Exhibitionists

There's a common 'thread' that ties this art together, but can you spot it?

Jenn Kitagawa's GIFs could double as quilt patterns...and the Toronto artist — who's this week's Exhibitionist in Residence — makes those, too!

Jenn Kitagawa's GIFs could double as quilt patterns...and the Toronto artist makes those, too

Hey! Jenn Kitagawa is the featured artist on Exhibitionists this week. (Courtesy of the artist)

Toronto artist Jenn Kitagawa is this week's Exhibitionist in Residence. "I like to make GIFs that use a lot of bright, fun colour and subtle movements," she explains — but when you see them, will you pick up on the common thread that links so many of her works?

Kitagawa herself didn't notice it at first. But her mom did.

"My mom quilts," says Kitagawa, 32, who grew up in Edmonton. "She was seeing the images I was making — and for a while, they were very geometric. She was saying, 'All this stuff you're doing, it could be made into quilts!'"

"I hadn't really thought about it seriously until she mentioned it," says the artist. But once the idea was out there, it was clear her op-art prints could double as patterns.

There's something about the work that I'm making that translates very easily to quilts.- Jenn Kitagawa, artist

The work you'll see on Sunday's show wasn't stitched by hand, though. Instead, it's all digital. Kitagawa trained as a graphic designer at ACAD in Calgary, and after a stint in New York (interning for Nylon magazine and Mike Perry, the artist behind the Broad City titles), she's been in Toronto since late 2011, where she's worked for clients including Google and the record label Arts & Crafts.

And while she's always making work for fun — GIFs included  — "I keep going back to textiles," she says.

Kitagawa's work regularly appears at Long Winter, a regular Toronto event that transforms local venues into art-and-music parties during the chillier months of the year. A few years back, the event featured her first quilt — well, not technically her first, since she'd been sewing since her teens, but her first in the same style as her op-art digital prints. A typographic piece, it's both cozy and confounding.

Wall hanging by Jenn Kitagawa. The piece was made for Long Winter, Year 3/Volume 4. (www.jennkitagawa.com)

"There's something about the work that I'm making that translates very easily to quilts and has a very different presence in a physical space than a print would," she says, and she's currently planning a new series of textile banners for a summer music festival.

Whether she's working with a needle and thread, or Adobe Suite, Kitagawa says the two practices are always "very connected" — insomuch as she's always making something.

"It's cliché, but when it comes to inspiration, I feel like I'm always thinking about my work. Even when I'm not, the stuff that's happening around me or the discussions that I'm involved with — just what's happening culturally or in our country — everything just comes back to it."

Take a look at some of her animation.

Find more from Jenn Kitagawa on her website and on the new episode of ExhibitionistsWatch online or Sunday at 4:30 (5 p.m. NT) on CBC Television.

Want to see your creations on CBC Arts? Just send us an email! You could be an Exhibitionist in Residence this season.

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