Six questions for
Birthe Piontek

Tique asks six questions to an artist about their work and inspiration.
This week: Birthe Piontek.

Artist Birthe Piontek
Lives in Vancouver, BC, Canada
The unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples


How do you describe your own art practice?

My work is rooted in photography, but I often utilize other art forms such as sculpture, collage, or installation to create an expansion of or a dialogue with the photographic image. I make images but also frequently work with archival photographs as I’m interested in the object qualities of a photographic print. My work has often been described as slightly uncanny and visceral, as I am interested in creating work with an emotional quality where vulnerability can be explored and felt.

Which question or theme is central in your work?

When working with archival material, I am interested in photography’s role in shaping our memories, collective and individual histories, and social constructs. In all my work, I intend to make visible what is invisible but can be experienced or felt, i.e. our relationship to our vulnerabilities, anxieties, and belief systems.

What was your first experience with art?

My mother used to paint and had a subscription to an art magazine, which I loved to look at when I was very young. I remember being fascinated (and confused) by the amount and diversity of expression and ways of making. I loved the stories that were told in many of the paintings from the “old masters.” My grandfather was a photographer and had his own darkroom. I was fascinated by the mystery and magic of the process – the camera as an apparatus and its relationship to light.

What is your greatest source of inspiration?

Looking at photographs and photographic archives. But also, listening to people, looking into their faces, and paying attention to my own internal conversations.

What do you need in order to create your work?

I make work all the time, whether I draw in the morning, when having coffee, build an elaborate set for a still life in the studio, or knit a sculpture while watching a movie. I tend to work on several projects and different mediums simultaneously.

What work or artist has most recently surprised you?

A few weeks ago, I saw Eva Fàbregas’ large-scale installation “Devouring Lovers” at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. The soft, colourful, body-like shapes, spread through the historical hall, dangling from the ceiling and creeping over the architecture, like an invasive species, some of them coming alive by slight vibrations. I was very much drawn to the tension between playfulness and discomfort caused by the idea of uncontrolled growth, in-and-outside of our own bodies.

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