Damian Huntley: Like I said, we don’t use the audio on the site
Kit Kingsbury: It’s really weird isn’t it when you hear your own voice back.
DH: Yes, mine sounds much more butch and Geordie in my own head.
DH: So are you from the North East?
KK: No, I’m from
DH: Was that around degree time?
DH: Right, yeah that’s a totally different route.
KK: A bit of an alternative route.
DH: How old are you if you don’t mind me asking?
KK: 35. (Nodding and smiling) I was a mature student when I went back to university.
DH: It makes sense in a lot of respects; I had no idea what I was doing when I started my degree. What took you into psychology?
KK: I was particularly interested in why people behave in the ways that they do and I think my degree has kind of influenced my practice. Well, the psychology of perception anyway.
DH: Have you always had an interest in art?
KK: Yeah...When I was a kid, I always really enjoyed painting and drawing but I was kind of led to believe that it wouldn’t really be practical to take it any further and best to concentrate on another area career wise and have art as an a hobby. Then I guess time just kind of flew and I ended up thinking I wanted to be a psychologist for a while, which is quite weird. But hey, I think that I definitely benefited from the fact that I was older when I studied art as I was pretty easily distracted from my course the first time around.
DH: So were your A-levels all geared towards doing psychology?
KK: Erm.. My A-levels, I did art, psychology, sociology and philosophy.
KK: (Laughing) yes.
KK: I found it really interesting. I was a Technical Instructor, a kind of Assistant Occupational Therapist at St. Nicholas Hospital in South Gosforth and worked into a couple of secure wards delivering a number of activities including a variety of arts and crafts sessions to adults who experienced mental health problems. I particularly enjoyed the arts and crafts sessions and being part of that whole creative process. But I have to admit, I found it quite stressful and pretty upsetting at times. I mean, it was great when people improved but then I’d also see the other side of things which was really hard.
DH: What attracted you to
KK: Well, I’d completed two years of a part time art degree at
DH: How did you find
KK: I think I had a quite a difficult second year; it was quite a shock after studying part time (laughing) at
DH: Did you find it a little brutal initially?
DH: What’s your working day like?
KK: I work on a freelance basis, so it really varies. At the moment, I’m working for Find Your Talent, which is a new government initiative designed to promote cultural activities to young people. I’m supporting young people within the North and
DH: The freelance work you do, is it design?
KK: Workshops; community workshops. I’ve just completed a project at
DH: Do you enjoy working with children?
KK: Yes, I really enjoy working with young people, for me it’s extremely important to have a balance between doing my own practice and working with other people as well, it keeps me sane. I particularly enjoy working with teenagers, it’s a nice age. I like that age group because they are young enough to be up for experimenting with new methods and trying out new activities but old enough to understand some pretty abstract concepts and as a result, can radically develop over a very short period of time; which is really exciting.
DH: Do you take inspiration in your work from the work you do with workshops?
DH: How did you find the aftercare coming out of university?
KK: I guess the basics were put in place in order to prepare for life after university. I remember completing a professional practice module and putting a C.V and statement together and also, documenting the development of my practice and taking slide images of my work. During the course, we never really covered writing proposals (laughing) or applying for exhibitions or residencies; that’s kind of come on my own but then saying that I did receive some real good advice from one of my old tutors when I wrote my first residency application. Oh and I’ve also been really lucky to receive a lot of support from artist friends.
DH: People have very different experiences of it (university) they are getting a lot better by all accounts which is heartening.
KK: I was lucky because I was working at BALTIC as a gallery assistant whilst I was studying at
DH: What’s your opinion on BALTIC?
DH: How did you hear about Waygood initially?
KK: I think I first heard about Waygood shortly after moving to
DH: How important is it for you being in studios?
KK: I think it’s essential for me. I think I’d go a bit mad if I didn’t have my studio. It’s so important to be around other artists and find out what they are up to and I think that often leads to opportunities, as well. As a painter, it wouldn’t be very good for my health to paint from home; I’d turn into a complete hermit (laughing) and go a bit nutty as I work with all the turps. Also, I haven’t really got the space to work at home.
DH: How easy do you find the experience of getting into galleries, the experience of working as an artist?
DH: It’s exciting just having your work out there. Do you care more about critical acclaim or about selling?
KK: Obviously, I’d love to sell enough work to be able to support myself but I don’t think that I’d be happy just churning out art for commercial success. I’m more concerned about creating work that challenges and interests me but hey, if that sold and received critical acclaim, well that would be brilliant. To be honest though, it’s a pretty tricky time to be selling work at the moment and as a result, I’m currently thinking about making my work more affordable by producing a series of prints.
DH: How do you approach pricing?
DH: Do you have a lot of artist friends whose work you admire?
KK: Yeah, I admire the work of many of my artist friends, the quality of their work is really high. I guess, we are all at similar stages in our careers and sometimes it’s a bit of a struggle and so, we all try and support each other. Sometimes, I really feel for some of my artist friends but I admire that they keep going and they don’t give up. It’s quite a feat; as I went to university as a mature student, some of my friends are the same age but have been in the art world a lot longer than I have and I admire their perseverance.
DH: What brought you to the work you are doing; how did you come to work from photographic negatives in your paintings?
DH: Do you play with the images at all before you paint them?
KK: I don’t use Photoshop or anything like that but I will select particular areas of the photo to work from.
DH: Okay, so one of those group critique questions; why paint?
KK: I’ve always really enjoyed painting and I remember having a hard time about why I was painting and thinking maybe I should do something else but there’s something about the quality and resonance of paint that I find extremely exciting. For me, the intensity of painting can breathe life into an image and help me to make sense of the world by breaking images down and recreating them, breaking images down into their component parts.
DH: At the minute do you prefer to work on a small scale or a large scale?
KK: I think I tend to work small-scale while I’m abroad just for practical reasons really. When I’m in the studio, I prefer to work larger but I enjoy that variation.
DH: You paint in oils?
KK: Yeah. I used acrylics when I was younger but when I went to uni, I really wanted to learn how to paint with oils; there’s something about the quality and vibrancy of the colour of oils that I much prefer. The rate that they dry as well, I enjoy working with the pace of that because acrylics dry a lot faster.
DH: Favourite artist?
DH: Of your contemporaries, are you envious of anyone?
KK: Oh, I’m not very competitive. I tend to focus on my own work, I don’t see the point of being envious of other people’s success. I’m always excited to hear when somebody I know is actually doing well; that’s really exciting as it proves that there are routes in (to success). I guess there are artists that I really admire and I’m inspired by certain aspects of their practices and it all kind of goes into a melting pot; I think that’s more the kind of approach that I have.
DH: Is that subconscious?
KK: When I’m creating my paintings? I’m not sure.... and I guess if I’m not sure it would be subconscious. (laughter)
DH: You work largely in photo realism and that has a fairly deep history as a genre but there is something unique about what you do. You’ve taken what are largely night scenes and made them ethereal by dealing with the negative.
DH: Do you go back through older photographs that you’ve taken?
KK: Sometimes there are photographs that have a lot of potential but for one reason or another, they aren’t used and so, I might return to those from time to time but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll actually use them but they might spark off an idea.
DH: Where in the world would you most like to have a studio?
KK: Well, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had studio spaces in Japan, Hungary and France but I guess, now my number one location would have to be Norway. I’d really love to work with imagery of the Northern lights, I think that could be really exciting for my work and so I’m kind of thinking about that at the moment. That’s my next dream; that and going back to New York. Whilst I was studying at uni, I visited New York for around four days and absolutely loved it. New York’s such an exciting place for the arts and whilst I was there, I only took a handful of images so it would be great to have the opportunity to return.
DH: What’s the structure of residencies usually? How do they work?
KK: I think it really depends on where you go; I’ve had three residencies in France, Hungary and Japan and they’ve all been quite different from one another but the structure usually revolves around fostering cultural exchange through a series of artist talks, workshops and open studio sessions alongside providing artists with the opportunity to develop and exhibit their studio practice within a supportive environment. My first residency was at Camac, an arts centre based on the outskirts of Paris. I applied through an ad in Artist’s Newsletter and was really amazed to be selected. It felt like such a breakthrough and really boosted my confidence. Camac provides one full bursary place and other artists may receive some financial support from Camac’s Tenot Foundation but have to cover the majority of their own costs or apply for outside funding. I was lucky enough to secure funding from the Tenot Foundation, Arts Council and another foundation called the Oppenheim-John Downs Memorial Trust. Residencies last between one to six months and each artist has their own room and studio space. There are around four artists and two writers present at a time and the centre’s based in a little village just outside of Paris which I found really exciting as I’d always really wanted to live in France. Artists may use the residency to accomplish a specific project or experiment with their practice and can also, exhibit the outcome of their work at Camac. The following year, I completed a shorter residency in Hungary which lasted for just one month at the Hungarian Multicultural Centre in Balaton-fured, a small coastal town about 2 hours from Budapest. The HMC has since moved to downtown Budapest. I was particularly drawn to the HMC as at the time I was working in education and so, wished to focus on my practice during the summer break. There were about half a dozen of us there and artists covered all of their own costs. Artists shared rooms and studio spaces and as a result, everyone worked pretty small-scale. The residency culminated in two group exhibitions; one in Balatonfured and then the following year, an exhibition at the Vizivarosi Gallery in Budapest. My last residency was at Youkobo Art Space in Tokyo. The set up was similar to Camac in that residencies span one to six months and each artist has their own room and studio space but there are only two artists present at a time and so artists receive more intensive support and input. Residencies are self financed but the directors of Youkobo Art Space are very supportive of funding applications. I secured funding from Arts Council England, Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation and Great British Sasakawa Foundation.
Ryen Huntley: Do you pick up the languages at all when you go?
KK: (laughing) I’m terrible at languages. Before, I went to Japan I enrolled on a very basic Japanese course and went along to weekly lessons but it was so challenging. I remember that the whole group felt exactly the same; I thought that as it was an introductory level it would just be conversational to start with but it involved learning all the different forms of Japanese at once, so it was really intense. Each week, the group slowly became smaller and smaller until by about week six the group had to fold as there weren’t enough students left. I tried to keep up the work on my own but unfortunately, I found it a real struggle and so when I arrived in Japan I was pretty worried. But luckily the directors of Youkobo Art Space spoke perfect English and really looked after me.
RH: Which was your favourite residency?
KK: I think it would have to be my residency at Youkobo Art Space in Japan. I felt so lucky to be selected for a six month residency and secure funding, it was such a big achievement and so exciting. Six months was such a good amount of time as it enabled me to really focus on the development of my practice and provided enough time to settle in, source materials and collect imagery for my practice. My paintings revolve around one’s perception of place and they utilise an array of obscure and contrasting motifs drawn from my personal engagement with foreign urban environments, so I can’t explain how excited I was to be based in Tokyo.
RH: Which place had the best response to your work do you think?
KK: That would have to be Youkobo Art Space. During the residency, I led a number of community workshops and helped a group of local primary schoolchildren to create a series of large-scale banners, which explored environmental issues and celebrated their local park. The banners were exhibited in an outdoor exhibition and received excellent feedback and coverage from the local news, radio and press. At the end of the residency, I also had an exhibition of my own work, which featured the work that’s currently being shown in a group show at Harkers and received some lovely feedback. But then again, the Japanese are very polite (laughing).
DH: Have you applied for any residencies in America?
KK: Yeah, I did a couple of years ago. I applied to one in New York which sounded absolutely amazing. I was told to re-apply the following year but I never got round to that, maybe I should.
DH: Is it an arduous process applying?
KK: To be honest, it can be pretty time consuming. Applicants tend to be asked to submit a C.V., statement and images of their work and it’s really important that they are of a high standard as there’s so much competition out there. Many residencies also request a proposal covering your aims and objectives, which can be pretty tricky to write. It can be very tempting to create a kind of template proposal and whizz it off to lots of different places but I think it’s really important to focus on the particular place you’re applying to in order to have the highest chance of success. I remember that I couldn’t believe it when I was offered my first residency at Camac , I was so excited but then there was an added challenge as I didn’t receive a bursary place and so there was a long process involving securing the necessary funding. I was very lucky though, as I was working at BALTIC at the time and so, able to receive some excellent advice. If I hadn’t been at BALTIC, it would be pretty difficult to know how to go about stuff like that but I think that perseverance is the key.
DH: What was the basis of your proposal for the Japanese residency?
KK: The basis of my proposal for Youkobo Art Space revolved around discussing how I’d benefit from a residency in Tokyo, the processes involved in developing my studio practice and expected outcomes.
DH: How much funding do you tend to get on a residency?
KK: It really varies. Some residencies are fully funded and so, cover your expenses, accommodation and travel costs. However, when you’re first starting out, it’s very ambitious to apply for such a residency and even if selected to fulfil one that’s partially funded, there’s absolutely no guarantee of being awarded sufficient funding and so, it’s extremely important to apply to as many funding organisations as possible. Initially, when I was selected for a residency at Camac, the art’s centre offered no financial support whatsoever. However, when I contacted the director of Camac and voiced my concerns regarding the costs, I was awarded support from the Tenot Foundation towards my accommodation; it’s always worth contacting the organisation. I think that once you’ve secured a place and some funding, it’s easier to gain further support but like I said there’s absolutely, no guarantee. Funding applications really are a bit of a lottery.
DH: Are there any applications in the pipeline at the moment?
KK: At the moment, I’m concentrating on applying for exhibitions. Recently, I was selected for an exhibition in New York, which was very exciting but it transpired that I’d be charged a ridiculous $4000 for the privilege and I just couldn’t afford it. Also, I didn’t really know whether it was legit and even if it was, I wouldn’t be up for gambling with that kind of money.
DH: I’ve been ripped off by a couple of companies over the years.
KK: Yeah, I can see how that’s possible. I think you’ve got to be very careful and research these places. Also, there are a number of legit opportunities out there, which charge an application fee of around £30 and as a rule, I don’t apply to more than a couple of such opportunities a year. I just can’t afford it and I have to be pretty strict about stuff like that. If you’re charged for the application process, there’s absolutely no guarantee that you’re gonna be selected and I know that sounds negative but if you’re skint, it’s a mighty gamble, isn’t it?
DH: Where would you most like to have an exhibition?
KK: Well, an exhibition in a real high profile gallery would be absolutely amazing and it would be great to break into the London scene.
DH: Do you see working as an artist as a bit of a gamble?
KK: I think success is really about being in the right place at the right time and to do that, gaining as much exposure for your work as possible. It can take time but once you’ve secured one opportunity, you’re much more likely to achieve something else and then something else until hopefully, it snowballs. I guess, taking a gamble could pay off and fast track you but for me, the key’s creating new work and perseverance. That’s how I see it.
For more on Kit Kingsbury check out http://www.kitkingsbury.co.uk
Words: Damian Huntley
Photography: Ryen Huntley
Additional images courtesy of Kit Kingsbury