In Conversation with Kristen Martincic
Interview with Create Zine 1 artist Kristen Martincic
Widely exhibited artist Kristen Martincic, recognised for her infatuation with H2O, spent her childhood on the banks of Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio and at local swimming pools. Surrounded by vast bodies of water, being in or near it has had a lasting effect on her career.
CZ: Would you say that you are infatuated with water and everything related to it?
KM: Yes, I love water and all things swimming or pool related! My siblings and I all swam competitively on our local swim team so we ended up spending most of our summers either in pools or at the lake. Being in or around water was a large part of what made summer feel like “summer”.
I have always been captivated by the stillness of being underwater. Being in water lets us consider our bodies in new ways and affects how we navigate through space. When we are in water, our senses are enveloped by the experience. It’s the feeling of water on our skin, the sensation of weightlessness, the muffled sound, the skewed line of sight, and the inescapable attention to the moment. It’s very experiential.
CZ: You have a love of making, and not just with ink but also in paper, clay and other materials. Where did you first begin to use your hands in a creative way?
KM: I came to making in a sort of roundabout way. I was Spanish major in undergrad and did a year-long study abroad in Spain my second year. While I was there, I traveled a lot & saw so much amazing art and architecture throughout Europe. I came away from that year craving the tactile experience of making, wanting more than to just look at art. When I went back to my university in the States, I started taking studio art classes and it just all took over from there. I worked with as many different materials as I could and fell in love with making.
CZ: If you had no constrains whatsoever, what would your ideal project be?
KM: I think part of the challenge of being an artist is working with and within constraints. I seem to respond to having some kind of parameter, be it an idea, a material, a certain size, a particular space, or a collaboration. That being said, I would love to work at a larger scale and still retain the sense of intimacy in the details.
CZ: Your aquatic palate is certainly distinctive and tonally explorative, how do you develop the colours you use? What inks are your most favourite to use?
KM: Thanks! I use A LOT of transparency in the printmaking inks I work with. And I build up my blues through multiple layers of really transparent blues & greens. The ink that is indispensible in my mixing is a lithography transparency base from Hanco. Most of the colors I mix up are 90 - 95% or higher in transparency base. Right now I am really in love with Charbonnel’s turquoise blue ink.
CZ: How did you create your Pool Series? What materials and process did you use?
KM: Several years ago, I had been doing more installation & sculptural work and had just finished an installation called “night swimming” that used a translucent blue nylon to create a pool space the viewer could walk around in. After finishing that project, I had to regroup and think what’s next. My husband asked me… how about making something smaller with pools, something that would fit easier into people’s lives. As often happens for me, one statement or question will stick. So it became a challenge for me to find a way to be as interested in making 2-D images as it is to create an environment. I did loads of small drawings and started working on these mixed media print, drawing, painting pieces on panel. I ended up tossing & completely redoing many of the initial pieces. After that point, I felt like I had found my way with them.
When it comes to pools, I am really drawn to the interior volume of swimming pools. I love the contrast between the clear light blues of the shallow end and the dark, slightly opaque blues of the diving well, and the full range of blues in between.
The pool series considers a pool’s structure as viewed through its cross-section. By bisecting the pool’s container, I solidify the water, leaving it brimming, uninhabited, and hovering in space. I like to move the two-dimensional image into object by bending water, ladders, and diving boards around the panel’s side. I try to isolate and reduce this environment to its most fundamental parts: the container, the access ladder, the pool tile, and most importantly, the water itself.
I love working on handmade Japanese papers and am particularly drawn to papers that are translucent. One of my favorites is Inshu Mitsumata; it’s translucent, warm and creamy in color, and prints so beautifully. The paper and the translucent blues & green inks that I print for water will just glow after I mount it to the white surface of a gessoed panel.
CZ: So what about the Sheer Suits series?
KM: The sheer suits came out of many conversations and a two-person show I had with my friend Althea Murphy-Price. Althea’s work uses hair, or representations of hair that are bound and tangled to raise issues of tension, discomfort, & surrender that are shaped by culture. Her work & our show made me want to push the sense of vulnerability with my bathing suit series a bit further. My sheer suits call attention to the body through absence. They focus on a sense of vulnerability, while playing between protection & exposure. They use a fine, drawn line that up close reference fabric textures, but through the placement it becomes body hair.
When it comes to the making, it takes a lot of steps but they all begin with a detailed sketch. After that, I make a pattern and then use that pattern to cut it out of paper. Then I print several layers of color ink to the paper and do the detailed linear work. Next, I sew the front & back together, turn them right side out, and finish the edges.
I work with various handmade Japanese papers like Matsuo Kozo or Inshu Mitsumata. These papers are thin & delicate, but are made up of long fibers that make them quite strong & durable. That lets me manipulate it in a way that’s similar to fabric. The papers themselves vary in color and have a beautiful translucency to them and are just fabulous to work with.
CZ: So you wouldn't rule out further collaborations?
KM: I have collaborated with several of artists; most often it’s been with close friends. I have had the opportunity to work with a couple master printers, which was an amazing experience. Working collaboratively can really take me out of my comfort zone and have found it to be an integral way for me to challenge my creative practice. It’s always a great source of dialogue for ideas & making. It reminds me to stay open to different modes of making & being as an artist. A lot of times the bigger pay off from a collaboration will be a month or two, or even a year or more down the road when a connection made earlier has the chance to really be fleshed out.
So sometimes the collaboration is more conceptual in how we are going to approaching say a two-person show. Or making work that is really a call & response to ideas, image, material, process. Sometimes it’s more of a hands-on collaboration. Right now my husband and I, who is a ceramic artist, are working on some collaborative vessels for an upcoming show we have this fall.
The original feature on Kristen Martincic was published in October 2016 in Create Zine Issue 1. For further info on the artist please visit her website.