Between the sharp wit of her celebrity portraits and a childlike penchant for ballet, scatter-loving artist Karen Kilimnik’s whimsical whirlwind career has delighted critics since the early 90s.
Click images to enlarge.
With quirky compositions crafted from a wicked sense of humour, Philadelphian-born Kilimnik is that rare artist who understands how just a paintbrush and a pot of water-based oils can voice a truly polished aesthetic. Kilimnik is also a dab hand in the fashion industry, having photographed a V accessories shoot styled by Hollywood star Kirsten Dunst and filmed a very fresh-faced Kate Moss at the start of her career. Today Kilimnik cites digital photography – and a love for raw milk – as her true loves!
With a collection at the New York based Brand Foundation and past exhibitions at the Serpentine and 303 galleries, i-D online called up Kilimnik for a quick chat about nature and nurture.
What were you like as a young artist? How did you see the world? Well I was always interested in the environment. There’s actually a thing going on in England called, ‘Take the Flour Back’ on May 27th where Monsanto are painting wheat trials. It’s an action against genetically modified wheat trials; I think it looks so great. I wish they’d do that here in the US, I’d like to do that anyway.
What are your favourite pieces in the exhibition? I really liked the ‘Fountain of Youth’ piece, that was fun. Later on I had the idea to plant wild flowers because I love wild flowers. I got the idea from reading about the Highgrove gardens and painting wild flowers there.
You work with a lot of different mediums from magazine cuttings to film clips; do you have a favourite medium? I like photography, but I also paint with water based oils. Photography is much easier, I use a digital camera.
You also blend conceptual and performance art. How did this aesthetic originate? Well I like ballet, I did it when I was younger, I still want to choreograph my own ballet! With my performances pieces, I had wonderful help from choreographer Tom Sapsford and the Serpentine gallery; Katy Erdman and I had the best time. It was so fun to create a little ballet with all these wonderful dancers. I also did the set design for the Paris opera ballet next to gallerist Jennifer Flay which was also so much fun, they were wonderful there.
You’ve painted so many important figures in your career. Do you have a dream subject? I don’t know actually. I prefer painting animals and landscapes, a more natural aesthetic.
There’s a selection of crayon and pastel sketches that depict fashion images. Who are your favourite designers? I love fashion and have wanted to be a designer since I was little. Anna Sui, Rodarte, Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren and Vivienne Westwood – especially the plaid and tartan – and many other designers too. I like Courrèges and Paco Rabanne from the 60′s and Rifat Ozbek from the 80′s, and so many others.
Karen Kilimnik is currently showing at The Brant Foundation.
Text: Christopher Prince