In this exclusive interview, we invite you to step into Kristina Chan's artistic realm and delve into the creative journey of a rising star in the London art scene. Nestled amidst the bustling streets of London, Kristina's studio serves as a haven where traditional techniques intertwine with cutting-edge aesthetics, resulting in captivating works that challenge conventions and tell unique stories.
Tell us about your studio.
My studio is something from another century. It’s filled with printing presses and dark rooms. The smell of ink and white spirit is in the air and we have foxes that live on the roof. My work spans photographic and printmaking, the digital, analogue and mechanical and over the years I’ve been building my practice and studio to be able to facilitate and do everything in house. It’s been such a passion of mine and during lockdown I opened a print house from it with another artist Joao Villas. It’s based in an abandoned courthouse and we’ve called it Plaintiff Press. It’s where not only do we grow our own artistic practices, but we have editioned and published works for galleries and museums all over the world. There's just an atmosphere and ambiance there. I’m constantly inspired there.
What is your background?
My background is in fine art limited editions and reprographic print. I was trained in traditional printmaking practices as well as analogue and digital media manipulation. My speciality is photography and lithography. I love combining mediums to create works that blur the lines between photography, painting and print.
I graduated from the Royal College of Art (MA Print, 2016) and Parsons New School (BFA, 2013) and have travelled the world editioning for some of the top print houses in the world including Atelier Michael Woolworth (Paris), The Artists’ Press (South Africa), and Dieu Donne (New York), whose clients include William Kentridge, Jim Dine, and Mel Mochner, to name a few.
My own works reside in the Royal and Ingram Collection and V&A Museum permanent archives. In 2018, I was part of a small editioning team charged with restoring and re-editioning 19th century engraving plates for the British Museum.
How do you find motivation?
I’m endlessly motivated! And curious, and I think that’s a diabolical combination. I remember the day I saw my first print. It was a stone lithograph and that was the day I knew I needed to find out more about this incredible medium. It started with lithography then quickly diverged into etching, the history of photography and the dark room. I’ve always loved experimenting. The idea of it alone excites me.
If you could choose one song from one album to reflect your work, what would it be, and why?
Bloom by Paper Kites - I feel like I can see the light and landscape unfold in front of me. It’s a metaphor of course -- but it’s the layers, the calm, the distance, the exploration and imagination that I feel every time it plays.
You often draw inspiration from nature, how important is site specificity?Site specificity is an interesting aspect in my work. I always describe my works as pages of a story, remote and distant landscapes that tell the story of human impact from a perspective of geological or deep time. But as the years go by, I’ve begun to wonder if it serves more as a plea or reminder. I feel like we have gotten so disconnected with the world we inhabit. I grew up in Canada, on the edge of a National Park. There is a vastness, a smell and a perspective that gets lost in the city and in these borders we cast up for ourselves. I think it’s by escaping this construct, or perhaps, but decontextualising it, we allow ourselves, our perspectives and outlook to expand. I think it’s a way of finding place, within the landscape and ourselves.
Your work is rooted in photography with your images creating a sense of narrative, could you talk us through your image making process. How do you choose how the image will be finalised?
At the end of the day, I work intuitively. I like to think of print and photography as tools of expression. It all comes down to the emotion I want to evoke. After that, I find the method(s) that best allow me to express that.
Which three colours could you not do without?
An impossible question! I’ll limit myself to sunrise, sunset and moonlight 😏
How has your style or subject matter changed or developed?
I spent many years exploring architecture and interiors. I think that may be the most visually striking difference if you look at my earlier works. But for me, it’s always been about the narrative around the spaces that inspire me to create work around them. In this sense, it remains the same.
Who inspires you?
William Kentridge, Cornelia Parker, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Julia Mehretu, Tacida Dean, Hokusai.
If you could own one piece of artwork what would it be?
Thirty Pieces of Silver, Cornelia Parker
Alongside yourself, who would be in your ideal group exhibition (from any period of time)…
Rembrandt, Gaudi, Sarah Sze, (and everyone from Q11). And I’d like Goudi and Sze to construct the space itself. Although, it may never get finished…
Tell us about ‘Fault Lines’...
Fault Lines is an exhibition that features volcanic landscapes from the Pacific and Atlantic. I am fascinated by remote and unseen, often endangered, environments. Usually, I work within a more specific scope but in the last few years, I realised the places I was drawn to were located directly atop the fault lines of various tectonic plates. There is an incredible force in the idea behind the world pushing itself into the heavens, or conversely, opening up the earth. It tears at our assumptions and perspectives. There is an otherworldliness that I am drawn to. It opens up macrocosms, turns landscapes vertical and shifts the axis of our outlook entirely.
These environments are so unique. Some are arid, others tropical, but they feel Jurassic. There are cactuses as high as skyscrapers, leaves as wide as a car, while moss drapes and vines wrap around everything in sight until you cannot tell where one sight starts and another ends.
It is this interconnectedness I’m trying to evoke, which stems from the larger questions of the cost of human impact, renewal, and regrowth that inherently drives my work.
What are you currently working on, and what’s next?
I was exhibiting at Photo London in May, which was an amazing experience. Fault Lines will feature my most ambitious limited-edition box set of original etchings, which has been so exciting to see develop. Lastly, I am thrilled to share that I have been invited to participate in a residency around the Arctic Circle examining the glaciers and arctic landscapes, learning from glaciologists and geologists about climate change in one of the most affected environments. This will mark the beginning of my next project which will explore the narratives found in the ice, involve various partnerships and residencies with museums and galleries across Norway, Scotland and Canada.
We’re delighted to be working with Kristina on her latest exhibition ‘Fault Lines’ which is now showing. View, experience and purchase from the full collection either in gallery or online. Learn more about Kristina in our Artist Q&A and explore the full collection here.
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