Not only are her works enrapturing, but she is as well. Her candor and wholeheartedness is something to be admired. It is truly a special thing to speak to someone who is so remarkable, and so willing to use their voice to explore those essential, perhaps daunting, truths. Wrap yourself up with her shadows, shades, and tones…no judgment can choke the freedom that comes with complete authenticity.
To learn more about Kit King, visit her website. The last six images are examples of her wonderful collaborations with her equally talented husband, Oda King. To learn more about his work please visit his website…. and discover their sticky sweet romance story.
Saturday, April 23, 2016 | 7pm
April 23 – May 8, 2016
325 West 38th Street, New York, NY 10018
For further information, please email [email protected]
You, and your parents, are artists… but I was fascinated to find out that you’ve never had any traditional artistic training. What was it like growing up, and did you ever feel any pressure, support, or otherwise, from having talented parents?
Oh, there was never any pressure- quite the opposite really. I never saw art as something to strive towards; it was always just something we did for enjoyment and never for perfection or status. Just as normal for a child to sit down and watch TV, it was for me to sit down with paintbrushes. It’s how my parents raised us (my younger sister and I). They weren’t big on TV, and most certainly nurtured our creativity. The other parents thought mine were crazy for letting me draw and paint all over the walls. My ma always replied with “walls can be painted over”… this was normal to me growing up. I was sad when I found out other kids weren’t allowed to paint the walls in their houses. I felt bad for them. My parents were great about it. They always made sure I was stocked on supplies, but there was never any pressure to create, or to even colour in the lines. They didn’t tell me what they knew and learnt with art. They let it be 100% my own creative journey to find my own process. They gave me complete freedom with it.
You often work with your husband, Oda, and it seems like a seamless enhancement to both your practices. It’s incredibly inspiring. What is it like working together, and do you find that collaborating, with either him or others, is an important aspect to your work?
*Ohhh cue the cheese factory* Creating with my husband has been the greatest part of my life to date. I was always a loner, and nothing was better than my solitude spent painting. We actually fell in love while talking about collaborating. We were always on the same page- and that’s rare for me. I don’t work well with others. And when we first painted together it was fireworks. I knew right there that that’s what I wanted… the only thing greater than creating in solitude has been creating with him. I wish I could properly explain it, but art becomes something so much more in those moments with him. It’s intimate and magical. We don’t even have to talk it out, or plan it. We can just start painting and somehow just know what to do… How to work around each other, and what we have in mind, and how we see it. There’s this connection that exists on canvas that I’ve never found anywhere else. We actually sketch it out together… at the same time moving around one another, and then paint at the same time. Our hands just dancing around the canvas together, it’s beautiful to me.
Art has always been my life. And to share it in such a special way with my love is pure bliss… so yeah, it’s a pretty important aspect to my work now. The voice and intent behind the works are vastly different from when it’s a collaboration vs. a solo work. My solo works seem to be born of angst and this longing to escape reality. Whereas my works with him are born from love and me embracing my reality, collaborations with other artists are tricky for me. I have a love/hate relationship with other collabs. I’m somewhat of a control freak, and it can be hard for me to relinquish that control. But I’m working on that.
The Met Breuer is currently having an exhibit called “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible”, and it reminded me of your and Oda’s piece ‘Creation’ in which the left hand had color swatches on the wrist. Do you ever have paintings you don’t finish, or is this something that stylistically you are interested in exploring?
No, I’m crazy compulsive (maybe just crazy), and need to complete works. I have this fear of obtaining bad art juju through unfinished paintings. There’s something saddening to me about a painting left unfinished. In my head, I rather personify them. My works become my babies, and to see one never live it’s “full life” sort-of-speak is disheartening to me. I also have it in my head that I will plateau and become stagnant if I don’t complete works. If I’m having a hard time completing a piece, it’s because I’m struggling with it, for whatever reason. I find it’s necessary for my artistic growth and journey to push past that and learn the most I can from each work. I don’t easily give up on paintings… I try to get the most I can from each piece.
For ‘Creation’ we put the color swatch on the side after it was painted. We actually mixed new paint for it. We wanted it to symbolize the creation of ‘Oda & King’… I was teaching him to paint with oils, and so it’s my hand sort of bringing his to life. We are falling more in love with the idea of seeing the more raw side of painting and wanting to find ways to include that in the works themselves. We have a bunch planned for our upcoming works that will delve further into that idea.
You used to tattoo, and I read in one of your interviews that you miss it a great deal. Are you still a part of the tattoo community, and would you tattoo someone if they asked as a commission?
I adore tattooing as a medium. I always will. Unfortunately, I don’t like the lifestyle that comes with it. I’m very much a recluse and am very easily drained with human interaction. And as a tattooer you double as a psychologist. There’s a lot of back and forth between the client and the artist, as well as back and forth between the artists in the community. It drains me easily. Also, tattooing comes with so many restrictions… you’re told what to do. You can’t just do whatever you want like you can with painting. Even if the client gives full permission to do your thing, you have to play it safe since it’s on someone’s skin for life. Not much wiggle room for taking chances and experimenting when there’s the restrictions of working with a sensitive surface- the skin.
I got into tattooing for the art. In my mind, art was never a viable career path, so I simply never contemplated becoming a full time artist. So working as a tattooer was the next best thing. Since becoming a full time painter, however, I still do a couple tattoos a year…mainly on family or Oda’s friends. But if someone came to me with something really interesting that was well suited for my style and got me excited about it then I would definitely consider it.
The shadow paintings you created for your solo show ‘Dimensional Analogue’ are intoxicating. The black circle reminded me very much of the Zen Buddhist Enso, but all of your work contains a vast amount of differing subject matter. What concepts inform your work most often, or what do you turn to for inspiration?
Well thank you kindly! I appreciate the kind words. I feel like most people have a quick easy answer for what inspires them and I often wondered what was wrong with me to have that ‘not be the case’ for me. I feel like I’m on inspiration overload. Everything and anything inspires me. I can wake up, see how the light bounces off the rim of my glasses, and be inspired to capture it or the way the light moves across the room while just laying in bed… I’m inspired by textures and culture. Inspired by other artists. Inspired by nature. I’m inspired by fleeting moments and things that have always been. I’ll be watching a film and pause it because I like how the shadows fall over the curve of a person’s cheek on screen and think “oh I want to paint that,”. Inspiration is all around me all the time. I suppose that’s why my work is so vast in differing subject matter… too much to paint and not enough time to paint it all.
The black circle was definitely inspired by the Japanese art of Enso. My husband, Oda, is of Japanese heritage, and we were discussing how it’s so rich in culture. We want to explore that more and have him teach me about his culture through our art. When discovering Enso, I was captivated by the simplicity and power it had. How a single brush stroke carried all this tradition and discipline with it. Working on this solo show without Oda, after doing so much with him, was hard on me. I missed painting with him, and that Enso painting was my way of including a part of him into the show while still putting my spin on it.
I would love to know more about your personal process as an artist. Incredibly hard work is usually difficult for others to comprehend. Do you rely on sketches, research, or anything in particular? How long does each piece usually take? And, for you, is painting invigorating or exhausting?
It’s neither to me, I suppose. This has been my life as long as I could hold a brush. It’s like breathing to me. I have no days off and no need for them. When I think of what it took to get here, it seems monumental. You cannot discredit the insane amount of work it took but it never seemed like it. Only looking back can I see it. It required a ton of sacrifice but it has always been worth it. There just isn’t another path for me. To be honest, I’m not overly fond of sketching. I pretty much hate any prelude up to painting, (after all there was no prelude to painting as a kid) so I just don’t do it. I blame my upbringing in keeping art free hah. But really, I just don’t want this to become work. When I painted as a child, it was for the fun. When I painted as a teen, it was to escape. I’ve never painted to perfect, and nor do I want to. I paint for the passion and journey. It’s important for me to keep that a constant in making a career from this. I don’t ever want it to feel like work. I don’t want art to become tainted in that way. So as unconventional as it is. I just go for it. If I have the urge or idea, I hit the paint and don’t look back. Of course, there are some disaster works that come from improper planning, but they aren’t for nothing because learn from every piece. I’d rather learn from having fun and mucking a piece up than doing the things I find disinteresting (like sketching a piece just to render it all over again). I freehand a lot and usually just have a basic concept before diving in. To me, it’s evident and probably considered a weakness in my work that leads to inconsistency. But I’m having fun, and learning and growing in a way that’s honest and true to me, and that’s all I could ask for. I’m not here to be the best. I’m just here to have fun & do as I’ve always done and just create something that didn’t exist the day before.
Oda actually read a quote the other day that sums it up perfectly for me, “Man is constantly growing, and when he is bound by a set pattern of ideas, or ‘way’ of doing things, that’s when he stops growing.”
As for time, it depends on the piece. Painting everything from single stroke works to full on hyperreal portraits; it can take minutes to weeks.
What do you think draws you, and others, to dark, intense, and usually highly emotional imagery?
I know for me it’s the personal demons I struggle with that manifest through my art. I’ve struggled with severe depression for as long as I can remember. As an adult, I became agoraphobic and developed severe social anxiety, to where I couldn’t leave my home at all or have any human interaction. Art was what got me through it all. Dark thoughts are constantly running in the background of my mind, so I think it’s just natural that it comes out in my work. If art is the soul’s countenance then it makes sense to put down on canvas what has weight for you.
It’s so easy for mental illness to be overlooked, swept under the rug and discarded, that we’ve got used to replying with the “I’m fine”, despite the agony we’re really going through. I think painting dark and intense imagery is our voice saying, “I’m not okay.” It’s a way for us to get the truth out. In the moments spent creating, you can finally be honest about it, and not worry about people discrediting what you’re feeling and going through. You don’t have to put on the exhausting facade. It can be therapeutic, and really help one get through the days. It’s nice to have a break from fake smiles and masks.
A social media post supporting your upcoming solo show mentioned that some of the works in particular explore your difficulty with agoraphobia. Anxiety, depression, and other emotional difficulties are, at times, very often concealed or repressed within Western culture and it is inspiring that you are willing to be open about it. Is mental health awareness important to you? What is the most important thing you hope to use your artistic voice for?
I was actually hesitant to mention with my show (or at all really). But the works make more sense with knowing where they came from. I was feeling embarrassed about it, and asked loved ones whether to exclude that information. My mom told me to think about what it could do for someone who also experiences what I do. That if it could possibly help just one individual, wouldn’t it be worth sharing?
I tossed aside my pride and put it out there.
I’m noticing more awareness for certain things like depression and PTSD. But I haven’t seen much for agoraphobia. (Probably b/c we don’t get out there to let people know about us HAHA). It’s hard enough to deal with emotional distress, but with agoraphobia, it comes with a ton of restrictions. You simply cannot get the help you need if you can’t make it into places. It adds to the anxiety to know that you want to help yourself but there aren’t institutions in place to help people in my situation to get the help they need. (After all, if I could make it into see a doctor for help, I wouldn’t need the doctor in the first place. A catch 22. I’d love to bring more awareness to agoraphobia if I could, in hopes it inspires someone to set up a way to help folks that are restricted to their homes. I guess it starts with putting it out there and not being ashamed by it. To show you can have agoraphobia, never leave you home, and still pursue your dreams. Of course, it will be more difficult, but these hurdles are not roadblocks unless you allow them to become one. You will have to work harder for it, but it isn’t impossible. Plus when you don’t ever leave, look at how productive you can be! You don’t have to let your struggles define you. I am not an agoraphobic artist. I’m just an artist who happens to struggle with agoraphobia.
This (for my solo show) was actually the first time I created art that centered around my personal struggle with agoraphobia, anxiety and depression. When talking to Casey Gleghorn, the art Director at Last Rites, about the content of my show before starting, he suggested I focus on keeping it as honest as possible. I figured there was nothing more honest than the most vulnerable side of me, my struggles with “mental illness”. So rather than trying to complete a whole body of work for an exhibit, I thought of it as a therapeutic opportunity for me to create work that may shine some light on what I deal with day in and day out.
Usually my work has a voice directed outward to society. However, with this show, it was more introspection.
What people or places do you wish more people knew about? Any lesser known artists or creative types you personally like to talk about and support?
There’s too many to name. Thanks to social media I find killer new artists virtually daily.
For me and for others your work is extremely encouraging, especially because everything you’ve accomplished has been through hard work and practice. What advice, if any, do you have for young artists?