MUNTHE ART MONDAY: ELISABETH KISS
From: Denmark, Hårbølle, Møn
Art form: Textile designer and visual artist
Web: elisabethkiss.com / k-o-n-t-o.dk
Photo: Morten Bencke (@mortenbencke)
Please introduce yourself and tell us about what you do.
My name is Elisabeth Kiss. I am a textile designer and visual artist. I have a master in textile design from KADK (The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts). I live with my family at Hårbølle on Møn.
I work in the tension field between design and art where I create colourful works which span from decorating of whole rooms to small textile works.
My focus lies in the exploration of the boundaries of textiles where I experiment with colours, materials, and composition. I regard my works as textile collages, put together by objects and materials with a tactile story. In my works I experiment between the flat and the spatial, colours and materials.
Colours are my centre. It is in the experiments with colours, the interplay and contrasts of colours, the exploration of creating balance and imbalance that I find the greatest satisfaction in creating new things. To me colours are atmosphere, feelings, religion, politics, nature, and most important of everything, energy.
Besides my own practice I am part of an artist duo K-O-N-T-O, where we explore the boundary between design and art. We work with the limits of materials, flat and 3dimensional collages, wholes, and identity. In K-O-N-T-O we create permanent decorations of public rooms. In this meeting I am curious as to colours, composition, and materiality in space – and how we communicate playing with new materials in site-specific contexts.
Could you explain more about how being a woman has affected your career?
First and foremost, I feel an enormous life force when I am in my creative element. It is a place where I can accommodate the duality in myself, all that is ugly and hard, my faults, the faults of others, the questions, the doubts and so on, it gives me the energy to create, and I feel that all my works and all my actions are justified – that I am good as I am. I feel alive.
An important part of my work as a creative person is the fact that I am a mother. It is clear to me that many of my artistic reflections and recognitions lie within this connection; that of becoming and being a mother is a part of the whole. For me motherhood is all-embracing, you go through a great change – get a new identity.
Being a mother is very important to me which also means that everything else steps into the background – also my artistic work. It is a difficult process, to let go of my time with my children to work, on the other hand I find it difficult to let go of my work when I am creating. Motherhood and creative urge fight with each other and then, nevertheless, in a marvellous way motherhood leaves room for the recognition that slowness and presence in all things are crucial in order to be able to be in balance as a person and a creative being. It leaves room for me to be a whole person – for me to be able to see the whole when I am creating.
Being a woman is crucial to my process, to my life, to my creative power and thus to my works. The female aspect nourishes me, so I see things more clearly and do what is most meaningful for me in all kinds of situations, but to a great extent in creative situations.
As a human being and as an artist I think a lot about life and the meaning of our short time here. As a part of this philosophizing, I often remind myself that we are only here on a visit, we must seize and embrace all we can. Feel and give both to ourselves and each other and let spontaneity, flow and wildness find room in the creative process.
Life is one long creative process.
Can you name some other female (artist) that inspires you and explain why they do so?
I have many female role models, from my mother to Yayoi Kusama. What they have in common is their mental disorder and their insistence that a work of art is life and life is a work of art. That inspires me enormously.
My mother, Susanne Vollquartz Kiss, was a textile artist. She showed me that the creative process is a constant element of life, accordingly she has been an important figure for my image of art. She was also a complex factor, being schizophrenic all through my childhood. The picture of a woman, a mother and an artist who was always at work, always in a creative process, always a mother. She showed me a versatile way of life, which I use actively in my work today.
Kirsten Dufour has also played an important role for me as a female artist. To me she represents critical art, political art, collective art, and the kind of art where life is art. It is our actions which are essential for the kind of life we are living, the questions we ask and thereby the road we create.
I am myself in a time of change as I, besides my own practice, together with my husband have initiated a rather big collective life project on our farm in Hårbølle on Møn; an art project we call ‘På Den Anden Side’ (means On The Other Side).
We are converting our farm, barn and surrounding areas into an artist operated place, which contains an art biennale, smaller art events, active studios, future workshop facilities and residences for external artists. Focus is on the critical and experimental practice with room for the collective life form and life as an art form.
What has been the most challenging aspect of being a female artist?
I can be difficult to make all come together with the many roles I have. It is as if time slips through my fingers. I have to be really determined and focused in my work, and it can be a great challenge to be creative on command and often for short intervals which is like a normal workday.
Being a ‘soft’ artist, in the form of creating soft works/textiles and soft rooms seems to be something we take for granted in our society. To represent softness and being a woman is difficult. It is hard to be recognized and taken seriously, as I often experience that the value of what I create is not seen. It has become important for me to keep my focus and insist on creating and containing softness.
As a part of my focus on soft values I am preoccupied with identity, what makes us to the person we are. Creating is for me the solution and the food of life - in other words I think that the creative process can heal me and us as human beings.
What would you like people to notice about your work?
Colours are energy and energy are life.
I work with softness, balance and wildness in the form of many colours. Each work should be seen as a whole, which can give the observer a kind of composure by resting in or being with the works I create. To me my works are the meeting with a visually safe place which can also create a desire to play.
My works are a small piece of myself.
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