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Krystina Tyrtania - New Blood

To help give further insight to the artists featured in the New Blood exhibition Broadway Gallery curator Kris Day asked each artist a series of questions on their practice, how their work was affected by the lockdown and what they think galleries should be doing to help support early career artists.

 

Could you tell us a bit more about your practice?

My practice is rooted in sculpture, but is very broad, spanning across lots of different mediums. I take inspiration from different areas of research - hydro feminist philosophy, gender theory, poetry, geological studies, natural forms found in the outdoors. Most of my time in my studio is spent converting all this thinking into something visual. Often, I’ll start by writing, drawing, and painting to make sense of my direction. I’m really interested in fluidity, water, and wateriness and this is something I explore frequently in my work. Water is this common that ties all living things together – it’s constantly recycled, the water we drink becomes the water our bodies release which becomes the water that rains on us. I see bodies of water as these sentient beings like ourselves, that carry their own histories and narratives. I’m interested in playing with how we relate with that in my work.

 

As an art student working through the pandemic, please tell us about some of the challenges you faced during this time. 

I was in my final term at university when the pandemic hit and what really struck myself and my peers was that it felt like nobody could guide us through. We felt very in the dark. We frantically took as much work home as we could and set up studios in our student house bedrooms, but it isn’t the same as the atmosphere of a busy studio. I tried to organise online crit sessions and talks through lockdown, but it was understandably difficult for people to engage with. In my final year I was Chair of the Fine Art committee, managing a team of students to fundraise for and organise our degree show, and whilst I was trying to finish as much work as I could in the workshops, I was also trying to make sure we had a fair outcome and an opportunity to show our work. At first, my university wouldn’t commit to offering us a physical degree show after lockdown was announced – they really wanted to placate us with an ‘online show’. We wrote emails and petitioned until we got it in writing that we’d be able to physically exhibit once the pandemic was over. 

 

All artists were forced to adapt during the lockdown, do you think these circumstances effected your practice in any way and did you manage to find new ways of getting your work ‘out there’, such as online exhibitions?

The circumstances definitely affected my practice – there’s no way it couldn’t have. I went from being in an engaged and collaborative studio space to working on my own in my bedroom – the environments just aren’t comparable for me. Having a sculptural practice meant that, until I got my studio at Eastcheap Studios in Letchworth in September 2020, I was really limited with space and facilities to make my work. 

Although I think online exhibitions open a new realm of ways to show your work, I think the physicality of shows for me is really important, and I’ve really missed the opportunity to exhibit my work. The nuances of sculptures can be lost in photos, videos, and VR work. Although being able to digitally visit exhibitions is a great resource, especially for those who are unable to travel to exhibitions due to disability or economical pressure, there’s an accessibility issue for those who don’t have access to the internet – which is something that needs to be taken into consideration when pushing for online shows. 

 

Exhibitions such as New Blood aim to support early career artists by exposing them to new audiences, but this can only go so far. Is there anything that galleries could, or should, be doing to help develop your career further?

Galleries need to take a chance on early career artists. In some places there seems to be an unwillingness to train those breaking into the industry – which unfortunately is completely necessary as I don’t think art school prepares you enough for post-graduate life. Galleries need to support by offering us space to make and show work, space to learn and develop our practices, but also opportunities to gain broad paid industry experience as we begin to work in the arts. I’ve been lucky enough to be taken on by Departure Lounge Gallery in Luton as an intern for 6 months, which has given me some valuable skills and knowledge in the early stages of my career, but it’s incredibly competitive for these sorts of positions and not everyone is as lucky. 

Are there any new projects you’re working on that you’d like to tell us about? 

I’m currently preparing for my degree show, which is (finally!) taking place in January-February 2022 at the Holden Gallery in Manchester. It’s been almost two years since I graduated and my practice is in a different place now to what I originally planned, so I’m enjoying experimenting in my studio and making new work for the show.