Architerior spoke to American artist Lisa Krannichfeld who has discovered an interesting way to use watercolour and chinese ink when creating portraits. The fluid and mysteriously beautiful result has made her a rising star in the art world. Lisa’s work will be available through Retrospect Gallery at the upcoming Affordable Art Fair in Stockholm.
Lisa, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Lisa Krannichfeld and I live and work out of Little Rock, Arkansas USA. I’m a second generation born American – my maternal grandparents immigrated to the American South from China in the early 1900’s. They owned and operated a grocery store in the Mississippi Delta Region where my mother was born. I am the only artist that I know of to come out of my family.
How did you find your way to working with art?
I would say my first memories of loving art were in early elementary school. I distinctly remember having drawing contests with a couple of the boys in my class. I wanted to draw equally as much as I wanted show the boys that a girl was just as good, if not better, than them at something. Turns out, I was! I always got the greatest joy out of creating something with my hands and that joy has stuck with me.
You are famous for your ink paintings – please tell us more about the idea and technically how they are made. How did this become your art genre?
Growing up I was a bit bitter towards my mother for never teaching me Chinese. I envy those that are fluent in multiple languages for their ability to express so much. So, while in college I decided to take Chinese classes on my own. To help me learn the characters, and to satiate a creative itch, I decided to take a traditional Chinese calligraphy and brush painting night class. Although, I never reached fluency in Chinese, I did have an experience that still affects my art to this day. It was the first time I used Chinese ink and a Chinese brush and I immediately fell in love with both. The ink moves in drastic, sometimes unpredictable, and beautiful ways. The strokes that you get with a Chinese brush are unlike any other.
From then on, I have continually used the medium although not with the traditional subject matter of Chinese characters. I began painting figurative studies with a lot of water to loosen up the lines. This all lead incrementally to what I’m doing now. I start every painting with the ink mixed with varying amounts of water. This sets the tone immediately of how the rest of the painting will unfold. While the painting is still very wet I add watercolors, both eastern and western style colors. This whole process happens rather quickly before the water starts to dry, feeding off the energy of my hand and arm movements. After that dries I collage in various Asian papers that bring a harsh orderly juxtaposition to my loose painting. Lastly I cover the entire piece with several coats of resin to bring the painting back to it’s wet look and to seal all of the materials into one piece.
How does your work connect to or disconnect from the history of ink painting?
I would say that they only way my work connects to the history of Chinese ink painting is that both aim to capture the essence of the subject, not just a realistic external appearance. Traditional Chinese painting is born out of this concept. I’m much more interested in capturing a sense of energy and emotion in expressions, not in reproducing how an object looks visually. Traditional Chinese ink calligraphers and painters are not interested in painting a certain Chinese character for what the character reads, but rather what energy and emotional qualities the individual brushstrokes that make up the character read. My portraits are much the same.
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Are you interested in traditional Chinese ink painting also or do you stay in the modern era when searching for inspiration?
Most of the artists that I follow and admire are contemporary working artists. Most of them focus on figurative or portraiture which is also the focus of my work. It’s fun to see all the different ways artists interpret the human experience.
How do you determine the colours and motifs of the paintings – is it on purpose or by accident?
I purposely aim to have a lot of contrast in my work between materials, colors, patterns, and textures. I’ll intentionally choose patterns and colors that don’t seem to match upon first glance. I also try to have a sense of unbridled fierceness and wildness in the facial expressions of my portraits, so I often infuse animals and nature motifs in the patterns as well.
Which of your paintings would you say is your absolute favourite, and why?
My current series “Undomesticated Interiors” are my favorite paintings right now.
They are the most complex pieces I’ve done and I feel that everything I’ve done prior has clearly led me to these pieces. They are also the most narrative pieces I’ve done and it is so fun to hear viewers interpret their own meanings when looking at them. They are also my current favorite pieces because I used my beloved German Shepherd, Juno, as a model for all the dogs in the paintings. She recently passed away unexpectedly, so I now look at these paintings with a certain tenderness aside from their artistic meaning.
What is the best thing about working with ink, compared to other materials?
I love that ink works so well with spontaneity. I hate overthinking work and ink has a way to prevent this. Each piece takes a life of its own while I’m working and ink is definitely the catalyst for this.
What are you working on right now, and what can we expect from you in the future?
Right now I’m working on larger scale figures that are cropped in interesting and jarring ways. I am also still working on some new Undomesticated Interiors. I have several upcoming shows I’m preparing for. Even though the compositions and materials may change or adjust in my work, I feel that there is always a recognizable aesthetic connecting all the work back to me. You can expect that I will always be making new work and embracing experimentation along the way.
According to you – why should collectors choose paper artworks when buying art?
There is a certain intimacy to a works on paper. It’s wonderful to see what an artist does with a material that is so readily available but also unforgiving. Paper records every action you make and leaves it there for others to see in such a pure way. There’s no lathering it behind layers of paint to hide “mistakes”. As an artist I prefer working on paper to anything else because it records honestly what I do to it and collectors get an intimate peek at that by collecting this kind of work.
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