"A Slumber Embrace" (2014) & "Elegy" (2014) - Both: Graphite, watercolor & white pastel.
The artwork of Kikyz1313 is a beautiful study of the grotesque in art. Her delicately rendered subject matter is initially easy on the eyes, but this aspect only acts as a lure. When her viewers fully take in her main subject matter of innocent children or animals, often in various states of disease and decomposition, an unresolvable contradiction occurs in their minds. Her artwork is stunningly uncomfortable, yet unbearably beautiful. Her concepts are not the fodder of horror movies; they are more complex and involved than that. They are tools of nature, opening the mind to the wonderful sublime reality that is human life on earth.
"Why do we ignore the very intimate contents of our own bodies? Why isn’t there a balance between the mundane, tangible world, and the unfathomable cosmos of our fleeting existence?" —Kikyz1313
"The Disaster's Heiress" & "Why so lonely?" (2014) - Both: graphite, watercolor & white pastel.
Samantha Levin: Your artwork takes a very uncomfortable subject and transforms it into something beautiful. This contradiction seems to be the crux of what you do. The elements you use to create this tension tend to be fragile, such as children, stuffed toys, animals, plants, textiles. Occasionally architectural elements are present, such as brick walls and columns. What leads you to choose these things to create the contradiction in your work?
Kikyz1313: They are chosen after a process of investigation; I am always searching for them. For example, before starting a new artwork, I like to observe pedestrians on the street and their reactions to certain situations, including family interactions, the behaviour and the logic of children, and the characteristic features of the places where people spend a joyful time. I then decontextualise them, taking them out of their comfortable and expected atmosphere, enclosing them with objects that create contradiction.
“Numbed Pallor” (2015) - Ink, graphite & watercolors by Kikyz1313.
The contradiction makes you wonder why certain ideas transcend in our minds and grow untarnished in our memories. Why do we ignore the very intimate contents of our own bodies? Why isn’t there a balance between the mundane, tangible world, and the unfathomable cosmos of our fleeting existence?
Somehow these kinds of questions pop up regularly in my head. My search for answers has lead me to constantly create this duality you notice in my works. That contradiction is also an excuse for me to share my thoughts and resolutions with my audience. Primarily through conversations about social systems and the incongruity in our desire to protect humans and humanity at any cost, existing alongside our condemnation of and revulsion towards any part of ourselves which is “abnormal”. My aim is to create a poetic paradox, depicting the inherent contradictions of our own nature, while also providing balance to our diametrically opposed perceptions in life.
“Leda & The Swan” (2011) - Ink & watercolors by Kikyz1313.
SL: The delicate and intricate linework in your paintings seem to add to the beauty of your work, furthering the impact of your grotesque subject matter. Is this something you do on purpose or is the ink and watercolor medium simply what you prefer?
K: This is deliberate. I take advantage of the contrast of the ink with the watercolors to depict my imagery because it forces the audience to observe without any initial distress. Graphic arts (such as drawing, watercolors, engravings, etc.) aren’t closely attached to reality, as they translate an artist’s visions with lines and rough edges, consequently giving an unreal virtue to the artworks. This feature allows the audience to embrace the image unintentionally, as it doesn’t represent a threat to the viewer’s integrity. I believe this technique also makes the injuries and deformities of my characters less confronting and gives rise to an ambivalent feeling of comfort and annoyance at the same time.
I also decided to work with this technique because of my disenchantment with my early artistic education, when I was hoping to learn traditional engraving techniques, such as aquiating and plate etching. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any educational guide in the art school that would help me. Therefore, I decided to imitate the look of an engraving with the use of crosshatching and ink. My use of color came as the result of a personal quest to achieve realist features in my scenarios.
“El Colmo de un Sordo” (2013) & “Refugio de los muertos” (2015) - Both: Ink, graphite & watercolors.
SL: Can you identify anything in your life that may have precipitated your fascination with grotesque subject matter? You've previously said that your upbringing in Mexico was an influence. Is it something you've always been intrigued by, or is it something that developed later in your life?
K: I think I tend to focus on subversive themes as a projection of my own personality. Since I was a child I've been a big enthusiast of horror movies and bizarre imagery, and I was the kind of kid who admired the villains instead of the heroes. Over the years this perspective somehow grew to frame my artistic quest. But it has also matured into a kind of intrinsic guide, which leads me to observe and perceive reality from an alternate point of view that is normally unseen or ignored.
On the other hand, the cultural context is always an inherent influence for all artists. Mexico undoubtedly, with it's great contrasts and contradictions, has shaped me into who I am today, and these feelings would never diminish my artwork, since they describe me and the place where I come from completely.
“Inopia” (2014) & “Sun Lurker” (2014) - Both: Ink, graphite & watercolors by Kikyz1313.
SL: Can you describe these contrasts and contradictions?
K: Describing the contrasts and contradictions would be like talking about the very essence of what Mexico means today. This is a country where one has to stomp over the heads of the others in order to reach the top and stand out from the mud pit. Where the poor are as racist as the richest gentlemen, and where the tone of your skin gives you social status and projects an image of economic wealth in the eyes of others.
“Ethereal Graze” (2012) & “Miasma's Trill” (2013) - Ink & watercolors by Kikyz1313.
Mexico also has an immeasurable wealth in culture, resources, flora and fauna. Nevertheless it’s always scorned by its people, until the foreigner is amazed by it and then claims it for himself.
There is also an ambivalent patriotic feeling between pride and sense of shame that keeps our heads dreaming of the other side of the world, while our feet are deliberately buried in the homeland’s dirt.
But even after all the disadvantages and blessing of my country, I’d rather be aware of them and embrace them somehow, rather than living in a guileless charade.
“Flickering Joy” (2013) - Ink, graphite & watercolors by Kikyz1313.
SL: What was one of the first bizarre things you remember from your childhood?
K: How could I tell if they’re bizarre experiences? I believe children perceive all life events as being typical and natural, and are later taught by society that particular experiences or memories are out of the ordinary.
Each family unit also has their own particular guidelines for behaviour, rejection and acceptance, which influences how we interpret our memories as we grow up and determine what is “normal.” I wonder which one of these social institutions makes us feel most uncomfortable about our own memories?
“Sepulcro” (2012) - Ink & watercolors by Kikyz1313.
In light of these factors, I’m not sure what to share. Firstly, I have so very few memories of myself before the age of 10. I believe I had a cheerful childhood, but this impression has been provided by other people’s recollections, not my own.
I didn’t have the most healthy early years as I suffered a lot from asthma, but I can recall that almost everything felt OK and normal, and the few strange memories I do have, acquired their sense of strangeness as I grew older.
“An Odd Spread” (2014) - Ink, graphite & watercolors by Kikyz1313.
SL: As an art curator, I've found it difficult to find people who will decorate their homes with dark artwork. I've even encountered artists who themselves find their dark work to be negative, which I've found to be a misnomer. When you encounter someone who is put off by your subject matter, how do you respond?
K: I don't think I could ever imagine dark artwork with positive or encouraging purposes. Dark artwork is, at its essence, blatantly raw, and to attribute positivity to it is an incongruity that undermines dark art’s very definition. I believe this incongruity to be so profound that it would defy the purpose of the work and discourage it’s own creator.
“A Soulfully Denature” (2013) - Ink, graphite & watercolors by Kikyz1313.
On my own behalf I can say I'm never trying to please the audience and therefore I won't ever expect anyone to agree with my word. For that very reason, I can't say I have an answer to any audience's negative reactions (if they can be called 'negative') as my sincere concern is to produce a response, to burst out emotions, contradictions and questioning.
What I can say is that I'm endlessly eager to find out about people's reactions. They will always spur my desire to explore this alternate nook of perception.
About the lack of daring in art collectors, I think it is pure fear that keeps them away as an audience from being open to truly understanding the so called ‘dark artwork.’ I feel we live in a time of absolute denial and rejection of everything that pushes us to consider our ephemeral and shallow existence; to everything that makes us recognize the dreadful decline of humanity’s constructs. Some people just want to ignore reality and continue building a new sickenly-sweet fiction instead of facing reality’s potholes and somehow search for solutions while acknowledging the direness of our situation.
"Olfacción" After Anahí Cifuentes short story (2013) - Ink & watercolors by Kikyz1313.
We are also spoiled by the media. We receive information already encoded and pre-packaged, so much so that new information presents itself as “too much effort.” We don’t want to waste our time incorporating new knowledge into our existing paradigm as it can seem too uncomfortable and inconvenient.
This indicates why people find it easier to stick with art that is purely aesthetically pleasing rather than step out of our comfort zones with more intellectually challenging and visceral art expressions.
SL: Kikyz, thank you for sharing these details about your creative process. Looking forward to seeing what new works you create!
"Metomentosis" (2012) - Ink & watercolors by Kikyz1313.
This interview was written by Samantha Levin for the Beinart Collective in 2015.
Samantha Levin spends much of her time working as a digital curator, archivist and librarian preserving rare art- and design-related materials. Also an artist and curator, she works with Contemporary Grotesque and dark artists, curating and producing group and solo pop-up exhibitions. She currently lives and works from her Brooklyn studio with the ghost of her white marshmallow-shaped cat, Luna.