Sunday, 9 September 2012

Art: Interview with Kristina Cohen

Kristina Cohen is a Leeds-based artist. She is a painter and photographer whose work deals with imagination and emotions. It is fair to say that a lot of art work which is being produced today is stuck within an academic framework that ideas of spontaneity, creativity and the expression of emotions are placed in a subordinate position to the articulation of theoretical concerns, or their place in the market. I was drawn to Cohen’s work because she uses her work to deal with fundamental ideas. “I like to portray moods, whether its mine or the mood of a situation. Looking at people’s attitudes.”

As a student at Leeds College of Art, Kristina Cohen has had the opportunity to experiment with a range of disciplines including drawing, photography and printmaking Her preferred medium is black and white photography, an art form which, due to the development of digital photography and photo-manipulation, is unfortunately waning. “I’ve discoveredthrough my course that I have quite an affinity for black and white photography,” she told me. I asked her about the use of digital cameras, but she insisted that she preferred the process of development, noting that: “I use Photoshop to scan in the negatives and see whether its worth developing them onto photo paper rather than waste it.”

Sitting in a cafe in Hyde Park, Leeds, Kristina showed me a number of her works. I was particularly struck by the feeling of expression that some of these works conveyed. For example, the piece shown here makes for uncomfortable viewing. She told me that the work was “a response to the fact that a lot of my friends at the time were either someless or on drugs. I was confused over why someone choose to take drugs such as cocaine, speed, heroin...
this is me questioning ‘why?’ How can anybody do this to themselves?” These sorts of issues are rarely dealt with by artists today, which is perhaps what makes Cohen’s work so engaging.

In contrast to the last piece, Cohen showed me a landscape piece, reminiscent in style of some of Matthew Smith’s work from the 1940: colourful and vibrant. She explained: “This one I believe I dreamt, I’ve no idea where it is. I woke up one morning and painted. It might have been a dream, or it could be a memory, but I can’t fully understand what I painted. It’s an emotional response, but an emotional response to what? I’m not sure...”

Cohen’s work questions our assumptions about the world, questions what we take for granted and urges us to have faith and hope. For example, one work which she showed me was of a wood elf. She told me that: “It’s an elf in the woods, but I deliberately left the face blank. In modern day society, elves are dismissed as myth, and although this is probably true, you still have the hope that they are real.”

Another work she showed me looked like explosions of paint. She told me that it was a response to stress: “I was living in a hostel and it felt like everything was about to explode while I was there, hence the circles. People were always kicking off, it was awful.” The work really exudes this tension and stress. The calmness of the colours are in complete contrast to the aggression of how those colours were applied.

Kristina Cohen is an artist with a well of experience to draw from. As an artist at the beginning of her career, she shows great promise for the future and I sincerely hope that as her portfolio expands she gets the recognition that I believe her work deserves.

This article was originally printed in Art Fist issue 7

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