Anemona Crișan | Interview

We had the opportunity to discover important insights regarding the work of Vienna based artist Anemona Crișan in an exclusive interview about her extraordinary site-specific installations and works on paper and canvas, about what inspires her and the core of her work.

Your current exhibition at UGM Studio in Maribor, Slovenia, on view through August 22nd, 2015, is entitled “Space Intruders” and presents an unconventional perspective on the connection between the human body and architecture. Your site specific works are often described as “space invading installations”. What is the aim and outcome of man’s intrusion in space? Is it a case of control over architecture, trying to extend space to infinity, distort it or overcome its limits?

My spatial installations evolved from classical panels, which I felt the need to extend into real space at a certain point. In the beginning it was about breaking out of the limits of the panel into real architecture, that’s why in the first installations there is still a panel involved, which is the starting point of the spatial expansion.

Anemona Crișan - Un-Constrained

A. Crișan - Un-Constrained

Title/ Year: ‘Un-Constrained’ (2011)
Size/ Institution: 200 x 150 cm, tapes variable, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna (Diploma)
Material: pencil, acrylic/canvas, tapes
Photos: Th. Fr., Vienna

I always include the body, its parts or corporeal elements in these works, because I feel the need to give architecture, which is mostly inert and inanimate, an organic layer. By that, I enable the viewers to connect themselves with the space and their drawn counterpart on a physical, as well as an emotional level.

I understand architecture as an external body, a second skin, that is not given by nature, but designed and built by man. I want to confront and connect these two bodies. Therefore these works show the fight between the body in the drawing and the real architecture, which is of course a very powerful opponent. It is the struggle of the individual to change a system that seems larger, stronger and more powerful than himself, but which – in the end – is a system he himself has created, a system that protects but also isolates him from the outside world.

The body needs to be strong enough to face the space, and have the power to change it. This act is aggressive, an intrusion, an attempt to control and change architecture, to distort it and overcome its limits. However, in the end there is never a “winner”, both parts interlace, the outcome is a symbiosis between body and space.

Tell us more about the exhibition and this theme which has been the core of your artistic activity in the past years.

‘Space Intruders’, the current exhibition at UGM Maribor, summarizes the different ways of approaching architectural space, which I have explored in my works so far. It consists of three larger installations that show the idea of invading and changing the space through corporeal elements by the means of drawing. Each installation is built for and connected to a certain space (exhibition space, display window and public space) and evolves gradually from two to three-dimensionality, the climax being the installation in the exhibition space, which invades and shifts the space by using elastic bands.

I chose the title “Space Intruders” because this is the essence of my artistic approach in these installations, to conquer, invade and change space.

A. Crișan - Space Intruders

A. Crișan - Space Intruders

Title/ Year: ‘Space Intruders’ (2015)
Institution: UGM Maribor, Slovenia
Material: mixed media (elastic bands, ink, tapes)
Photos: Anemona Crișan

Your representation of human anatomy through the drawing of muscles, of hair and vessels amplifies the feeling of a physical connection between man and architecture. What about the emotional component you mentioned? How does man relate to architecture in your works – is it an extension of the body or of the mind as well?

On the anatomical level I see the body as a living mechanical architecture, where the technical, rational aspect of anatomy is important. That’s why I use anatomic and geometric elements as a visual link between body and architecture.

On an emotional level, I perceive the body as the space of physical thinking. It is the reservoir for our emotions, instincts, physical and aesthetic experiences, the primary source of decisions and the foundation of our self.

While the rationale always follows a binary path splitting reality in “yes” or “no”, emotions are often contradictory, ambiguous, can’t be pinpointed or put into words, yet they bring together the opposites. Thought and emotion, strength and weakness, dependence and independence can coexist, being two sides of the same coin.

In my works, installations and drawings alike, I always try to reach this certain point of in-betweenness, where the conflicting tension between opposites is at the same time a state of oneness and balance. A stillness resulting out of rage.

Therefore this extension of the body into architecture has both a physical and an emotional aspect.

Share a few insights about the geometry of your installations, the recurring vortex motif, the use of disruptive and intense red lines contrasting with the blackness of the human presence and the whiteness of the walls, and why you chose a dynamic representation of the connection between the living body and inert architecture.

Alongside with my interest in ancient art and art history I found a lot of inspiration in spatial technical drawings of architecture and sculpture. And I’ve always been fascinated by astronomy, especially the idea of the universe as an infinite space, and as a consequence by science fiction literature and movies. Architecture and astronomy are two spatial paradigms, architecture as limited space built by man and the cosmos as the idea of an infinite space.

Geometry

In my installations I like to use geometry as a reference to technical drawings, because it allows me to connect anatomical and architectural elements. This geometry started out two-dimensional and spread as a trompe l’œil over the walls. In my permanent installation at Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum in Innsbruck, which I made early this year, I took the geometry a step further into space and made a shift from two to three-dimensionality, the lines now become cubes and turn into architecture.

A. Crișan - Intervention

A. Crișan - Intervention

A. Crișan - Intervention

Title/ Year: ‘Intervention’ (2015)
Institution: Tiroler Landesmuseum Fedinandeum, Innsbruck, Austria
Material: ink, acrylic, wood
Photos: Anemona Crișan

Color

Red, white, and black are the most basic colors. Red makes the connection to the body, refers to the flesh, and life in general. Black is the essential color of the drawing, emphasizing the line, which is the most basic means of expression. And white is no color per se, but represents the space as such.

The dynamic representation of the body

So far I liked to use a dynamic representation of the body to break the inertness of the architecture, because I feel the need to let this body explode, shift and change its environment. It’s a youthful gesture, reminding us of the idea of “Sturm und Drang”.

A. Crișan - Inwards

Title/ Year: ‘Inwards’ (2014)
Institution: Zacheta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland
Material: acrylic, tapes
Photo: Anemona Crișan

The vortex

The vortex motif appeared first in smaller works, mainly as a dynamic element which evolved from small drawings of hair partings to larger works, where the body itself dissolves into or comes out of an abstract energetic vortex of red lines, that look like muscle fibers or flames.

A. Crișan - Embodying the Space

A. Crișan - Embodying the Space

Title/ Year: ‘Embodying the Space’ (2012)
Institution: Galerie im Andechshof, Innsbruck, Austria
Material: acrylic, tapes
Photos: Anemona Crișan

A. Crișan - Vortex

Title/ Year: ‘Vortex’ (2013)
Size: 210 x 150 cm
Material: ink/canvas
Photos: Anemona Crișan, Vienna

In my latest paintings I left the white space (the reference to architecture) and approached the idea of limitless space (cosmos), ironically by using rather small sized canvases. The works are inspired by astronomy, showing rather abstract corporeal constructions (mostly heads) that are painted in white and grey on a black ground. In these rather abstract works I explore space only by using light and darkness, presence and absence. The Head has been a constant motif in my works from the very beginng. To me, it’s the conjunction of body and mind, the space of thoughts and feelings.

In the latest works I use the head as a mirror for the viewer. The challenge here is to show a face without any individual traits: there are no eyes, mouth or nose, yet you feel the essence of a presence, a counterpart, without being able to identify a certain person.

A. Crișan - Head

Title/ Year: ‘Head’ (2015)
Size: 53 x 46 cm
Material: ink/canvas
Photo: Anemona Crișan

In your works on paper and canvas, it seems that the lines, the space, are rather the ones invading the body, holding it captive or giving it form and life, sometimes almost fully absorbing it in the blue, red or grey lines.  What determines this change in your drawings?

In contrast to spatial installations, where I feel the need to expand the drawing to envelop the whole space, works on paper and canvas are always limited by their size. In some works I emphasize these limits. In the latest dark works however, where the figure is a construction of light coming out of the dark, it’s the opposite effect. Despite the small size of the canvas, the presence of the body (head) is very strong and radiates into the surrounding space.

Anemona Crișan - Infinity (double portrait)

Title/ Year: ‘Infinity (double portrait)’ (2015)
Size: 38 x 43 cm each
Material: ink/canvas
Photo: Anemona Crișan

We would like to talk about your interventions in the public space. Did you notice anything different in the way people interpret and interact with your works when not in the gallery?

I’ve had two interventions in public space so far, one of these being “Turning Point” a permanent installation in Vienna, which I made in 2012.

A. Crișan - Turning-Point

Title/ Year: ‘Turning-Point’ (2012)
Institution: Yppenplatz, public art, Vienna
Material: acrylic, tapes
Photo: Anemona Crișan

The other intervention is part of my current exhibition at UGM Maribor.

A. Crișan - Space Intruders

Title/ Year: ‘Space Intruders’ (2015)
Institution: UGM Maribor, Slovenia
Photo: Anemona Crișan

Usually I need up to two weeks to set up such an installation, depending on the size of the space and the weather conditions. The intervention in Vienna took me 14 days, since it was consisting of two parts, a walldrawing (that is still on display) and floortapes. I had the chance to work on a large square on a Viennese market. I must confess, that working as an artist in public space is challenging but very rewarding. You get in touch with so many different people and the longer I worked the more people got involved into the process. People of any age, nationality, gender, social and educational background, people you’d never meet in an exhibition space. Some came with questions leaving me with interesting new views, some brought me food and drinks, some came every day to see the process and check on me. I wouldn’t have finished in time, if there hadn’t been a retired floorer who helped me with the tapes. There was only one incident with a local politician who was really ignorant and rude, suspecting me to work there illegally.

How do you feel about art on the streets and your works being part of the urban landscape?

In the last years street art has very much evolved into an art form, bringing back some interesting ideas “high” art had already forgotten. I’m not that much a fan of tagging and street art that is related only to protest. I like those pieces, that try to be artistic as well, and go beyond social or political issues.

Have you also considered creating temporary or permanent outdoor installations?

I’m very open to working in public space. Of course, such works usually require a lot of preparation especially in terms of permissions by official authorities and funding but I hope I’ll have the opportunity to make such a work again.

What have been the best and worst experiences in your activity as an artist so far? 

Well a great experience is to be honestly rewarded for your work, in terms of interest and of money. Of course I’m very happy to be active as an artist, since this is the one thing that satisfies me the most and luckily this is an ongoing feeling.

The worst experience I think, was the Academy time in Vienna and my artistic studies, which brought me very far away from myself and my work for a long time, but in the end that made me want to make art even more, so I guess it turned out to be a good lesson in the end. I’m an optimist, so there are no bad experiences, I guess.

Tell us how you perceive your artistic evolution to this point, what inspired you to follow this path and how you wish to continue.

It sounds like a cliché but I’ve always wanted to become an artist. Being the offspring of two artists I guess this is not such a big surprise or challenge. However, my personal challenge was to be patient and give me the time to find out what I want to do, what my work is about, what my authentic artistic idea and attitude will be and how I want it to be reflected and conveyed through my work. This takes time, and you need to give you that time as a young artist, otherwise you’ll never get a personal artistic attitude, which you need to have before you get involved with art market, galleries etc.

Having a personal view is hard in the beginning, you have to stick to your path and views for a while, until people can’t ignore that you’re around and then things start to move.

As for my wishes for the future: I want to work work work! I’m very much looking forward to upcoming projects, one of which will be a show at Kunstverein Gelsenkirchen in Germany in October, where I’ll get an unusual space to work with. I’m eager to develop my work and see where it will get me.

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More info about Anemona Crișan on her website.

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