Today we are going to meet the artist Christina Mitrentse.
Who are you?
I am a multidisciplinary London-based artist, art & design educator and I also run a Curatorial Service, CM projects, for international artists.
What’s your background?
I was born in Greece where I completed my BA in Fine Arts and moved to London in 2000 with an A. Onassis Foundation fellowship. I was subsequently awarded an MFA and PG Dip from Chelsea College of Arts and a PGCE from the University of Greenwich, London. I have been collaborating with various galleries in Europe and the UK since then, also teaching and curating exhibitions, including, in London, Royal Academy of Arts, The Stephen Lawrence Gallery. The Eagle Gallery, Hang-Up Pictures, Book-Art-Bookshop, The Residence Gallery, Argentum Gallery, ICA London, Departure Foundation, London Art Fair, dalla Rossa Gallery, as well as others in Europe: Liverpool Biennial, UK; Nadine Feront Gallery, Brussels; Depo Darm, Athens; Lola Nikolaou Gallery and The Apartment, Greece; XV Biennale de Mediterranean Thessoloniki-Rome; , NDSM-werf, Amsterdam; Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art; and State Museum of Contemporary Art & CACT Thessaloniki, Greece. ,
How did you start making art?
I have been making art since the age of thirteen, influenced by my mother's drawings and grandfather's art library and the various garden drawings. I loved going to the theater and to music concerts. I then decided that's what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and entered the school of Fine Art in Thessaloniki at the age of eighteen.
Why do you make art?
It is vital in shaping the world and our way of thinking. How can I separate what I do from art and art from what I do? It’s a little scary when I think about not being able to escape the art world and everything that surrounds it. I have not found the answer yet!
What inspires you?
The feelings that I get when I see something that triggers recognition within me. Something that compels me to act. Nature and the unfolding of the day, stories, titles, vintage images and illustrations, memories, the unknown, news, people, sounds, mania!
What is your most important artist tool?
Mind and hand coordination.
Is there something you can't live without in your studio?
Natural light, paper and books.
Is there an element of art you enjoy working with the most?
I do enjoy different aspects, therefore I am multidisciplinary. I mostly enjoy traditional techniques of drawing and sculpture-making, folding and re-appropriating paper, and images of books. I like negotiating conceptual statements because they can be both handcrafted and socially interactive.
How has your practice changed over time?
I construct my own reality and world, which involves non-normalized idiosyncratic institutions, shaped by people’s contributions, and which evolves over time, being designed to provoke changes in the function of cultural interaction rather than being controlled by the institutionalized establishment. The ways in which I conceive of the world involve using mainly books that represent the idea that the world can be organized differently than what media and politics present. It’s a way of being all-inclusive but at the same time locating art within the idea of a personality in time.
How do you know when a work is finished?
My art-making is the relationship of the stimuli of now and ideas that come from my childhood. It is totally fluid like the way life works. Within the context of the ‘Add To My Library’ project, and the Bibliophile Book Sculptures for example, I invent an infinite systematic methodology – an ‘Online Bibliographic Data Flow’ that compiles favorite art book titles and authors, contributed by international specialists from the art world, i.e. musicologists, artists, curators, writers, academics, or just the audience that follows my projects, each of them adding to the construction of an infinite library; I create bespoke pieces from the books given to me in the form of sculptures, book lamps and print editions. This is the resource material, which I then direct in the shaping of the publication volumes.
Is it important for an artist to study art at university?
It is important for people to be given the freedom and choice to study art at an early age, not just at the university.
There is a social value in art. It should be in schools because it gives people a way of shaping the world and how they think of it. Art is as valuable as math, science, computer programming and so on.
What art do you most identify with?
I am a multidisciplinary artist known for constructing poetic ensembles of idiosyncratic institutions through manifold processes of vintage book-sculpture, Bibliophile sculptures, mushroom-pillars (bespoke handcrafted book lamp designs made from vintage books given from my followers and various collectors). Also drawing, screen-print editions and productions of site-specific installations, i.e. ‘Add To My Library’ and‘METALIBRARY’, a major international Book Art project initiative and ongoing exhibition in Europe and the UK; ‘Wounded Books’ series, or books that have been shot with a rifle, under licensed conditions in London; selected vintage Penguin Publications on the subjects of political ideologies, the history of the labor movement, art catalogues, i.e. John Latham and Ai Wei-Wei, and history logs from Wiener Library Archive.
Should art be funded?
Art should be funded primarily by the state for artists to create works in schools, public spaces, and hospitals. Art galleries and museums are currently run by private companies and corporations and dealers. This must stop!
What role does art funding have?
The Department for Education’s system in the UK currently gives less academic value in secondary schools to art, music, drama and dance than to science, technology, math, English and so on. This will have a disastrous impact on the nation’s economy and its reputation for creativity, design and innovation.
What is your dream project?
You are not meant to say your dreams or they will not come true. I guess to see the ATML project grow into a worldwide scale project with contributors from all parts of society and exhibited in a contemporary museum in New York.
What research do you do?
I do research archives online and was recently awarded the design commission for the Flag of the Swedenborg House. I also study collections where I usually get commissions or residencies, including Local and National Archives, National Library, Westminster Art Library, The Wiener Library for the Holocaust & genocide, Swedenborg House, Birmingham Library, Women Arts Library Goldsmiths, Give a Book Charity, and museums, including Sir John Soan Museums, Plantin-Moretus Museum Collection in Belgium and Benaki Museum, Athens. I travel in Europe, the Czech Republic, Vienna, Budapest, and Berlin. I also resource a selection of rare book publications that then become collectable Bibliophile Lamps in my studio.
What do you dislike about the art world?
When it makes profits only for the companies and corporates and forgets about the artists’ real value and appreciation of culture and the great effect that art has on humanity.
What couldn't you do without?
Feta cheese with olive oil and oregano.
Is it important for artists to have solo exhibitions?
Yes. All artists must exhibit regularly. Art is a profession and as much as we’d like to deny it, is part of commerce and capitalism – but that does not necessarily reflect the actual value of my artwork;, that’s what the art market decides upon. Prices are usually in agreement with galleries where I exhibit a body of work or based on commissioned work I take. I have been exhibiting work since 1996 and I sell works online too of course. I also like donating works to charities or philanthropic organizations. I have recently performed an interactive METALIBRARY for Give a Book Charity in London and I also give works away to friends when I feel they truly desire them.
Where can good artworks reside?
It doesn’t matter where because when the audience or viewer is aware that it is art they are looking at or experiencing, then everywhere can be a platform for art.
What are the elements of beauty in art?
The elements of beauty in artwork is the balance between reality and fantasy, the real and the unreal, the known and the unknown.
Professionally, what's your goal?
To continue to successfully run the curatorial service, CM Projects, and introduce international artists to wider audiences through collaborations with various galleries. I am also presenting a major solo exhibition on May 11th at the Jewish Museum of Greece curated by Mina Karagianni, in association with the Wiener Library London. I want to re-create, re-discover, re-spond, extend, and keep the dialogue open and alive. I am accustomed to responding to collections as a conceptual and theoretical mode of contemporary curatorial and artistic practice. Incorporating various readings, and using different techniques, I negotiate the concept of the collection and the dialectical relationship between contemporary art and art production. The series of sculptures, wounded books and the living presence of an in-situ, participatory and performance installation entitled ‘METALIBRARY’ aims to create a new, intense, experiential museum display.