Kristina OkanAn artist who challenges the viewer to find their own meaning
16 January 2019
Based between Berlin and Russia, Perm-born Kristina Okan is a visual artist working primarily with ceramics and drawing.
Her ceramic work is created primarily from porcelain, where she preserves the whiteness in colour to emphasize the textures and translucencies throughout her pieces. The purity in her ceramic work creates an interesting juxtaposition to her drawings and graphic artwork, where she explores the complexities of colour and transparency.
Throughout all of her pieces, she shows abstract biomorphic shapes, which have been inspired by microcosmic creatures and act as a sort of Rorschach test for the viewer. These abstract shapes turn the tables on the audience to interpret the pieces with their own associations and meanings.
What prompted your move to Berlin?
Kristina: Moving to Berlin has been part of the plan since 2012 when I visited the first time and immediately realized that it was the city I want to live in. It was kind of love at first sight. The atmosphere, the way people look, all the galleries. After that, it took some years to organize the moving and to accomplish the goal of getting my artist visa.
Have you done a Rorschach test yourself?
Kristina: Yes I have, but to be honest, I find the “official” interpretation of Rorschach tests to be too subjective and superficial. Rorschach tests are attractive to me from a visual side [and] attract me more than a psychological one. I find the images a bit mystical and decoratively appealing.
What is your method/process?
Kristina: Both drawing and sculpting are pure meditation and I lose a sense of time. All of my works are very detailed and meticulous. The more energy, time, and passion I involve, the more impressive [the] results I get. Very often, I start drawing intuitively, just having a blurred composition or combination of colours in my mind, but then, as soon as I catch the shapes that I find exciting, I start the long process of creation and development of these shapes.
Working with ceramics (mostly porcelain), I adore the process of turning a piece of raw clay to petrified beautiful objects. I enjoy the complexity of the process and the risk that fragile work can be damaged during any step of the creative process. It makes me feel very concentrated and organized.
Where do you find inspiration?
Kristina: Inspiration is like love for me. To be inspired for me means to be in love with life, literally. It is full of mystery and hard to explain where it comes from and why it happens. Seriously, I can take it from a branch on the street or from a vintage postcard in a flea market. Also, Instagram and Pinterest give a lot of ideas and inspire me to try something new. When I am ready to get inspiration, I get it from the air and everything that surrounds me. I never know exactly, and it is the best part.
Do you channel any particular feelings into your pieces?
Kristina: I guess subconsciously, but frankly, I don’t like to analyze feelings in artwork too much. Every person will find something different and personal in them anyway. Most of the time, it is intuitively capturing the form that excites me and drives it to develop into a holistic picture.
Tell us about the repetition in some of your work.
Kristina: Repetition is a major element in all of my work. I see repetition as a very powerful tool. With repetition of dots in my drawings, I can create the illusion of volume and some other optical effects. In sculptures, I also use the method of repetition, creating some fractal compositions. The process turns into meditation and magic happens.
Purity is a word that comes up a lot when you describe your work. What does purity mean to you?
Kristina: I love the purity of the material I work with. The unglazed surface of porcelain seems fascinating to me, and depending on the type of clay and temperature, it can have various tints of white: from light pink to heavy grey, or ideally, as white as sugar. It can be as thin as a flower petal and as thick as a stone. I enjoy the purity of watercolour paper and often feel responsible for leaving white spaces in drawings as they are always an important part of my compositions. Purity is joy for me.
Who do you admire as a ceramicist?
Kristina: I like contemporary ceramicists who have a strong personal style. I really admire and appreciate the professionalism and complexity of ceramic artwork. My current top 5 include:
What’s next? Are there any new materials or techniques you’re looking forward to trying out?
Kristina: I am seriously thinking of incorporating some colourful details in my ceramic work, or maybe at least transparent glaze. I really like the combination of matte and glazed textures in ceramic work.
You recently had an exhibition: “Some things (don’t) last forever,” which ran from 19 Oct 2018 – 29 Oct 2018. The installation was composed of both porcelain and sketch paper. What did you learn from this/what were some things that surprised you? What would you differently next time?
Kristina: Exhibiting in Vitrine 01 was a brand new experience for me. To exhibit porcelain artworks in a metro station is a very unusual thing because everyone is used to seeing it in galleries with white walls and special lighting. The installation in Vitrine 01 was a pleasant experiment for me and lots of fun actually, especially during the uninstalling [process], which looked like a performance, though it was not planned to be one.
I had asked my boyfriend to take a few pictures of me with my artworks inside of the Vitrine, and it attracted a lot of attention and turned to a spontaneous performance. It was really interesting to see the reaction of people in the metro. I felt like a street artist who brings art into a public space without inviting people to see my work, it just happened naturally and it was cool.
Do you have more exhibitions coming up? Can you tell us more about them?
Kristina: Right now, I am totally concentrated on working on new material, both drawings and sculptures. For my next shows, I want to try something new in terms of exposure and I would like to play with light and darkness. As porcelain is a translucent material, it would be nice to make special lighting with dark zones.