Portrait Of The Artist: Kristjana S Williams

To mark her twin ‘Landscapes Reimagined’ exhibitions, the collage artist spoke to us about her working rituals, the beauty in nature and her endless stream of ideas. Please note, this exhibition has now ended

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It’s hard to overstate the intricacy of Kristjana S Williams’ work. Though she calls herself a collage artist, it might be more accurate to describe her as a world builder who has made it her mission to puzzle together each and every swirling idea in her ever-busy mind. The result? Complex, sprawling, labyrinthine dreamscapes it’s all too easy to find yourself getting lost in.

Why did you become an artist?

I think this is a really interesting and funny question. Because when I think about it, I don't think there was much choice. I tried to do a lot of other things. Before becoming an artist, I studied electronics, low voltage engineering. I just couldn't quite visualise myself as an artist. So, it wasn't a ‘plain sailing’ journey.

But looking back, when I was a kid drawing, it was the most obvious choice. I think my vision when I was younger was ‘what will I do as an artist? Will I sit in a room in my own and paint a picture?’ I just couldn't visualise it. Then, of course, things have changed a lot in time.

Why do you work primarily in your medium?

I am a collage artist, so I mainly work with old Victorian engravings that I pick up from markets, or antique stores, or online – all over the place, even places like New York City Library. There are so many different sources.

Engravings are essentially the material that they use to document the world pre-photography – they were literally sharing and documenting the world. Some of them are watercolors, some of them are engravings, but they're absolutely beautiful.

What do you hope people take away from your art? What are you trying to say?

I just hope that they have the same sensation as I do – get a bit lost in a different world and have a bit of break from reality. Some of them just give me a peace of mind. Some of them, you'll just simply be enjoying the colour. I'm always so curious and interested in people's interpretations.

How does being an artist affect your outlook on life?

Genuinely just extremely happy, grateful, and lucky that it all worked out. It took a very long time to all come together. I don't think I could have ever done anything else. But I'll be very curious to see where I'm at when I’m 60, 70, 80 or 90. I can't wait to stand up at that point and look over my career. But working with the people that I've worked with so far over the first was a real joy. I can't quite believe so far.

How do you feel while you’re working? What’s going through your mind?

Generally, when I’m creating, it's a really peaceful, wonderful place. Of course, 100 times things go wrong, over and over. But I've got a way where I work on a few projects at once. If something isn't quite going right, then I’ll just put it down and go and work on something else. And I feel like that's the real key: instead of sweating through it, you can give your brain a break, create something else and then come back to it.

Often you just need to process a piece. Some things take forever to come around. And some things just kind of go off like sparklers but often it's like the Northern Lights swirling across my brain, I just feel like there's about a million stars and different ideas. My main worry is that I will die and I won't get to create everything that's in my head.

Do you have a particular routine or any “rituals” when you’re working?

I think a fry up and a cup of tea is kind of my number one, two and three. I really love taking breaks and having some lovely food. I like to be surrounded by my research and my books I get a lot of joy sitting down and just starting on a project. But obviously so much of your time goes into just running the business rather than creating. I'm very lucky to have a team now but you're still constantly quite a lot on the business side. The creation side though is all joy.

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Published: 11.22

Words: Molly Isabella Smith