Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline is an artist living and working in Winnipeg MB. He paints wonderfully layered, complex paintings. His work is the kind that gives a lot.
He studied fine arts at the University of MB and went on to do his MFA at Columbia (graduating in 2008). He has painted for most of his life. Since his first solo show in 2006 he has shown works across North America – most recently at Actual Gallery in Winnipeg MB.
This most recent show, aptly titled Fruit on Black, was an overwhelming representation of his work. The show featured a pseudo-sculptural component, walls stenciled on site and an interactive QR code that led to a beautiful image of Martha, the world’s last passenger pigeon that was hidden in the basement of the gallery. This decisive randomness was grounded by solid, beautiful paintings.
Fruit on Black confirmed my preconceived notion that Kaktins-Gorsline’s paintings are amoung some of the best AND most interesting being created today.
In addition to the sparkly resume and insane talent, Kaktins-Gorsline is also a really nice and funny guy who is one of the best people to talk to at a party. Examples of said funny-ness can be seen below as responses to questions I recently asked…
Madi – Where did you grow up?
Krisjanis – I was born in Winnipeg but moved to Brandon when I was about 6 or 7. We lived in the North End of Winnipeg but our particular area was on the decline. I think my mom wanted to live in a safer place while we were growing up so we moved to Brandon. With the exception of one year spent in Halifax, I lived there until I came back to Winnipeg for University in 2001.
M – Where is home // how do you define home –physical space or a feeling?
K – I’m not sure that I’ve ever really tried to define home per se. I think it ends up being a bit of both. It seems like the two kind of map onto each other. If you spend a certain amount of time someplace you are bound to have feelings for it. At this point I’ve lived in Winnipeg so long that it just feels like its in my bones.
M – Describe your work
K – Sweet sweet paintings.
M – Over the years that you’ve been focused on creating, what have been your biggest influences?
K – Oh there are so many at this point. And they are always changing. I’ve never had an “art hero” really. I just end up stealing little bits and bobs from all over the place and then somehow they synthesize into what I make. Honestly the only constant thing I could really point to would be nature, but that just seems like a given. You’d have to be a real jerk not to be inspired by nature.
M – How do you envision people will interact with your work? Perceive it? // or do you want to control their perceptions? Has the desire to control/shape perceptions changed over time or stayed consistent?
K – I’m not really interested in controlling people’s perceptions per se. I just think about my own perception and trust that there will be people who might share that perception. But often other people’s takes on the work are just as interesting as anything I might have intended. I think that the real art of artworks sort of hovers somewhere between the work and the person looking at it. The objects are really just there as a prompts for thought, so the viewer is the one who completes the work really. Its more of a co-production.
M – I know you live in Winnipeg now – how does this place affect your work? Or does it?
K – … I often think about this, but have never come up with a great answer. I’m not sure that my work really has that kind of direct relationship to the city right now. Some of the earlier work was directly about the history of the city but most of the recent work would just have a more ambient relationship. I’m sure that so many years of winters here must have left some kind of traumatic trace on my work.
M – I wonder if it has become taboo to think of Winnipeg as just a place to live, we’re always encouraged to point out the idiosyncrasies of this place as some sort of a justification for being here. Do you feel that way? And/or do you feel that there is something truly special about the city?
K – A lot of cities deal with this sort of thing. There is always a tension between the local and the global. Local idiosyncrasies are what makes a place interesting and unique but that can also slip into a kind of myopic provincialism. But there is a flip side to that where a lot of what is imported is a kind of generic globalism, so people feel like Winnipeg is cosmopolitan because we have an H&M at the mall or whatever. I think real cosmopolitanism has something to do with being able to see the unique differences in a specific place but also being able to think about them in relation to a larger global sphere. I think the environmental movement really nails it when they say “act locally, think globally”. There is tons of amazing culture in Winnipeg, but often Winnipeg is the last to recognize it.
M – How does teaching affect your work?
K – I really like teaching. Teaching makes me have to constantly reconsider what art is and how its made. I try to approach teaching in a more symmetrical way, so that the students are defining the direction of their work as much as I am. For me, the ideal classroom is a space of experimentation and investigation where everyone, including me, is exploring the possibilities of what art is, rather than just reproducing the conventions of art. I think this is the real potential of education. Otherwise it just becomes a space of indoctrination rather than innovation. The students are so smart and talented that my job is really more about facilitating the space for them to take responsibility for their work and develop their practices. The up shot of this is that often I am learning as much as the students are.
M – I find process-based questions to be super hard to answer because often times when I am designing something everything happens really fast and my “process” changes. That being said, please humour me, and describe your process if you can…
K – I’ve never really thought of myself as having a signature process. Actually I would say that my work ends up largely being about designing a certain process for making a body of work just to undermine it with the next body of work. Often I think I’m trying to torture myself. It’s just that I’m more interested in creativity than style really. I’m not that interested in locking down what I do as much as I am figuring out what I could do. So often it becomes a weird game of getting in my own way and undermining my own habits to keep things interesting.
M – Do you need specific working conditions, or are you flexible? How much energy do you pull from the environment or people around you?
K – I do like to work alone a lot, and that can be really productive, but its also great to have people around. I think the studios I’m in now are perfect because I can work alone when I want but if I’m bored I can walk down the hall and bug someone. More and more lately I’ve been interested in working on collaborative projects with other people just to mix things up. It starts to feel pretty anti-social being alone in a studio all the time. Often you can end up feeling like a shady vampire type. Working on this new show I was able to hire friends to work with me in the studio so it was actually quite lively. I had a friend do a couple of DJ sets while we worked. That was pretty great! Any working condition is improved by judicious cuts of Todd Terje and Floating Points.
M – Your show at Actual gallery (which was AMAZING) just came down. How did it feel showing in Winnipeg (where you currently live)? Did you feel differently than you do when your work is shown in other cities?
K – This show was actually the first solo show I’ve ever had in Winnipeg. Showing in Winnipeg was quite different. More nerve racking. Usually I just go to another city for a week, stay in a hotel and then leave soon after the opening happens. Its often a whirlwind of meeting new people, setting up, going out, etc, and then I split. Showing in Winnipeg actually felt a lot more like having a show for my family or something. I mean, my family literally went, but I also basically know most people in the art scene here so it’s really just a bunch of friends at the show. But somehow that actually made me more nervous.
M – What is your typical email send off?
K – I think for the last while I’ve been in a bit of an email send off crisis. It’s good to have a go to email send off, but it can seem a little insincere. Unless your send off is “Sincerely…”, I guess. Best! All the best! Cheers! Adios! Toot-a-loo! xoxo! Whatever.