Nico Krijno: "I want to show that the truth is not something simple, that there are not always clear and definitive answers. So, sometimes by showing things out of context or by marrying opposites I try to force a conversation that combines irony, humour and melancholy. To this end, editing and presentation are crucial in placing nature and our constructed world either in harmony or at odds.” Until 31 October, The Ravestijn Gallery is hosting a special online only solo exhibition by Nico Krijno on Gallery Viewer. Krijno, a South African artist, made this series of Lockdown Collages during quarantine, offering us a unique insight into an artist's mindset in these strange and historic times.
Nico Krijno is a contemporary artist who explores photography at the intersection of collage, painting, sculpture and performance. Born in South Africa in 1981, Krijno has a background in theater and experimental film. That is where his interest for the layering of illusions first started. Stimulated by his wife and a temporary move to London, he decided to explore his true love for constructed photography. His collages seem abstract and figurative at the same time and are characterized by colours and patterns, visual codes and riddles. Krijno's still lifes are loaded with information, with humorous, surreal and sexual references and an interest in the semiotics of everyday objects. For his idiosyncratic visual language, he makes use of the transformative power of the 2D world of photography: to flatten space on the one hand or to cause a confusion of perspective on the other. Digital manipulation in Photoshop further enhances this effect. Krijno plays with form and scale, merges elements and manipulates the backgrounds and details in the foreground. He often uses discarded materials, which he reinterprets and reorganizes in a non-linear way in order to find alternative structures and narratives. These are often materials that are overlooked by others or have an ephemeral character. This method of deconstructing and reconstructing contrasting shapes and textures allows him to look at the way in which meaning and matter are (or can be) constructed and subsequently perceived by the viewer. In his still lifes, he is always looking for a kind of photographic ‘truth’ and his work should be seen in the context of our image culture that is largely determined by the internet, offering us a daily visual overload. He does all this in South Africa, where documentary photography is particularly popular.
However, his work does not exist in a vacuum and for that reason, his still lifes are filled with implicit (and sometimes explicit) references to the colonial and post-apartheid history of South Africa. Krijno: “Fracturing, violence, and disruption are all very much part of the South African collective identity/psyche.” Twenty-five years after the abolition of apartheid, the contrasts between the affluent suburbs and neighbourhoods without running water or electricity are still acute. The country is characterized by the greatest economic inequality in the world, expressed in terms of poverty, corruption, discrimination and unemployment. Krijno: "There’s chaos in the landscape, in the systems, [but] also a beautiful and resilient wildness to the people living here.” The physical landscape in which Krijno works also influences his work.The Western Cape is known for its raw, exuberant and sometimes dangerous nature, full of contrasting landscapes: from ravines and mountains to vast grasslands. It’s inhabited by thousands of plant and animal species, which, according to Krijno, can result in “a sensory overload and a cacophonous on-edge experience”.
The fact that this series of Lockdown Collages was made in isolation provides these works with an added layer. Krijno lives in a farm on a mountain, about 45 minutes from Cape Town. So he is used to a reclusive life. But when the lockdown measures came into effect quite suddenly, his wife and children were not at home, to give him some space to work on a commercial project. But for that reason they suddenly weren’t able to come home. Krijno: “That leaves you with two options: linger in the negativity and the bad news, or try to focus on the good in your life. [By focusing on] work that is diametrically opposed to the hopeless fear I felt.” He looked up images from his archive that he photographed again and manipulated using the light bar of a scanner. The works resulting from this new method proved to be successful in some cases, other times they weren’t. The photos are therefore both an expression of conscious manipulation and coincidence.