Photography Translates Through Installation
Award winning contemporary artist Christine Ko, combines installation and photomedia to create large scale artworks that are both interactive and reflective. Her concepts draw on personal experiences, society and identity and from this her interactive works draw you in to her web of exploration of marginality and her relationship with the world as a Chinese-Australian immigrant.
Get to know Christine:
How would you describe your arts practice and how has it changed overtime? ~ I'd describe my practice as a contemporary practice that is a blend of installation and photomedia. My background is in photography but in the last few years I developed an interest in installation practice as I was starting to feel limited by the frame of the image. My photographic practice was centred on the built environment and urban landscapes so I got to a point where I felt like I was no longer satisfied just to capture the environment, but instead became interested in creating environments myself in order to provide a more immersive and active engagement for the audience.
Where are you based and has your surrounding environment influenced your work? ~ I am based in Brisbane. I don't have a dedicated studio so I make work wherever I can find space, which at the moment is a mixture of the living space in my flat and an ad hoc bench and wall space at the art school where I work. The lack of a substantial studio space definitely restricts the sizes of the installations I make. Ideally I'd love to make massive multi-room installations but it's difficult to test out works at that scale when working with the limited resources available to an emerging artist. When possible, I try to have an extended installation period during exhibitions so that I have time to fix any issues that only become evident when the work is installed. I have come to embrace the uncertainty of the outcome of the artworks and the problem solving skills required to overcome them. However with experience, my pre-visualisation skills have improved dramatically and I have become less of a perfectionist.
What projects do you have planned for 2018? ~ I have my first exhibition in Sydney in May/June at Verge Gallery which will be great exposure for my work so I'm really excited about it! And I will also be making new works for the Biennale of Australian Art in Ballarat and a group show in Brisbane with VERGE Collective, which will both be happening later in the second half of the year.
What does success mean to you? ~ Success for me is when I see people interacting with my work and really getting a positive experience out of it. I always try to make work that has a strong conceptual foundation that is true to my voice, however even if the audience doesn't "get" the concept, as long as they wanted to engage with the work and I was able to provide them with an experience out of the ordinary, then I feel I have succeeded in my role as an artist. I always get the most satisfaction when kids get really excited about my works as you know they're responding purely to what they're experiencing and seeing in front of them rather than due to any social conditioning or other external factors.
What steps did you first take to get your work 'out there' and what advice would you give someone who is starting out? ~ I got my first breaks by entering competitions. The first competition I was a finalist in I actually ended up selling the print to the artist who won the award that year! And it also led to an invitation to take part in my first group show. My advice is to enter as many competitions and submit as many proposals as you can and to develop a thick skin! There will be a lot of knock backs due to the competitive nature of the industry and you can't let your expectations get the better of you. Be selective and make sure you're submitting to places that suit your work but also don't let your insecurities or fears about the quality of your work hold you back. The worst that can happen is you don't get selected, but sometimes you get lucky and you never know whose interest you might end up catching!
Where is your happy place? ~ It's always a really great place to be when you get into the elusive "zone" when making work. Otherwise in the real world, I'm happy when I have the time to wander lazily through art galleries and around town just watching the world around me. I also spend a lot of time in my head, hanging out at home reflecting on thoughts that are running through my mind and pondering about future projects.
How do you stay motivated? ~ I'm the type of person who needs deadlines to stay motivated so my strategy at the moment is to always have at least one or two exhibitions lined up for the following year so I have goals to work towards and deadlines to keep me moving! I find also upon completion of each work I always feel like there were certain things I could have done better or it inspires new ideas and processes which motivates me to continue and develop new projects.
Where can people find you online? ~ People can see more of my work at my website www.christineko.net or on Instagram @kerrissteen. I am also a member of VERGE Collective who are a collective of Queensland based emerging female photomedia artists, and you can find us on Instagram @vergeartcollective or online at www.vergeartcollective.com.au
Your work is very unique, how do you plan and develop your concepts? ~ The core concepts of my works are all based on personal experience so I spend a lot of time thinking about why I think or feel a certain way and reflect back on significant experiences and memories. Usually the concepts develop from reflecting upon previous works as I find on completion of a work there are always things I feel could have been done better or maybe an unexpected effect or outcome inspires further experimention that leads to the creation of new work. Often times I will also come back to early experiments that perhaps didn't work at the time, but then I was able to come back to and adapt for future works.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever received? ~ Very early on in my art school education, I had absolutely no idea what it meant when we talked about "concept" and what we were trying to say through our images. I always thought I needed to address topics that were deemed to be important by society and the media even though I felt no personal connection to those topics. I remember having a consultation with one of my lecturers where I said I didn't know what I was trying to say, and whether I had anything to say at all. Their response was something along the lines of, "Do you talk to your friends? Do you have deep and meaningful conversations with them and what do you talk about? That's what is important to you and what is worth talking about for you". That was a major "a-ha" moment for me when I realised all the ideas I wanted to voice as an artist were already within me and that I didn't need to search externally for ideas and inspiration. It only took me another 10 years to put that advice into practice!