8 May 2012

Big Art: an interview with Karla from Join The Big Picture Blog

My BFF Karla is one part of Pfeifer Thompson Creative (the other part being her husband Leon of Leonhard Pfeifer furniture-designer fame, with whom she collaborates). Karla is based in the very cool East London and has been showcasing Big Art as part of her project Join The Big Picture Blog. There she is above with her gorgeous daughter. I interviewed Karla to find out all about her inspirations, international Big Art and how we can participate too.

Karla, what is Join The Big Picture Blog in a nutshell?
The vision of Join the Big Picture Blog is to inspire and engage with a virtual audience through scale. Historically, artists have always worked big, and nowadays, those boundaries are being pushed to the limits. Nowadays art can’t simply be categorised as painting or sculpture. It takes on many forms, and is about expression and connecting.
Whether large-scale art is in the form of photos from the Hubble space telescope, live sharks floating in tanks of formaldehyde, rooms full of dots, concrete sculptures cast from Victorian buildings or hand knitted blankets wrapped around trees, it’s all around us. Join the Big Picture aims to spark conversations and inspire.

You've been posting about Big Art in both Australia/NZ and the UK. Do you own a private jet?
Oh that would be nice. No, unfortunately I am a servant of long haul airlines. Living in London with my daughters grandparents in both Australia and New Zealand, we trip back and forth across the globe at regular intervals.

London is a fantastic city to live in and is full of exciting artwork. There is such a buzz here. From street art and public sculpture to arts festivals and gallery openings, art really is a part of the city life with interesting instillations popping up unexpectedly, both officially and unofficially.

Who is your favourite large-scale Australian artist?
John Dahlsen is an amazing artist with fantastic vision and ethics. He collects man-made flotsam and jetsam; plastic, polystyrene, wire, string etc… from the beaches in Australia, categorises the rubbish and creates wonderful landscape collages. I first saw his work in Brisbane at an independent gallery in the 90’s. Close up, the large framed boxes, approximately 1m x 2m in are just full of rubbish. However, when you stepped back, the colour graduations, patterns and textures revealed the most wonderful beach landscapes. They were both beautiful and sad at the same time.

I also saw his Primary Totems at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Australia in 2010. They are a poignant reminder of how we are affecting our planet, in particular the Pacific Ocean.

Another artist working in a similar way is American artist Chris Jordan, who I featured on Join the Big Picture for Climate Week.

Do you have to be Big to make big art?
Gosh no. My daughter loves painting on a really big scale. We just hosted her 4th birthday party with the theme of messy play. Together with her friends, they mixed 10 litres of poster paint into bowls, turning it into a wonderfully murky brown and then painted with their hands - and at moments with their elbows - onto a 10m roll of paper we laid out on the grass. The result was, um, let use the word ‘impressive’. This was, after all her first collaborative work.
I think the key to working on large-scale pieces is having the vision and patience to persevere, and see the process through to the end.

Have you created any Big Art yourself?
Since arriving in London 11 years ago my focus has moved to producing large-scale corporate artwork digitally. Working on my computer and then printing the final work onto canvas and framing. One of my favourite more recent pieces was a commission I completed for a property management group that build skyscrapers across the world. The final triptych of 3 canvases measured 3.9m X 2.4m high in size. It is enormous and hangs in the foyer of their corporate headquarters here in London. The client’s response to the initial concept was “We love it - but can we change everything to our corporate blue?” That’s the great thing about working digitally.
I have a studio in Hackney, East London. It’s an amazing area; raw and industrial, nothing at all like the London you see on film or postcards. The neighbouring Hackney Wick area is renowned a creative centre and more artists per capita than anywhere else in the world. It is a great place for inspiration.

I love a bit of yarn-bombing as it feels like something we can all do to participate in Big Art. Do you know of any other large-scale crafty activities that we could look out for?

Yarn bombing is so much fun and as a novice knitter - I took me a year to knit one pair of socks… - it makes me really happy to see these yarn bomb installations pop up around over town.

On a more surreal note, there is a local artist who has been potato-bombing bus stops for years. He paints potatoes in fluorescent colours, and sticks toothpicks through them to create prickly objects, that are then left on the roofs of bus shelters. You don’t notice them unless you are on the top level of the bus. He is having another flurry around town, so they have been popping up, fresh, again. Even though the objects are small, they cover a large geographical area, so are within the bounds of the big picture vision. Random gorilla art like this is one of the reasons I love living in London.

Thanks for sharing a bit about your creative interests Karla; do you have anything else on the horizon that we should check out?

Both Damien Hirst and Yayoi Kusama are having exhibitions at the Tate Modern. I have already been to the Hirst show, and have tickets for Kusama in May.

The Kusama exhibition will be very interesting for me, as I saw her exhibition at the GOMA in Queensland last year. It will be interesting to see how her work changes in different environments. Plus, stay tuned for a piece on the Join The Big Picture Blog about the elusive East London potato bomber.

Thank you so much Karla for inspiring us to look at Big Art! For more information head over to Karla's website Join The Big Picture Blog.

Images: Karla Thompson for Join The Big Picture Blog

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