PAINTING AS VOCATION, CATHARSIS AND REMEDY FOR PANDEMIC STRESS
Between the Lines and Hens Exhibition Online
Kinga Bross is an artistic nickname of a Polish artist based close to Milan, Italy (she prefers to remain incognito). It is a first time we discover an absolutely new talent. Let’s consider this interview and exhibition as her very first debut online. The subjects of her canvases are mostly animals, plants, less humans or landscapes. She uses sharp lines and strong colours to contrast her “private world” with current grey reality.
Someone could discover in them Animal Farm by George Orwell, but Kinga does not want to be a political or philosophical artist. She leaves open any interpretation of her works, not denying that the Covid everyday life and lack of any social stability influenced her too. “My hens and roosters are a medium of feelings and different messages. […] which opens a lot of interpretation and discussions and this is real fun”.
The artist started to paint in school. Painting was her eternal passion but only now, as adult, mother of two teenagers, she decided to show her talent publicly promising to herself to continue this activity in life, no matter what. You can find more of her work on Ig @i_am_kingabross. You can contact her by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The works proposed by Kinga, under a common title Between the Lines and Hens, are divided into three groups: Animal, Portraits and Variety.
What does painting mean to you?
I cannot respond to this question directly. It is important, that is sure. Painting for me is expressing internal states, feelings, memories, needs or messages. It is like going around some theme and sketching a few clues, but also a passion or a necessity, but it is not precise, so more words serve to describe it. There is a strong internal drive that imposes this activity at a certain moment, like a voice saying: now is the time, you must release this picture or feeling, put it on paper and look at it from outside to understand yourself and the surrounding world. It resembles contemplation induced by external or internal factors. When I hear this call, I try to answer it immediately. On the other hand, painting, for me, also means a research that is maybe even more interesting than the result derived from it. I undertake two kinds of research, as a way to obtain a more precise expression, like reading on certain subjects, getting info on people & animals I want to portrait, looking at photos, going to exhibitions, museums, galleries and contemplating nature. The second is painting with eyes closed, at least at the beginning of a new piece. It is very funny: you place the paper, decide a colour and paint something, after a while you look at it and get auto inspired, as the shapes, stains and lines talk to me, indicating what to paint.
When you cannot paint the moment in which this call arrives, what happens then?
Well, it happens continuously, when I am working or driving or talking to people, then I take my notes (photos, quick drawings or few words to describe the idea) on what I think would represent what the moment made me feel. Unfortunately, many of these moments are lost forever, as time is limited, but some of them I manage to recover in my dreams.
How long have you been painting and how did it begin for you?
Intensively, all told, no more than 5 years. I have flashbacks from few important moments that put me on this path. First drawings at elementary school: flowers, meadows, ornamental zigzags etc. I was so bored with black & white reality of 80s, that drawing gave me access to other dimensions, full of colour and new stimuli. At that time, I was not good at drawing at all, not that I got much better, but I have found a lot of pleasure in using pencils, paints, threads. Currently, I paint mainly using acrylics that dry quickly. All my notebooks were full of strange drawings. This habit persisted, I keep on drawing continuously when I have to listen to others, especially now during video conferences while taking notes. In high school, one of my teachers proposed to students to paint our classroom. It was a fantastic experience. I had a part of the wall all for myself. I painted toxic mushrooms in all possible colours.
What was then?
Then, I had a boyfriend whose father was a “real painter” and I think meeting this family, more than any future self-analysis, influenced me. Observing him working and his surrealistic art opened my eyes and touched me deeply. I started to become seriously interested in art. I discovered Dali, Ernst, De Chirico. I fell in love with Toulouse Lautrec, Malczewski, Gierymski and “met” many many others, independently of the art movement they represented. I wanted to try to do something myself, hoping to understand what they felt when they were creating. I was quite naïve, understanding other’s artists feelings at the moment of creation is not possible, one can only imagine, as your own biography and experience limits your way of perceiving. I started with simple stains and printing techniques, then I stopped for many years, I was too busy with university, work, etc. Then I restarted for a while and then again a gap, but for 4 years I have had a very intensive time with creating. I had just painted one oil painting with abstract flowers and after that I have not stopped and I hope to continue.
Definitely it is your vocation. I am glad you decided to show us and our readers your first exhibition! How would you define your style?
I would be far from defining, I am an amateur, I have never had any professional painting courses, and my studies included only a few courses on art history, so of course I lack technique and all the hard preparation. Therefore, I do not think I could aspire to fit into any art movement. Nevertheless, I could coin, with a big smile, my own term, if you were to insist (laugh), which would be Kinga’s henhouse style, emotive, sincere, intimate.
Why do you escape into the world of nature, animals?
It is not escaping, it is just finding another perspective. Sincerely, physically I find animals far more interesting than most human beings. Though, I can’t deny that I am very curious about humans, but more in their “software”, using the term of one of my IT friend. Hens are wonderful models, full of colours, unexpected details, unmeasured variety, full expression and proud. I observe them for a long time whenever I can and study their behaviour as well. Then I dress them in human emotions and I attribute them various imaginary stories. My hens and roosters are a medium of feelings and messages. They talk to each other in my paintings. I am happy that others also listen to their conversations. It means that there might be some universal language spoken by my creations. There is also a very funny aspect related to those paintings: it opens a lot of interpretation and discussions, trying to find out what the author wanted to say is a real joy.
Do you have your own art philosophy?
I would say that I am a practitioner, as I apply the meaning of this term all the time: love of knowledge. For the rest I am just trying to be a good person, respecting commandments and trying to make others smile. While creating, I paint what I feel, if I do not feel I do not do it. Sometimes people ask me to paint something for them, but for me it does not work. I tell them, if you would inspire me I might try, but in some way, I must engulf some part of you in order to be able to release it, after being filtered through my intuition and imagination. There is always a risk that they would not like the result that is why I do not accept painting commissions. I have some neutral paintings that are less personal, but most have some story behind them. If one would like to purchase my painting, one has to choose from what is available or wait for future paintings.
How does your art influence your life?
Art is an integral part of my daily life, if I do not paint, due to mundane reasons, in some way I am preparing to. This activity is also a remedy for stress for me. It helps me close the tap of everyday problems, fears and uncertainties, especially in times of Covid. When I enter my painting premises, I am in my world with my colours, music, and a space to be filled in with feelings. It is also my safety valve, catharsis, this would complete your first question, by the way. I realised that painting animals is a form of a pet therapy as well. When I am blue, I just watch some hens and other feathered creatures, and I become calm and concentrated. I understand if you were to think that it is a rather not orthodox way to entertain oneself (laugh). I would dream to have a henhouse with all possible species of hen, as there is a hidden world to discover, but this is another story. Last year I went to Marina di Carrara for an international championship of hens, roosters etc. and it was a paradise for me, I recommend this unique event to everybody.
Who are the artists that inspire you and whom do you admire and why?
Actually, in one way or another I admire all visual artists that I encounter, including not only very well-known ones, also not known, my friends and anonymous graffiti-authors. This extends also to writers, musicians and chefs. There is one condition: their works must speak up to me; through their entire content, technique used, composition, colours or any detail that gives me some emotion or simply by the passion or patience expressed by the author. There are also artworks that make me angry or create negative emotions – these I try to forget, at the end there are also some that only leave me indifferent. As for big names, let me mention only few: Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida, Małgorzata Łada Maciagowa, Henri “Celnik” Rousseau, Toulousse Lautrec, Dick Ket, Tamara Lempicka, Edward Dwurnik, Antonio Ligabue, Zdzislaw Beksinski.I admire their works due to the emotions they give, their techniques, subjects, clear messages, author’s courage and persistence. I also love all masters of the medieval art. In case you are in Warsaw do not miss visiting the National Museum with its small but gorgeous Gallery of Medieval Art, I spent days there.
On your Instagram avatar there is a portrait resembling Frida Kahlo, is it a coincidence (laugh)?
Of course, it is not (laugh). I keep on painting Frida continuously, portraying her gives me some power, though most times my efforts are miserable and in the end I cover my attempts with some other painting, so as not to offend her. I have been fascinated by her for 25 years, I keep on trying to understand her life, her obsessions, love to her culture & husband and the subjects of her works. I found them so sincere, and looking at her photos or documentary films about her I feel deeply touched. She was a very determined person with a strong personality. It is a pity that now she is treated as symbol to be printed on hats or aprons, it seems that wearing Frida is a kind of declaration.
What are you working on currently? What are your artistic plans for the future?
I am always working on some hens and abstract paintings, however these days I am finishing my version of the Wyandotte silver laced chicken and preparing to make a portrait of a friend, but I cannot decide on the message, so it has yet to be defined. I would like to finish about five canvases for the first live exhibition planned for June of this year, that was postponed to better times in my city hall. I live in a small place in the province of Varese, not much happening here, especially this year. I have a dream for the future, a very childlish one, but of course, I would not be able to afford it: a Poultry Museum with a building in a form of a hen, containing various thematic exhibitions and a park with many different feathered species. It would be a tourist attraction but also an educative project, presenting the variety of races, habits, history and of course photos and paintings to a vast public.