How They See

By Piotr Jastrzębski

How They See - Issue #24: Anna Kruhelska on connecting architecture with art






How They See

December 12 · Issue #24 · View online

How They See will help you to meet artists from all over the globe and understand their perception of art.


Published weekly on Saturday.

Anna Kruhelska is based in Łódź, Poland. A city I consider as a polish architectural hidden gem. She has a background in architecture and has worked in this field on international projects in Russia, Malaysia, and the UK. 
With this experience, Anna Kruhelska focuses on spatial, abstract artworks made from paper. What I have found unique, is that perception of her art is directly connected with a play between light, shade and the viewer’s perspective. Apart from architecture, she is also inspired by minimalism, geometry and origami.
You can learn more about Anna Kruhelska on her website or Instagram.

You are based in Łódź, I was surprised to learn that during my research to our interview. I love this city. You can go for a walk and suddenly discover a very old building which in another European city could be a monument. Sadly, in Łódź very frequently you can see them falling apart.
That’s true but thankfully it’s changed dramatically over the last few years. In the 19th century Łódz used to be a bustling textile industry metropolis but fell into decline in the 90s, after the fall of communism. Years of economic problems have led to many abandoned factories and dilapidated tenement houses left to decay in some of the most central areas of the city. Happily, a few years ago the city received the largest EU funding for urban renewal in Poland and the whole city has been changing very rapidly since then. As a result, many neglected tenement houses throughout the entire city centre have been renovated and few former factories turned into shopping and entertainment hubs. It’s slowly becoming a really nice place to live in. 
To sum up, Lódź is not as grim as it may seem. There are loads of hidden gems scattered around the city, quite often tucked away in side alleys or courtyards. Worth mentioning that it also has one of the best museums of modern art in Poland so it’s definitely worth a visit. 
Lódź, Vienna and London, you have studied in different cities. Having such experience, how this has affected your perception of education?
Studying in a few different cities was a great experience. I’d highly recommend any student to seek opportunities to study abroad. There are loads of student exchange programmes and internships available right now so I’m sure it can be done.  
Studying at three universities gave me an opportunity to see how differently architectural education can be approached. Currently, there is an ongoing debate across the profession regarding lack of standardisation of the architectural education across the world and I can confirm that’s the case. There are some programs that lean towards design and innovation and others that lean on technological resources. If that’s what you’re looking for, you can also find a programme that focuses on practicality and environmental sustainability. 
Unfortunately, most of these courses have one thing in common – they are quite detached from the profession. What I mean is that you can spend 5-7 years developing your imagination, designing beautiful, but quite often unbuildable, structures not knowing how to draw a waterproofing detail or how to prepare a feasibility study for a competition entry. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying developing imagination is wrong but with such technical field as architecture I’d like it to be balanced with more practical knowledge. 
Anna Kruhelska, untitled 086 - 100x150cm, paper, 2020
Anna Kruhelska, untitled 086 - 100x150cm, paper, 2020
If you could look at your professional career from the perspective: what has given you the most fulfilment: working as an architect or creating art? 
Hard to say as I’ve been an architect for the last 15 years and an artist for just over 3 years. I’m sure of one thing though – creating art gives me more freedom. I’m the only one working on a piece and the only thing I’m bound by is my imagination. 
Both professions are deeply connected with creativity, yet I think there are differences. I am wondering whether it allows you to gain more perspective or context switching could be problematic.
For sure these two professions are deeply connected with creativity but as far as I see it - that’s about it when you think about similarities.  
As I mentioned before, being an artist is great as you can do whatever you want. No one is telling you which material to use or what size the artwork should be. You can think of the most awkward or bizarre sculpture and if only you can construct, carve or weld it together – no one will stop you from doing that. 
Working on an architectural project is quite a different story. There is always client’s brief that you need to design to, the budget you need to stay within and not least building regulations you need to adhere to…
As I tend to work on large scale projects, I always work in a team. There are two or three other architects working on the same project and the whole design team (including structural engineers, acousticians, services engineers, etc.) very often consists of more than ten people. 
I know that in movies you just draw a few lines on a napkin and a few minutes later you can see your vision being built. Sadly it’s not the case in a real life. 
I love being an architect and for sure I’m not giving it up – I just wanted to try something new, something that would give me more creative freedom. I love being able to choose the composition I want to develop, colours I want to use and emotions I want to convey.  
Switching between art and architecture is great as these two professions complement each other so well. Art gives me the freedom that is sometimes hard to find in architecture and the architecture gives me practicality and down-to-earthiness that the art is often deprived of. 
What is the most challenging part of working with paper? It is a very flexible medium, however on the other hand very prone to errors.
That’s true. I’d say that it is its fragility.  On the one hand, it’s very easy to work with – you can crease it by hand, bend it, fold it or do whatever you want without using any tools. On the other hand, it’s very fragile and easy to damage. One has to be extremely careful while working with paper. Too much strength put to creasing will tear it, unintentional touch will crease it… 
Anna Kruhelska, untitled 092 - 100x150cm, paper, 2020
Anna Kruhelska, untitled 092 - 100x150cm, paper, 2020
Let’s assume that during the process, the error actually occurs. How do you approach such situations?
Usually, I start with swearing. I do it just because I know how hard it will be to fix it. 
If it’s a creased solid – it’s not the end of the world as I can cut a new one and replace the damaged one. Nevertheless, it’s always nerve-racking as I need to be very careful not to damage the backing board or the adjacent solids while removing the damaged piece. 
Touch wood, it hasn’t happened to me yet but my biggest nightmare is a glue drop landing on the border of the almost finished artwork. Sometimes, when I close my eyes I can see this beautiful work I’ve been working on for the last week or so - only a few solids left to assemble the whole piece. Then I can see my hand moving slowly towards the canvas with a next solid and this tiny little drop of glue very very slowly dripping from the solid I’m just trying to fix and landing on the clean piece of backing board surrounding the whole artwork. Cutting it short – impossible to remove, whole work lands in the bin. 
As I hate fixing errors I prefer to think of ways to prevent them from happening. I spend quite a lot of time thinking about any tricky bits that I may encounter while assembling the piece and I try to design them out. This approach works quite well in architecture so I’ve borrowed it and use it when working on my art.  
You have moved recently, as far as I have seen, from smaller format (50x50 cm) to a bigger one (100 x 70 cm). What challenges does it bring? Do you plan to explore larger formats further?
I already did. I’ve just finished working on four 100x150cm pieces and I‘m already planning to do more of these. It was quite a laborious task as each of the artworks consists of more than a thousand single solids. It took me a lot of time and patience to put it together but I was super happy seeing the end result so well worth the effort. 
I’d like to go even bigger but I’ll need to look for a larger studio first. 
I have been looking at photos of your works, put together next to each other.  Suddenly I have realised that they are not separate entities. There is a continuous flow from one to another. Is this intentional?
There are a few pieces that work in pairs. The pattern indeed flows from one frame to the next so if bought as a pair these could work as diptychs or just one big artwork. It was intentional but as each of artworks works perfectly as an individual piece as well I don’t mind seeing them separately. Recently I’ve seen such a pair hanging on a wall in a beautifully designed apartment – funny enough this pair was designed as a horizontal piece and interior designers decided to hang them vertically. It totally changed the perception but I liked it a lot. 
I try not to impose the way the artwork should be presented. I want the viewer to play with it and discover it. That’s why all of my works have a hanging system on all four sides so that they can be rotated and hanged in a way that suits the interior best. 
Anna Kruhelska, untitled 072 - 100x70cm, paper, 2020
Anna Kruhelska, untitled 072 - 100x70cm, paper, 2020
Yayoi Kusama was the first name that has appeared in my head when I first saw your art. I couldn’t help to associate it with her love for patterns and meditation like experience during the creative process she has mentioned in interviews. Does she influence your art? (can you elaborate who inspires you the most?)
That’s interesting, but no, I’m not influenced by her art. I like the aesthetic though. To be honest I’m mainly inspired by architecture, especially parametric facades or innovative wall cladding systems. Nature is also a great source of inspiration for me. Landscapes, flowers or movement of the wind or the waves… all sorts of things really. 
If I were to name one artist that inspires me it would be Yuko Nishimura. She creates abstract, white paper reliefs that are so clean, neat and simply elegant that I could easily spend half of a day just staring at them. 
What is so special in origami and chip carving technique, popular in the southern part of Poland?
First of all, they’re both beautiful. I especially like origami tessellations and corrugations. Looking at them I’m constantly amazed as to what can be achieved just by folding a flat piece of paper. What fascinates me is how a sheet material, like paper, can be transformed into a 3d shape. In fact, It doesn’t need to be paper as very similar 3d patterns can be achieved by pleating a piece of fabric. 
What I also find attractive in origami is its close relationship with science. It’s not only beautiful but also finds loads of applications in real life. For instance, flat-foldability is often used when things need to be folded flat before deployment. Think about paper bags, car airbag or stent implants – all of these designs derive from origami. Also, many space projects have used folding principles of origami. There is a great TED talk (The math and magic of origami) by origami master Robert Lang who helped NASA with fitting a telescope as big as a football pitch into a 5m diameter rocked for a launch into space. 
Anna Kruhelska, detail photo of one of the work
Anna Kruhelska, detail photo of one of the work
Can you give some advice to any self-taught artist or designer?
I’d tell them to explore and to enjoy the journey. Young artist quite often focus only on the end product and leave very little time for studies and exploration. Many tend to forget that getting great at drawing or painting takes a lot of time and dedication. It’s the same as with any other learned skill. I’d advise them not to ignore the growth and self-discovery that can come through the creative process. Take your time, fall in love with the process and the results will come. 
What is your favourite colour? 
Dark red
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