How They See

By Piotr Jastrzębski

How They See - Issue #29: Caroline Kryzecki on creating your own truth about art





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How They See

January 30 · Issue #29 · View online

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

Published irregularly.

Caroline Kryzecki’s art is my biggest discovery of 2020. It is not that I was a frequent visitor in galleries during the pandemic year, sadly it was not this case. With my wife, we attended only one show, in a legendary Berlin music club: Berghain. It was late September.
To this very day, I remember walking to the first room and moment when I spotted BB 190/150–01. It was pure magic, I kept coming back to this piece dozen of times to look closer at the pattern. When I didn’t, I still saw the blue artwork from the distance. Exhibition in Berghain included one little disadvantage: when you moved to visit the next room, you couldn’t go back. I suppose there were regulations caused by a coronavirus, nevertheless, I highly praise the people behind this exhibition for organising the overall experience. It was fantastic.
Immediately after the exhibition, I have contacted Caroline to ask about the interview.
You can learn more about Caroline Kryzecki art by visiting her Instagram or website.

BB 190/150–01. Instantly when I have seen this work – I fell in love. At first I thought the patterns are fully printed, but looking at it, I have distinguished paint marks. Is it your intention to mix analogue and digital worlds in your art?
It is very interesting to me, that the viewers connote my work with something digital, be it the ballpoint pen drawings as well as my new BETHANY / BERLIN series. Both are completely analogue series of works. All my works are planned and realised completely by hand. The question comes up in my way of working though. The phenomenological impression seems to suggest something digital. But it was a very conscious decision for me not to work with the computer. Working with my hands and with „real“ materials is very important to me. The process is very direct – from my mind into my hand onto the paper. Without any detours. I don’t do sketches before I start a work. I believe in the intelligence of my hands.
What does the digital world mean to you? As I have mentioned in the beginning, you can’t omit the comparison. I have seen such analogies made in a couple of exhibitions’ catalogues.
The moire pattern often arises as a mistake in a printing process. Or on a screen, when images cannot be resolved correctly. That’s why you associate some of my works phenomenologically with the digital world. But analogue, handmade art touches me much more. I am interested in the beginnings of digital art though, like the plotter drawings by Manfred Mohr or Vera Molnar. I am intrigued by codes languages and graphic notations. This is a topic that brings together the analogue and the digital world. I am also fascinated by the history and cultural heritage of weaving, which only at second glance is in relation to the production of digital images. Currently I am working on so called cartridge papier. This technical graph paper was originally used for designing patterns for textiles. The designs were subsequently translated onto punch cards based on binary codes, and the punch cards were used to operate the jacquard looms. The punch card is the earliest storage medium, which is why woven jacquard textiles are considered the first digital images.
Caroline Kryzecki, studio view, Residency at The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 2019
Caroline Kryzecki, studio view, Residency at The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 2019
I must say that I kept coming back a couple of times to your work, despite the fact that the room in Berghain was full of other objects. I was constantly curious. What do you want to convey to the viewer?
The production of a work is something very intimate. In my working process I never think about the viewer. If so, then I would have to think the work from the end. What do I want to trigger in the viewer? How is the work perceived? My work emerges in the process, on which I must focus my attention. Not the viewer. Of course I want my work to be seen, but there is no such thing as „the“ observer. It’s another part that only comes into play after the work has left the studio.
When I have looked at your art, one name constantly was appearing in my head: Agnes Martin. Has she influenced you?
Yes, I do admire her work since many years and I have read a lot about her. She was an outstanding artist. It is interesting that you mention her, since I was not so much into her work recently. But already a couple of people associated my new body of work to her. I am very honored by that. But we certainly have completely different approaches to work. One of Agnes Martin’s credos was to wait for inspiration, and only then to start with a new painting. With me, it’s the other way round. The inspiration comes only during the process.
Caroline Kryzecki, BB 190/150–01, water colour and screen print on paper, 190 x 150 cm
Caroline Kryzecki, BB 190/150–01, water colour and screen print on paper, 190 x 150 cm
You had also an opportunity to learn from renown art teachers: Daniel Richter, Anselm Reyle and Robert Lucander. What are the most important lessons that you have received?
Since I studied with these three very different painters I learned, that there’s not one truth about art. You have to create your own approach, your own language, your own truth, which can be anything in the world. And that is something no one can teach you. And then another important thing: Always be aware of art history. Don’t waste your time inventing things that already exist. And do as many mistakes as possible. Failing is learning.
Can you describe your process? How do you come up with the ideas and later transform them to the paper?
It’s not that I have one bright idea that is then immediately implemented. It’s a process that depends on many different factors. I think the big direction is decided unconsciously at first and is certainly also dependent on coincidences. If I hadn’t been in Istanbul in 2012 for half a year, I probably wouldn’t have developed the ballpoint pen drawings. If I hadn’t been at the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation residency in 2019, I wouldn’t have developed the new BETHANY / BERLIN series. Developing a new series is a bit like traveling to a country you don’t know that much about. The longer you’re there, the more you find out about the country, its culture and its people. The longer I worked on the ballpoint pen drawings, the more I found out about them. When I thought I already knew everything, there were always moments when I found out something new. And I only learn that by going through this process, over and over again. There is no shortcut. Again and again, patterns emerged that I didn’t understand myself at first. It’s like dancing between control and coincidence.
I assume that it requires a very high level of precision. How are you dealing with errors, that inevitably must occur along the way?
Since my stay in Istanbul in 2012 as part of the Berlin Senate Cultural Exchange Fellowship, I have been working with ballpoint pen on paper. With the four classic ballpoint pen colors black, blue, red and green I draw at least two layers of parallel line grids on top of each other, which are shifted at different angles to each other. The sometimes large-format moiré drawings (up to 270x190 cm) I develop serially and systematically. My works arise from a mixture of calculation and chance, of perfection and imprecision. The distances between the parallel lines are only a few millimeters. Sometime very small changes make a huge difference in the outcome. If I make a mistake, I can’t undo it. Also my new BETHANY / BERLIN series is in this field of tension between repetitive work and precision on the one hand and the sensual experience of color and rhythm on the other. My work is derived from the tension between concentration and the pursuit of perfection on one side as well as mistakes and human inaccuracies on the other side. This is what makes my work human. If it was developed digitally it would look entirely different. Errors are a very important part of my work. Often they are giving the impulse for a new work.
Caroline Kryzecki, KSZ 270/190–05, 2019, ballpoint pen on paper, 270 x 190 cm
Caroline Kryzecki, KSZ 270/190–05, 2019, ballpoint pen on paper, 270 x 190 cm
How do you title your works? I’ve read that you developed your own code language.
My titles are denotative and very matter-of-fact. They start with a letter abbreviation, for the ballpoint pen drawings this is KSZ (for Kugelschreiberzeichnung), the new BETHANY / BERLIN works start with BB. Then follows the size indication, separated by a hyphen. The works are numbered chronologically. A title for a ballpoint pen drawing, for example, is KSZ 200/152–23. It’s a perfect system, so I don’t have to pull titles out of my fingers.
My ballpoint pen drawings became more and more complex and at one point I started to develop an analogue code language for my drawing system. The code is composed of abbreviations for the parameters that are relevant for my drawings. For example, the color (black, red, blue or green), the orientation of the line (horizontal or vertical), the distances between the lines, the number of layers on top of each other, and so on. I have a book in which I have been writing down the codes for all my ballpoint pen drawings since 2015. For me, the code is like the spine of the work. In the meantime, a consistent system has emerged that I would like to visualize one day.
You have done works on both: small and big formats, some of them really unusual, like on a floor. How are you dealing with switching between sizes? How does working with each of the sizes differ from each other?
Each size has its justification. Small formats are important for trying out new structures and codes and for creating series. The giant formats work quite differently because they have a strong physical component. When I produce these works, I have to walk back and forth at my drawing table. The large formats are physically and mentally quite challenging.
In my solo show “Come out (to show them)” in 2017 at SEXAUER Gallery in Berlin, I translated my ballpoint pen drawings into a monumental spatial installation. Almost 800 hand-printed silkscreens covered the entire gallery floor of 230 sqm. That was very exciting, because I saw the result only shortly before the opening and before it was not yet clear whether it would work. It was a nice surprise that the red tone of the floor turned the white walls and ceiling of the gallery pink. In preparation for the exhibition, I intensively studied the work of the American composer Steve Reich. The exhibition title refers to an early work by Steve Reich in which he experimented with phase shifts. As part of the exhibition, flutist and composer Aaron Dan gave a concert on my floor piece, where he premiered a composition based on one of my drawings.
Caroline Kryzecki, floor piece 2, screen prints on paper, Sexauer Gallery, Berlin 2017
Caroline Kryzecki, floor piece 2, screen prints on paper, Sexauer Gallery, Berlin 2017
In a previous question, I have mentioned a floor, but you have also done work on a wall. If you could use your imagination, is there a place you would like to make your art on?
Not a specific place. But I would love to do more site specific works in a larger scale.
Is using a pen to perform large-format works comfortable and not associated with any constraints?
My largest size is 270 x 190 cm. Using a pen to fill a paper in this size with lines is a ridiculous working material. I work on it on my huge 3x3 meters drawing table. I am literally walking a few steps, to draw a line as long as almost three meters. Back and forth. And back and forth. If I want to see the work as a whole, I climb a ladder to see it from a reasonable distance at least. So I am partly working “blind“. The finished work I see only in the end, when it is installed on the wall. Only then can I decide whether the work has been successful or not.
You are associated with works made with a pen. However, there are paintings you have done using watercolours or gouache. How difficult is it, to do something different when you are identified with one technique or tool?
Well, it takes some time to develop a new approach to the work. In my perspective, these new works are not entirely different to the ballpoint pen drawings. It is the thinking that finds a new form. In 2019 I have been invited by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation for an artist residency in Connecticut. It turned out that artist residencies always have a strong impact on my work. And after the Albers Residency, it felt like a very natural moment for starting with something new. It’s a process, it is not something I plan. In the working process, sometimes it’s time for zooming in and sometimes it’s time for zooming out. This also helps to define the field. Going deeper into a topic to get to the heart of it or expanding the field again. Both has its warranty. I don’t know from the beginning how productive a topic is.
Caroline Kryzecki, exhibition view COUNTING SILENCE, Sexauer Gallery, Berlin 2020
Caroline Kryzecki, exhibition view COUNTING SILENCE, Sexauer Gallery, Berlin 2020
Can you give some advice to any self-taught artist or designer?
Be open to everything, expect nothing. Appreciate detours and failure. Find your own language. I love Sol LeWitt’s 5th Sentence On Conceptual Art: “Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically“.
What is your favourite colour?
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