• Empathetic Shadows

    Interview with Judit Kristensen

The artist, without filters, tells us about herself, about how it’s possible to perceive the depths of life and make them figurative. Every small detail, glimpse of human essence, encapsulates a layering of emotions that can emerge through a meticulous and intense gaze. Epochs, disturbances, psychological entanglements are frozen and transformed into a creative expression full of nuances.

Pale skin, evident melancholy, and chromatic nuances emphasising an inner void… Why
depict this human facet? What attracts you to this mood?

Haha yes, good question! I think what is appealing to me in the existence of art in general is that it has this ability to tell a story of human existence. That’s what’s most important for me both as an art consumer and producer. As a producer, to get the feeling that I’m reaching or grasping further and further to try to formulate something that is of importance in my existence. And what that is I don’t really know, but I guess then that it is the figuration of the inner void, hehe.

The delicacy of unease emanating from your characters recalls some of the most recog- nised visual expressions, becoming part of a timeless aesthetic. If given the chance, is there a past era or period in which you would have liked to be an artist, or would you still choose the current one?

Oh, so much nice to choose from! Maybe modernism in Scandinavia. Compete with Munch on who’s the biggest drama queen and discuss psychologically trembling figuration with Carl Fredrik Hill, Ernst Josephson and Victoria Nygren. I mean assuming I could also be friends with whoever I want! I also like Vera Nilssons auto biographical paintings and Vilhelm Hammershøi’s dark iso- lated interiors a lot, and the weird touch of Nils Dardel. In the 20’s-30’s in Sweden there was also a groundbreaking generation of writers I would have loved to get a chance to meet. They were self taught working class writers that wrote on their own experiences, bravely and un-bound from writing traditions. Moa and Harry Martinsson for example, a couple after individually achieving recognition. Both wrote about their lives, Harry on escaping orphanages to become an unattend- ed vagabond as a young child, lying about his age to get work. And Moa on being a single mother and provider to a family in poverty. Both wrote in the unique forms that they found most artistically fruitful, I would have loved to meet them.

If your artistic vision is often shrouded in grey moods, laden with stories and melancholic eyes, what is your approach to everyday life? Do you have a different, more optimistic and energetic outlook, or do you notice a slight connection with your works?

I think people who know me would describe me as an optimistic and energetic person, definitely an enjoyer of life, but also with an eye towards the obscure corners and weird layers of the world. So both! I walk on the sunny side of the streets, but what I find an urge to put into figuration is other parts of existence, which of course comes from my experiences, otherwise I don’t think I would find it meaningful to formulate. A combination of fears and abstraction of memories I think works as motors. I have periodical insomnia which I have found to be an unexpected source, as Tove Jansson put it, the dark is darker at night.

If you had to choose: a book, a film, a painting, and a piece of music, without any con- straints or limits, that you feel resonates with your essence, somehow saying “this is a part of JUDIT,” what would they be?

I really do have a handful of works that I go back to on a regular basis, for direction or help or maybe for something more abstract, seeing if the ghosts from the works will enter the ghosts of mine. I think they could define some kind of abstract borders of what I am searching for.
Book: I choose to answer with a short story, A clean, well-lighted place by Hemingway. I’d also like to add Ecclesiastes from the Bible. I’m not religious but it’s on the list of works I’ve gone back to a lot lately. Both of them are, to my reading, nihilistic and dark and capturing existence and a nothingness in life, a Nada.

Film: I bend the question again and choose to answer with a scene in a film, the classic where the knight encounters the death in the seventh seal, and they forward the meeting by playing chess together. I put this scene on quite often in the studio, there is so much I admire. The works that go under my skin always have something at stake in them, often because they’re a bit pathetic. And of the balancing on the border to being pathetic I think this one might balance on the thinnest line, in a to me very good way.
Painting: Difficult! But I choose Death Struggle by Munch, the version that’s in Copenhagen.
Music: Shadowplay by Joy Division. Ian Curtis has a way of making lyrics that is very appealing and I would say useful for me. I listen to it a lot in the studio, imagining it helps in some abstract search. He worked in a way that I think I work in too, he is oftenly portraying a mental state by building up made up rooms, depicting scenes, and working a lot with associations shooting in different directions, as if the narrative is carved out by abstractly herding the listener towards a direction rather than telling a linear story.
Play: Also want to to take the liberty of adding a play to the list, because it’s one of the works I’ve gone back to the most the last year, through radio theater in the studio, it’s Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. It’s a favorite, extremely straight forward, elemental, but yet so big and deep, undefinable borders of what it is. Drama of nothingness and of everything.

Is there a specific meaning behind each color? Your art suggests a significant emphasis on shades, as if each one carries its own atmosphere. Tell us more.

I think so, yes. Or I don’t know with meaning, but I would say that I put a lot into every little decision in a painting, hoping it will leave traces. Definitely with colors, but also on small things like the an- gle of a line in a corner or the brush strokes of a wall. My partner mocks me over where I get stuck in paintings, saying that I use two minutes on a central face then leave it forever but spend hours or days on some small peripheral part of a wall. I think I search for some expression, emotional loading, atmosphere, in everything. So your comment means a lot to me to hear, that you think the shades carries its own atmosphere, thank you for that! And with a face I guess an emotional loading is quite easily achieved, you would read an emotion from two dots above a line, so that I can leave quickly, but with a wall I guess it’s a bit more difficult.

Do you already have a scenario of characters and emotional fields in mind for your next work?

I’m working on some smaller series for three group shows and for one duo show this spring/sum- mer, and on one bigger body of works for the further future that I’m not sure yet where it will land. I almost always work in series, even though the works are independent. It is fulfilling to me to see the works as continuing, adding to each other, creating a deeper narrative.
The bigger body of works is evolving around insomnia, and a night state with a certain inactivity and nothingness but still a charged psychological tension. For myself I call the series Fear of the Nada. I have this story in my head that I am working around with this character in an apartment getting infested by beautiful and disgusting moths at night. Except for paintings the body of works is also built by a couple of sculptures. One of them is a robot, a moving sculpture that is a lot of fun to work with in the studio, and I’ve built in a motion sensor to it so when I open the studio door I get greeted by its electronic movement. It’s a lot of fun to work with, I feel like a child.

Judit Kristensen / Empathetic Shadows


Artist: Judit Kristensen / @judit.kristensen
Interview: Annalisa Fabbrucci / @annalisa_fabbrucci
Editor: Maria Abramenko / @mariabramenko

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