During the coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping. This interview is part of a Cultbytes x Artspiel content collaboration.
Anki King creates oil paintings and sculptures of life-sized figures that act as symbols for feelings that can’t be accurately described in words. The viewer’s meeting with the figure frees the narrative from being contained within the subject matter and brings it into the viewing space.
King grew up in Norway and moved to NYC in 1994. She exhibits frequently both in Europe and the US. Her work is included in private and public collections including The Appleton Museum of Art, Ocala, FL. In 2010 she was the winner of the Artist of the Year Award in the London International Creative Competition. King was recently featured in the book Kunstnerliv, a collection of 19 important Norwegian contemporary artists, and also featured in the documentary Artists in NYC.
AS: How are you coping?
A K: Just two hours before the borders closed, I returned from Norway where I had been visiting family. I went into voluntary two-week quarantine as I felt it was the responsible thing to do. The first week after returning, I was basically stunned and probably in some state of shock. Even though I could have spent a lot of time in the studio, I found myself unable to focus. There is some importance in allowing for this to happen; to have some downtime, to process, to sleep, and to simply waste some time. It was something I needed to do so I decided to find some enjoyment in it and stayed in my jammies for days, reading, watching movies, and sleeping a lot. After a week, I was finally able to go to the studio, which for me is a separate room at home, and began a major cleaning session. Getting rid of a lot of materials that have gathered over time and putting older works away. There is a new beginning in this alternate reality we are now experiencing.
AS: Has your routine changed?
AK: It has certainly slowed me down. My mental energy is quite caught up in the fact that we are going through a worldwide event that is completely new to all of us. Being a painter who works very intuitively within an organic process, I will need to take some time to process it all. I am also curious regarding the works I have created during the last year and how they in many ways seem to relate to the current situation. The nude figures that usually take space in my work started covering up and connections seemed to only be able to happen in strange ways. As the imagery in my work is not planned it is always a process of discovery for me and I get to know the works after they are created. So I will be spending some time pondering their meanings.
AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?
A K: Like after 9/11, I have been obsessively watching news and Facebook updates. It is hard to escape the need for information and wanting to know what is going on. There is a feeling that one is somehow safer with more information. Uncertainty is a very disturbing feeling.
Going into the studio, a feeling of helplessness and being at a loss comes over me very strongly. I acknowledge these feelings and understand they need their space and that it is something I will have to move through. It still makes me anxious that I am not able to work. I think that once I have the studio cleaned and set up, I will feel clearer and that I will be able to start working again.
My feelings relating to crowds are clearly changing. Anytime I see crowds now in movies or read about them, I have a strong reaction that they should spread out and keep 6 feet between each other. Before this happened, I already struggled a bit with being in crowds, so I am curious to see how I will feel in the future and how everyone else will deal with it.
AS: What matters most right now?
A K: What I am thinking most about is my fiancé, our families and friends and all the people who are specifically at risk. I hope they all stay safe and healthy. I have spent a lot more time than I usually do on messenger video with my family in Norway and in The Canary Islands. It also matters that we are all in this together and that we all do what we can to help each other stay safe. I am very grateful for social media which makes me feel connected even though I am far from my family.
AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?
A K: I believe it will take longer to get through this than we might expect, and at the same time I hope I am wrong. I think a lot of people will suffer greatly and that there will be depressing times ahead caused by personal and financial losses for a large part of the country. I hope we can meet these times united and that those with means will be willing to support those without so we can all get back on our feet together.
Personally, I try to stay in a curious and investigative mode instead of shutting down. This will be my coping mechanism and it will be this mental material that will be the fuel for my future works.
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