Our Transatlantic Connections: A Conversation with Sally Kindberg
We've been itching to introduce the work by Sally Kindberg for some time now and were excited to see her opening a quality leisure/summer themed exhibition. On view at the Peter Von Kant's location in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, England through August 28, 2021, Freeport is an exhibition paying tribute to the past era of transatlantic ocean liners.
Inspired by the story of RMS Queen Mary, Cunard’s great Blue Riband transatlantic ocean liner, which was moored in Long Beach, California, after 31 years of active sailing back in 1967, Kindberg painted a whole body of work around its golden days. Looking back and imagining the atmosphere on the ship that was connecting the two worlds, Swedish-born and London-based artist collected a series of images that depict its interiors, as well as the lifestyle and the people on it. Mixing glamour on open seas along with humor and the suggestive saucy pleasures, she has created a romanticized documentation of the era whose memory is fading together with the condition of the said vessel. Working from found photographs, Kindberg framed these works in a way so the mystery is added and the shine was accentuated through her polished visual language.
And such interest isn't accidental as we saw the artist applying cinematic light and accentuated use of instamatic-like colors to her work, creating a peculiar atmosphere between parody and documentation, caricature and portrayal. So, we got in touch with the artist recently to learn more about this particular body of work, its placement in Kindberg's oeuvre, as well as learn about some saucy details about her practice.
Sasha Bogojev: Where did the idea of Freeport come from and what intrigued you personally about that story?
Sally Kindberg: I was approached by Peter von Kant to do a show loosely around the theme of Queen Mary, the ship that inspired the Marine Court building in St Leonards on the south coast of England. I have been on many modern cruise ferries between Sweden-Finland, Sweden-Poland, Sweden-UK, Netherlands-Denmark in the past so I loved the idea. I mean, once I slept in a cabin in the front of the ship on the lowest deck and the cabin was shaped like an iron, and the door was a curtain. Entertainment is a big thing on these ships but they are always a bit surreal, where reality and the expected doesn’t fully gel. Apparently Queen Mary is haunted now.
How did the process of selecting reference images look like and what did you look for in them?
It was so exciting! I started doing research on Queen Mary and bought a book on the ship. The history was intriguing. There was this white Bakelite telephone that didn’t have a rotary dialer, but you could telephone to any part of the world whilst at sea! How poetic isn’t that? I looked at interior design, carpets, details, fashion and advertising posters and in the end, I ended up with my own freestyled piece of resistance of the lot.
What is the significance of a jelly image which keeps reappearing in a couple of works?
I was thinking about popular festive foods from that era. Even my mom used to make aladåb which is the Swedish word, in French, à la daube, aspic or jello salad in English. I think the thing with jelly is that it looks like a gemstone, a diamond, or an amber with a prehistoric insect in it. It says something about time passing. It’s like a crystal ball that you can see the future in except it’s the past haha! And now jelly is so out of fashion people will only eat it if it’s a gin and tonic-glow-in-the-dark jelly.
Your work always had this retro, blurry, faded memory feel to it. Where does that come from and is this something you've developed purposely?
Like MEMORY FOAM! I think my work has just developed organically, one thing leads to another, one painting leads to another. I transfer ideas forward. I really love free association and playing with words and meaning.
There is an element of humour or at least faded glory throughout the work. Is this intentional and how do you approach that?
As I start on a painting, the objects, scenarios or people become animated. I am not entirely sure how that happens because I am mainly thinking in terms of dark, light, contrast, composition and tension. It must all happen simultaneously. I think the idea of faded glory is how ephemeral everything is unless you carve it in stone like the Vikings did.
What are some of the aspects of the creative process that intrigue or frustrate or satisfy you the most?
The intriguing part is when it falls into place, when I have discovered something that I didn’t know before I started, e.g. I just made a painting that is filled with more meaning/reading than I had anticipated. The frustrating part is that I can’t count my chickens before they hatch. The satisfying part is when I have mastered a technical issue. They are all part of making art, I think what is the most interesting thing about painting is that as an artist YOU create problems that YOU have to solve, YOU are responsible for YOUR own reactions to it. I sometimes think: omg what have I done?!
In what way can you say that any of those elements informed this particular body of work?
This body of work actually came surprisingly easy to me, maybe because the theme was like Alasdair Duncan says in the essay: When Carry On meets The Shining (Carry On films are British comedy whose humour mostly relied on satire, mockery, slapstick, innuendo) and The Shining is pure horror.
Is this concept of "alternative documentation" something you want to keep working around and what are some of the projects you have coming up?
Oh, I don’t know! This opportunity was site-specific. Next up is DUVE in Berlin, I am just finishing 12 paintings for a solo show that opens in the middle of September and the theme is something very ‘bling’, that’s all I can say.