When it comes to art, there is an almost endless means for interpretation. For every individual, what is observed is different; yet, similarly for every individual, what is learned can be the same. It is the phenomena that is the human mind that connects us– creating an invisible string between a singular piece of art and its viewers that holds more meaning and power than can be understood. It can be said that within the confines of a canvas lies a flame waiting to be lit, yet for Maria Kreyn, that flame is eternal. In her perspective, art is fluorescent, vibrant, an introspective beckoning of the mind and heart, and an awakening of the chaos in the world around us that all lie present in her art. Her work is not just an object to be observed, it is to be breathed in and understood.
Kreyn's first solo show at The Hole's Tribeca Location, UNTUNE A STRING, celebrates the power of both nature and digital culture in her work–combining the human experience with the human mind. The art is delicately arranged and interwoven to create an illusion so entangled with the fire of human nature that it carries a multifarious vision never to be snuffed out. A palette of bright colors and apocalyptic imagery, her work resonates with a reality beyond the canvas.
Though the paintings are inspired by The Tempest, the line “Untune a string” is from a monologue in Troilus and Cressida, which is known as one of Shakespeare’s problem plays, because it’s neither a comedy nor a tragedy. Would you say this exhibition could be viewed in the same light–neither comedic nor tragic?
Sure. In a way, it’s an aesthetic vision of something catastrophic. I’m drawn to the philosophical notion of the ‘sublime’, where nature is seen as both beautiful and terrifying in its cycle of creation and destruction. I see these paintings as both playful and foreboding. Because Shakespeare always parallels epic global phenomena with the human psyche, interpreting The Tempest gave me a point of departure to see weather as a powerful metaphor for the human experience... which of course explores the full range of emotions, and runs the gamut from comedy to tragedy. Within the context of the speech, the phrase Untune a String gestures at the power humans have to disrupt or destabilize the natural order, even when they’re unaware of their agency. This feels particularly prescient to me as a reflection of our current historical moment.
Your art is imbued with this unique sense of temporality—it’s both informed by history and reflective of the climate anxieties of the present/future. How does your experience of time shape your creative process? How did your experience of time translate to this particular series?
Painting feels like a form of time travel. It’s a conversation with works from the past and present. Images can converse with each other through any era, just like literature. And it’s interesting how resonant a speech from a lesser-known play by Shakespeare can feel today. Similarly, weaving historical visual references into contemporary paintings highlights our collective human experience throughout time. And the act of making work is itself a chronicle of time.
Speaking of time, what draws you to the Old Masters specifically? Why return to history when generating the new?
I grew up looking at the old masters. The great painters made things look truly alive, as though illuminated from inside the canvas, but not necessarily naturalistic... which has always been my aim. I’ve also come to enjoy scrambling historic citations and creating an image that feels familiar, yet is completely new. For me, building a visual language usually involves remixing existing ones. For example, creating a dialog between the deep illusionistic space of 18th-century landscape painting and modernist formalist ideas catalyzed the first series of storm paintings.
How—if at all—is your work reflective of your personhood?
In every possible way: These paintings are meditations on nature, the body, materiality, movement, self-awareness, and collective consciousness.
How has your study of mathematics shaped your art practice?
Studying math was a great experience for me. It was challenging, humbling, and gave me a durable set of mental tools. Writing a proof can be at once rigid, logical, creative, fluid, and intuitive. Said that way, it sounds similar to painting. Yet candidly, I just like a more interdisciplinary approach to things in general. They all somehow inform each other.
Turner, who you’ve cited as an inspiration for the work, once declared “The sun is God.” A direct view of the sun is absent from the works in Untune a String. Does the divine play a role here?
If we can equate the divine with the sublime, then perhaps. If anything, these paintings reflect a sort of playful reverence towards nature. No doubt there is turbulence, but it’s always illuminated.