Cristina Guitian


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
Photos and illustrations by Cristina Guitian, Drew Cox, Manuel Vázquez,
07 Monday 07th November 2011
Artist Cristina Guitian is a mixed-media maestro, and since we last caught up with her she’s been busy working on pieces for the likes of the Southbank Centre, fnac and London Design Week. Whether in the domain of her quirky 2D illustration characters, or the creepy and stylised taxidermy furniture that first caught our eye, she definitely knows how to put her own stamp on design. We found out how.
Cristina's sculptures, shot by Drew Cox with jewellery from Yunus & Eliza
We really like how much your 3D work contrasts with your illustrations and murals. Where do you think your broad approach to different media comes from? 
I come from an illustration background, in which drawing, writing and collage were my most used mediums, giving me enough immediacy to let images and text flow out of my mind. Through this process I built a universe of deformed humans / animals and symbolic mutant objects.  
I always had a fascination for collecting found objects and 'rubbish', but it was completely independent from my art. A few years ago, without planning it, I started seeing my symbolic world within the objects, and I started finding and using them as material for my sculptures. This not only influenced my work in a technical way, but it also brought the history and memories of these objects to my own universe in a more direct way than ever.  
You've started to delve into the world of taxidermy (which we can't seem to get enough of at Don't Panic). What inspired that choice? 
It all started by picking up empty snail shells in the countryside; a few months later I found myself finding bones, feathers, dead bugs and even hair. I would never had thought of myself collecting that kind of stuff, but I started finding a certain fascination in leftover bits of what was once alive. My next step was to start recycling and collecting some bits and pieces of broken taxidermy, mainly limbs and heads. 
Jaws Of Chance (above) has a beautiful anthropomorphic quality to it. How did that Nike collaboration come about? 
Jaws of Chance was part of Nike 78 – a collaborative project organised by the designer Paul Jenkins for London Design Week 2010. He selected 78 artists and invited us to customise a pair of Nike trainers commemorating the year that the brand was born.  
Each artist received a new pair of Nikes and the simple brief to use sport as the inspiration to challenge their function. I decided to explore the essence of victory under the three universal elements that underline competition: natural ability, experience and chance.   
What's your artistic background like? Could you let our readers know what sort of training you may or may not have received? 
I studied illustration at Escuela de Arte 10, part of the Arts & Crafts College in Madrid. Once I finished my course I got a scholarship to come to London for a few months. Seven years later, I'm still here! 
The Bird That Couldn't Fly
How important do you think any formal artistic institution has been in moulding your creative process now? 
When I was studying I felt like I was too busy doing what other people wanted me to do instead of finding my own path. I prefer the freedom of choosing what one is interested in and finding the way to learn it rather than attending a course that lays out your parameters.  
After I finished college I focused on improving my drawing skills, attending life drawing lessons and drawing people and scenes from the world around me. This was an essential part of the process of finding my own way of drawing. Some years later I started learning the craft of stone carving with a stonemason in the vaults of a church in Bethnal Green, which later lead me to wood carving. I definitely got more out of personal experiences in life than of my academic formation. 
There's a certain delicacy and femininity to Portraits Of My Life as A Bird. What images or eras do you feel influenced the series most? 
Memory Corner, the main installation of Life as A Bird shows a part of my collection of repurposed, locally found objects which belong to the series of carved animal-furniture hybrids. The scene is inspired largely by Victorian England, its traditions, pastimes and practices such as shooting and hunting. It's a collection of memories combined with both natural and animal elements which refer to life and death.  
Memory Corner, from Portraits Of My Life As A Bird
Although most of your work seems very personal, how often do you contribute to larger group exhibitions or projects? And which do you prefer: flying solo, or contributing to a larger group effort? 
I often take part in group shows and events, which are a great experience to meet new people and can bring plenty of opportunities. They are always fun, while solo shows are more of an introspective experience and normally a bigger challenge. 
Though I normally prefer working on my own and getting lost in my own universe, recently I am enjoying collaborating with artists that use different mediums. I have been collaborating with a jewellery designer and a film director, but also largely photographers who shoot my sculpture. I love watching how they interpret my objects and how together we compose the image.  
Eating Stories, featured in Shunt
What's next for your plans this year?  
I just came back from a group show in Madrid in which I created an installation using broken dolls and parts of rusty metal. At the moment I am focused on developing this work and experimenting with my sculpture. 
This month the jewellery collection I created with the company La Jara is coming out, and I am also preparing a collaborative piece with a product design company that will be showcased at a group exhibition at the beginning of 2012. Later on in the year my customised Ping Pong table shown at the Hayward Gallery as part of their Vintage Festival in the Summer will be put up for auction, so keep an eye out for it! 
Check out Cristina's website for more on her work, and to find out about her future projects

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  • Guest: truefalsefaker
    Mon 14 - Nov - 2011, 10:57
    Just Chuck Testa