stilts” in Bakersfield CAL 2011, or “billabong memory” in Australia 2005.

walkaway

walkaway

knotty stilts

knotty stilts

billabong memory

billabong memory

You have made installations all over the world. What environments or countries have been the most inspiring or fulfilling for you?

Japan and Australia.

What materials do you most enjoy working with?

Wood, bricks, stones, and plaster.

How do you find being a woman in your field? If there have been challenges, how have you risen above them?

It’s great to be a woman in my field!

Since I was a kid, I liked to construct things. People kept telling me that this was “nothing for girls”. It took me a while, but then I contradicted them: of course this has to be for me, just because I love it! And for sure I AM a girl, and I love it! So after all there is nothing wrong with me, but with the limited minds of people talking like that.

A big challenge to rise above is the stereotypical idea how “female art” should look. In fact “male art” or “female art” are not interesting categories for me.

I think that an artwork has the power to speak for itself, independent of the colour of skin or hair, or the gender of the author.

achgottchen

achgottchen

What advice would you give to aspiring women artists?

Follow your passion, find your own way, stay curious, surprise yourself!

And decide by yourself, if you want to have kids or become an artist. Both are full time jobs—not impossible, but difficult to arrange.

Do you have any dream projects?

I’m open to whatever comes next, but I’m especially thrilled to walk new trails.

For example, at the moment I’m in contact with the artistic director of a theatre company, who asked if I’m interested in creating a stage design. And of course I am—this could be a very exiting new task!

Are you working on anything currently?

Yes, I’m testing different materials and techniques for two big installations in a botanical garden in the south of France, and playing with found materials and putting them together to create strange little beings.

Learn more about Cornelia Konrads here

Presented by the International Foundation for Women Artists.