Old Books and Dried Paint Make For Contemplative Art

What do you get when you cross an early 1960s Life World Library encyclopaedia with colourful oil paint scrapings taken from an artist’s palette knife and collected over the years? The answer lies in Canadian artist Kristine Zingeler‘s series Terra Mobilis, a complex and conceptual collage series considering the shifting constellation of details that make up the bigger picture.

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Kristine creates conceptual dialogues in this new series by layering or lining up photos from the old encyclopaedia, and placing palette knife shavings on top in careful compositions. The result is shot with a macro lens, and the photos blown up, revealing the granular texture of the vintage photos and the peculiar topographical nature of the paint – “It is always a magical surprise when I go pick up the work from the printer”, she tells us.

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But that’s the end product – let’s start from the very beginning.

The Plus: Take us through the title – Terra Mobilis.
Kristine Zingeler:
Terra Mobilis is Latin for ‘the moving earth’ and is from the Anne Michaels book Fugitive Pieces. I was re-reading it while trying to understand this body of work, and I began to think about the pieces as both emotional and geological evidence of a life lived. The paint shavings have a kind of topographical quality, and are literally a kind of core sample of the paintings I have made in the past decade.

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TP: You frequently paint, but have returned to collage here, what’s the appeal?
KZ:
My artistic collage practice definitely goes through spurts – have no idea what triggers it, but I really love the flexibility. When I sweep the objects layered on top away, the initial collage can be used again and again – I am always excited by how a single image can contribute to so many different ideas.

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TP: One focus in your work is how we are marked by experience – what experiences of yours have marked this series?
KZ:
It is the small moments that I can see in this work. I am not as interested in specific experiences as I am in the more subtle things that make us who we are, like a certain memory from childhood that is so vivid, yet is the most banal moment.

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TP: So, an accumulation of small changes?
KZ:
Our DNA can be altered by our living conditions, neural pathways can be remapped after brain trauma, a person’s metabolism is determined by what their mother ate while they were in the womb. I think it is those kinds of things that I am trying to reflect in my work: how the smallest incidences can greatly influence ourselves and the people around us.

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TP: You mention that you’re a continuous and diverse learner – what’s the most
surprising thing you’ve learnt recently?
KZ:
I watched a TED Talk by Suzanne Simard that discussed how an interconnected relationship between trees and fungal networks allow the plants to share information and experience. “Mother” trees that have lived through many hardships, like drought and insect attacks, can teach the younger trees how to survive and flourish.

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TP: If you weren’t an artist, where do you think you would be instead?
KZ:
I have always been kind of obsessed with rocks and plants, so I think if I had been better at maths and science in school then I would have become a geologist or a botanist.

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