Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline (Alex Parrot)
A Winnipeg artist is one of fifteen semi-finalists chosen for this year's RBC Canadian Painting Competition. The competition is sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada and the Canadian Art Foundation. The competition was established in 1999 to support promising young artists early on in their career.
Thirty-year-old Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline (his name reflects his Latvian and French heritage) is one of the semi-finalists. He grew up in the north end of Winnipeg, studied art at the University of Manitoba then at Columbia University in the United States before returning to Winnipeg.
SCENE invited Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline to share his excitement at being nominated and to tell us about himself.
At what point did you decide you wanted to be an artist?
I've been making art since I was a kid. I don't think I ever really made a conscious decision to be an artist. It's just something I've always done in some form or another.
Where did you hone your skills and how did that prepare you as an artist?
I suppose I should say art school. Although, I'm not sure if there was actually a lot of honing that happened there. More of an expanding or deranging.
I think the studio. Be it the floor of my parents house as a kid, art school, or the studio I have now. I think the daily practice of experimentation and discovery is where I honed my skill. Though I'm not really sure what I've honed or what kind of skill it actually is. A lot of my work is about undermining my own assumptions about what I am doing as an artist, so I may only really be getting better at getting in my own way. Sort of a pratfall specialist maybe?
What does being nominated for this competition mean to you?
It really is an honor to be nominated in this competition. It's really exciting to see all the other great artists in the competition and be included amongst them.
Tell us about your painting Rakata.
Rakata is part of my most recent series of paintings. These paintings are made sequentially so that the previous painting informs how the next will be made. In the new works I've been using techniques like mono-printing and stencils to grab motifs and gestures from one painting and move them forward to the next.
The name Rakata comes from the volcanic island that was formed after the Krakatoa eruption. At the time, I was reading E.O. Wilson's book The Diversity of Life which featured an amazing chapter about the volcano's eruption wiping out all life on the island and then its subsequent slow repopulation. The word Rakata also means 'crab' in old Javanese, which resonated for me with the painting's crustacean quality. My girlfriend Elyssa Stelman is also a Cancer astrologically, as well as being incredibly lovely. It was a very serendipitous discovery that tacitly spoke to a lot of the things going on in and around the painting.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Right now a lot of my inspiration is coming from looking at the natural sciences. I'm pretty fascinated with the way that forms are generated through the systems and processes of the material world. This interest has dramatically shifted the way I think about making work and also really changed the way I see the world I'm in. I feel a renewed sense of palpability and intensity in relation to my surroundings. This kind of relationship to the world feels really important to me now.
What is a day in your life like these days?
Generally, I wake up and spend a good 15min/half hour in bed negotiating with myself about whether I should: a) go to the studio, b) seek a more realistic career, or c) concede to insecurity and continue to wallow. Usually I find the appropriate motivating lie and then muster myself for the day. I commute to the studio via bike or bus, which usually puts me back into the mindset of option c).
Once at the studio I work all day until I am too tired or hungry.
In the evenings I make dinner and then read or draw until I'm tired. Unless it's Thursday. Then I have Vietnamese for dinner with my friend Alex Parrott. This is followed by playing in our hobby rock band, which basically amounts to an ambitious form of karaoke.
Why do you choose to stay in Winnipeg?
I moved back to Winnipeg after grad school so that I could be with friends, family and have time and space to make art. Winnipeg is very conducive to making art because of its cheap apartments and studio space. There is no way I could have made the art I've made if I lived anywhere else. I think this has really changed a lot in the last couple of years though. It seems that a lot of these artist friendly spaces have now been turned into cheesy condominium ghost towns prompting pretty dramatic and essentially artificial rent increases.
If you won one of the prizes associated with this competition, how would you spend the money?
I would make more art, of course.
The winner of the 2011 Canadian Painting Competition receives $25,000.00. Two runners-up will each receive $15,000.00. The results will be announced in Edmonton on Tuesday, September 27.