IN CONVERSATION | PAINTER- KAROLINA ALBRICHT

19.08.20

“There are alternatives- you can move to another city or another country, but it’s frustrating to see that artists are the trailblazers for the developers. And unfortunately, it’s a vicious circle.”

-Karolina Albricht

 Karolina Albricht (b. 1983 in Krakow) is a London based artist and curator currently undertaking Turps Studio Programme in London. She graduated with an MA from The Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow in 2008, prior to that she completed Socrates-Erasmus at ArtEZ Institute of Fine Arts in Arnhem, the Netherlands in 2007. Her recent exhibitions include Dear Painter at Nordic Art Agency, Malmo, Adazzle at JGM Gallery, London and Catamaran at Thames Side Studios Gallery, London. Her awards include ArtGemini Prize, Tyson Awards (selected by Liz Gilmore). She was shortlisted for RA Summer Exhibition, Threadneedle Prize and National Open Competition. 

Karolina Albricht’s paintings derive from a private imaginative space. Her work is rooted in figuration while operating within an abstract language. Continuously, she’s negotiating new configurations of form, colour and surface, establishing and defying the possibilities of painting, stretching it beyond the flat surface of canvas. She sees painting as a generative force of space, time, movement and feeling; an active environment where these elements meet, setting their own terms; a possible reality. A reality felt and experienced. [karolinaalbricht.com]

What is your definition of studio space? 

I think of the studio as a physical and mental space, or thinking space. It’s where you naturally insulate yourself from all the clamour of the external world. You process things from that world, digest them and merge with what’s happening in the studio. Then the external world becomes internal and that’s when things kick-off. At that point, the studio stops being the four walls. 

Being in the studio means you can develop this strong bond or connection with yourself which is kind of ineffable, hard to describe. But music and dancing is a good departure point. I think everything gets diluted when living in London and the function of the studio, for me, is to remove the outer layers, slow down and adjust the focus. 

Collaborative/communal studio spaces are on the rise within London. Do you believe this formula can work and how? 

Absolutely. I mean it’s not a novelty to share a studio (especially in London) and as rent goes up, as it always does, you have to find a way to continue working. And sometimes it means that you share a studio with another artist. If it’s the right person it can be a fantastic thing. Mostly, you would probably see the other person once or twice a week as you both have jobs and different working patterns etc. So, some days you get the space to yourself, and it really matters, mentally. Because by sharing you get access to a larger studio, most probably with windows and even though it’s not all yours, you have more walking and breathing space. Then on other days you also get to exchange ideas or give each other feedback, it also disrupts the isolation. I’ve had a great experience with sharing and it can work really well and be beneficial on many fronts. 

Do you believe that London has an impact on your art? 

Without question. I mean, London has had an impact on my life and that’s intertwined with my work. Or it equals my work. I moved here from Poland 11 years ago and it was difficult to find a way of continuing painting. You’re sort of thrown into this vortex of information, people, art, nightlife. Everything. But it gives back and feeds your work. All those experiences accumulate in layers and layers. Like an inventory or archive. It’s quite handy. 

Would you consider moving outside of London? 

Yeah sure. But it’s all contingent on things like: would it be easy to get to London to see shows and stay in touch with people? The commute would be crucial. I wouldn’t want to live 2h away, at least not at this stage. It’s so important to maintain contact with other artists and it’s one of the downsides of moving out of London. But at some point, you might grow tired of the business and the compromises you make to sustain your practice. So, if it requires a bigger space then moving out would make it possible. But it’s not for everyone and you have to be in the right time of your career and the right frame of mind to make that step. 

Do you think it would impact your work if you were to move out of the city? 

There’s no way it wouldn’t. It’s a combination of so many things: you change the environment from urban to rural, so you’re more in touch with nature, and it would inevitably interact and impact your work. You also change your studio space (hopefully for a massive barn), so that will also influence your work, how you set it up, how you organise it, everything matters. You’re also removed from the psychological space of the city, so you slow down (I imagine) and adjust to a different rhythm. I don’t know what would happen exactly to my own work, but it would without doubt change. 

What do you think the future of studio space looks like? 

I think it comes down to our adaptability. During lockdown, artists have been forced to come up with ways of continuing their practice at home, using different materials, downsizing, struggling with finding the right mental space to work in a bedroom or a living room. Hopefully, once lockdown is lifted, most of us will be able to return to their studios. Artists are resourceful and will come up with ways of establishing the space they need. 

Of course, long term that might mean moving out of London when you consider how fast the studio spaces disappear, how gentrification spreads further and further and artists are being pushed out. There are alternatives- you can move to another city or another country, but it’s frustrating to see that artists are the trailblazers for the developers. And unfortunately, it’s a vicious circle. 

How do you believe we can ensure artists remain in London, in the future? 

It’s all about affordability and ensuring that artists and studio buildings are recognised as valuable, not just for the artists’ sake, but for society. So, whoever decides about which studio building gets knocked down, should consider the cultural impact of that decision and try to accommodate the artists. If we have no affordable spaces to work in, we will have move out to find it elsewhere. 

How do you think artists can collaborate and communicate with developers in London to try to maintain the cultural community? 

One way could be to ensure that each development assigns part of the building for cultural purposes: affordable studio spaces, project spaces. I know that, in some measure, it’s already happening in London. It just needs to be implemented, woven into the fabric of these processes. It’s a sustainable way of moving forward. You can’t separate art or culture from society, it’s not how we evolved.