This post forms Part 2 of my discussion with artist Agatha A. Nitecka.
To return to Part 1 of the interview click here.
[PR] I believe the restrained and minimalist tendency in your work is part of what gives it such resonance; I sense the levels of abstraction in your images are not mere techniques, that somehow they are connected to the ambiguity of the people, moments and environments referenced in your work.
Could you describe the editing process used to achieve this type of restraint in your work?
[AN] How interesting you call it restraint! I never thought of restraining anything, it comes naturally to me, but I guess you are right – there is so much visual information around I must edit quite a lot. I definitely like simple things, a certain rawness especially. Beginnings. Sketches. Open spaces. White patches that the artist left untouched on canvas or paper. There has to be a space to either breathe or move around in whatever image I create. I rarely like anything completely finished. In sculpture this is very difficult to achieve. My favourite example is Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures – they are still very present even if the figure does not fully emerge from the block of stone.
My own way to deal with this was to work predominantly with concrete, as it contained the information about the form and weightiness of the object, but remained rather unfinished in terms of material, texture and colour. I still wasn’t satisfied, and that’s partly the reason why I don’t make actual sculptures anymore.
Around 10 years ago I came across a quote by Delacroix, something along the lines of how the sketch of a work is always the most pleasing because the viewer can finish it as they choose. I completely agreed back then, and took it on board as a useful hint. I don’t seem to have grown out of that belief yet. I doubt I ever will.
“a space to either breathe or move around in…”
[PR] What aspects of human nature intrigue you as an artist? Are there any specific perspectives on human relationships you are aiming to communicate?
[AN] I can’t possibly even try to answer that here. It’s my subject for a PhD. Not only would it be too long for an answer, but perhaps also not clear enough, as I am still doing my research. We could come back to that in a few years time, how about that? For now think of intimacy and distance (both far away and close), and of the spaces in-between. I often just free-associate through my work and here I would add: breathing, whispering, silence, and then crucially, touch (both inside and outside). Actually, a good example for now would be Rodin’s The Cathedral, that space between the hands, that’s what intrigues me the most. Literally as well as metaphorically.
[PR] Now to your work in film. Whether referencing the natural world or human interactions with it, these works often evoke sensations ranging from touch, isolation and empathy to snippets or vignettes of the observed world.
Could you provide more insight into the motivations behind your films or methods used to construct them?
[AN] I find it extremely hard to talk about my films. Let me tell you how it started, and maybe that will shed some light on how I work with the moving image. I always found it very interesting how often artists’ work is taken rather seriously, where for the artist the beginning might have been a mere sketch of an idea, a playful moment, lighthearted exploration, or even an accident. I am aware how silly this may sound, but I basically wanted to have super8 films so that I could show them to my grandchildren in the future, show them how cool granny was when she was young.
I wanted to capture something of the lost world, as they definitely won’t know the world as we know it now. …I imagined myself sitting there by the projector with my grandchildren and telling them about the wonders of the world, as if whispering little visual poems. It already represents a bit of the world lost to me, as I would usually capture something that awakens my own childhood memories (20th century in Poland was way different from 21st, say, in the UK…sometimes I feel like I had two separate lives).
“I wanted to capture something of the lost world…”
My films differ from my still image work in that I usually don’t use super8 for work with a human form, which is my main subject in photography. It is also mainly an exploration of colour, where photography used to be mainly black and white in my case. I use my super8 camera just like a still camera. I take pictures; 18 per second, but to my mind these are photographs, images like others I take, but they move. So instead of thinking of making a film I think of taking moving images. Within this film I might sometimes cut a few things out, but I almost always leave it as I filmed it.
[PR] Tell us about your most recent exhibitions (the ones which took place in Japan). What body of work was presented there and did this represent a creative shift or a deeper exploration of your concerns as an artist ?
[AN] Yes indeed Paul, these exhibitions were very important and represented a shift in my work, definitely. Partly because I was shooting in New York, Philadelphia and Boston and I always feel slightly more courageous when I’m in the States. Perhaps because I am away from a familiar environment. Also, the show was called ‘The Beauty or The Beast?’, and there is quite a clear narrative implied in the title, which I rarely work with. Firstly, the title suggested two subjects, and I started photographing my partner a lot at the time (thank you Sam for your patience).
It was the first time when I so strongly felt I couldn’t achieve anything satisfying with the self-portrait technique, and I so badly wanted another person in the image. Secondly, the title made me think specifically about Japanese aesthetics. The season was spring at the time, with the cherry blossoms all over the place in Japan as well as where I worked in the US.
So the link between where I was shooting and where my work would be exhibited was in the cherry trees. And it is their unusual pink that made me think in colour, as before I had worked almost exclusively in black and white. The shift therefore was rather large. Since then I have worked more often in colour, and I definitely find the male form so refreshing to photograph – it tells a different story that my body does.
[PR] How about current projects or collaborations you are involved with – is there anything you can share with us?
[AN] Something I never thought I would investigate – fashion photography – opened to me fairly recently. I really treasure beauty. I neither take it for granted nor do I disrespect it. Which unfortunately is often the case in art circles, as apparently for some if something is beautiful then automatically it is devoid of meaning. I disagree. Strongly.
In fashion photography there is no need to explain oneself for creating a beautiful image. In the art context my work was often criticized for being ‘editorial’, yet in a different context it turned into an advantage…just like that. (I am currently shooting editorials and am very much looking forward to doing more).
There are also other personal projects, which I shall give you the links to when they’re launched. Two fine art blogs. One as a response to the fashion pathway that just opened up and inspired me greatly, the other is perhaps more literature based where I look at love letters.
And this interview of course, Paul, thanks for having me here.
[PR] Any other sites relevant to your work?
[AN] There will be some, but these are not launched yet. I will email you when they go live and you can update the post then…
Born in Poland, Agatha studied briefly at the Master School of Film Directing in Warsaw. In 2004, she moved to London and studied sculpture at Chelsea College of Art and Design. She later graduated from UCL with the MSc in Theoretical Psychoanalytic Studies, which resulted in her working predominantly with moving and still image. She continues to live and work in London and exhibits internationally.
[Update July 2011]
Keep updated with Agatha’s recent projects at agathaa.com/projects
Main website: www.agathaa.com