“When I made the decision to work as a full-time artist back in January 2017,” Kitt Buch tells us, “I was aware that it wouldn’t be an easy path to tread, but I also knew that there was no other thing that I wanted to do more than this.” The pop surrealistic painter/sculptor – whose comically ominous, dual-dimension mythologies play out “in the past, the now and the future” – offers a refreshingly balanced account of her “exciting, invigorating and very playful” career path that at times can still be “tedious and draining”.
My characters are emblematic of how humanity is able to continue living day to day in spite of imminent doom looming over our heads.
The Denmark-born artist of hell in a handbasket scenarios has made great creative strides in the past six years – culminating in the planning and curation of a forthcoming art exhibition!! – with her goal fulfillment the result of diligence, sustained effort, and networking-networking-networking. Kitt Buch employs a robust combination of ‘in person’ and ‘virtual’ social media marketing tactics for example, explaining that it is “absolutely necessary to speak to others and establish connections in order to get your work seen rather than just sit in the confinement of an art studio”.
Quite refreshingly, our interview with Kitt Buch contains no candy-coated sales pitches about how easypeasybreezy it is to turn one’s creative output into a steady income stream. In fact, she believes that while emerging artists pursue their creative passions, they should feel no shame in fulfilling their financial responsibilities with a separate, steady source of income, preferably an “easy job that doesn’t compromise your goals or drain you of your lifeforce”. Her nose-to-the-grindstone commitment to “create the best possible work that I can” – regardless of the sweat equity involved – reminds us that good things come to those who grab the bull by the horns!
I am commenting on the underlying structure of families – everything that we don’t talk about and simply just allow to fester or sweep under the carpet. Everything may look pretty at first glance, but when you take a closer look, you can really see the scary ugliness and the conflicts.
Exclusive Interview With Kitt Buch
It can take years for an artist to find an aesthetic that clicks and looks fully cohesive. How did yours – which is instantly recognizable – come together?
When I was working in the fashion industry, I used to make somewhat avant-garde clothing. Ever since 2015, I utilized gas masks to emphasize weirdness and the surreal. The birds, rabbits, meat and the eyeball flowers crept into the frame and have been with me ever since. These days however, I’m trying to use those symbolic elements far more sparingly and deliberately. With experience, I’ve learned that I just need to work with my art and themes rather than overthink them.
Like many artists, you regard your creative output as a form of escapism, but your artistic narratives are relatively dark and dreary. Why?
Creative escapism is a constructive way to keep things in perspective. In my point of view, everything going to hell is just realistic – it is what it is. I feel some anxiety when I read the news and see what is going on in the world, but recognizing historical patterns and processing it through an artistic filter helps. The tongue in cheek, easy on the eyes aspect of my art creates more of a bearable narrative that balances the unpleasant reality of the world we live in.
A character can be like emotional luggage that you carry around for years before finally being able to shed it. Some of my figures represent ideas, emotions, thoughts, etc. that I have to repeatedly revisit.
Darker narrative elements such as cracking nuclear power plant towers and weapons of destruction provide a stark contrast to grinning sausage mouths, smiley face-centered flowers, and cheerfully bright palettes. What kind of visual evolution can we expect from you in the year ahead?
My narratives in 2023 will shine light on what might come – coupled with plenty of existential dread – so you can expect to see trophy heads on walls, weird, distorted animals and the usual humorously whimsical outcome.
Many believe that eyes are the windows to the soul, yet your characters quite often have freakish eye holes. Does that mean that they’re dead inside?
My characters’ lack of eyes – which emerged one day when I drew just the eye holes of a gas mask – are a comment/view on society, our culture, and the people who live within it. Their vacant stares are also a reference to the early 20th century cartoons from Disney and Fleischer studios since many characters seemed to have black holes for eyes.
Their feelings are just underneath it all, whether in the surrounding landscape or a nuclear bomb emanating from a wine glass. Duck and Cover, for example, depicts a woman’s obscured face and smiling sausage mouth but in the background, you can see a newly bombed out school. The stark contrast of apathy, gloom, and seeming to be dead inside versus happy colors and cartoonish humor really appeals to me.
Overall, my art is about the stories that we are told and believe in, and what we tell ourselves to survive, whether in society as a whole or within families.
Are your characters a metaphor for the inaction/apathy of society while the world spontaneously combusts around them?
Yes, oh yes. They are emblematic of how humanity is able to continue living day to day in spite of imminent doom looming over our heads. My Time For Tea painting really illustrates that concept. Additionally, I am commenting on the underlying structure of families – everything that we don’t talk about and simply just allow to fester or sweep under the carpet. Everything may look pretty at first glance, but when you take a closer look, you can really see the scary ugliness and the conflicts. Overall, my art is about the stories that we are told and believe in, and what we tell ourselves to survive, whether in society as a whole or within families.
How do you know when you’ve finally landed on the right balance of darkness, humor, and left-of-center weirdness?
It’s mostly an intuitive process. Sometimes various works of art must sit for months and months because I can’t quite figure out what is missing. Then suddenly, I know exactly what I must add to make the finishing touches make sense.
The tongue in cheek, easy on the eyes aspect of my art creates more of a bearable narrative that balances the unpleasant reality of the world we live in.
What makes some of the characters in your creative universe worthy of reappearing at a later date? It seems like there are a few who exist in their own unique artistic spin offs.
A character can be like emotional luggage that you carry around for years before finally being able to shed it. Some of my figures represent ideas, emotions, thoughts, etc. that I have to repeatedly revisit. Other times, they are just a side note and easy to move on from.
You’ve developed a diverse skill set in your art practice. Is that reflective of your tendency to always reach for higher goals?
Working in more than one medium has enabled my creative skills to evolve. Although my sculptures – which are a three-dimensional extension of the characters in my paintings – can exist on their own (and vice versa), each aspect of my art practice enhances the other.
Your sculptures have become more elaborate in the past year. How has that aspect of your self-taught creative output enhanced your artistic confidence?
I’ve never taken a class on sculpting, but I’ve found that it comes quite easy to me – it’s been quite an enjoyable learning process. When I sculpt, it sort of feels like I’m painting. Also, I transitioned from using a quite brittle self-hardening clay to the wonderful world of epoxy/ceramic clay which totally opened me up to greater sculptural possibilities. I’ve reached the point where I am just as comfortable sculpting as I am painting.
Creative escapism is a constructive way to keep things in perspective. In my point of view, everything going to hell is just realistic – it is what it is.
Prior to tangibly manifesting your paintings and sculptures, what preparatory steps do you take during your ideation process?
Whether I’m painting or sculpting, I plan certain aspects of my process to ensure that my artwork continuously follows the narratives that I set forth. Sometimes I work out almost every little detail. Other times, I have just the character(s) established and everything else emerges during the creative process, especially if I get inspired or my perspective changes. I hardly ever make impromptu art.
The symbolism embedded into your paintings speaks to your love of fantasy worlds and the marvelous possibilities/realities of science. Do you think that fans who view your art through a short attention span social media lens end up missing out on an important layer of meaning?
If the viewer can personally identify with something in a work of art (a feeling or an interest, for example) without knowing the backstory, I’d say that it’s a win.
How do you come up with your endlessly unexpected and always entertaining ideas? What technique do you use to break free of creative blocks?
Ideas generally flow for me, but on occasion the energy to keep creating can run dry. That’s when I’ll take a look at my sketchbooks which are filled with images as well as narrative descriptions, which generally spark new creative paths. I’ve recently begun writing stream of consciousness ideas in my diary which involve everything from pure imagination and autobiographical bits to science-related concepts. This year, I intend to build increasing more intriguing worlds, including a futuristic museum that really comes to life for the viewer.
In this shiny new year of the rabbit, what intriguing new career possibilities and artistic aspirations are you immediately hopping into?
I’ve been attending the Spektrum art school, which has given me valuable constructive criticism, enhanced my knowledge of the art business, and taught me a lot of helpful do’s and don’ts. I am also curating an exhibition – which is something that I wouldn’t have dared to do before Spektrum – plus I’m seeking out alternative exhibition platforms.