We talk to the latest artist to join Breed, Anna Bu Kliewer.
1. You’ve lived all over the world, why have you decided to return to London?
As much as I loved living in Cape Town, I began to miss Europe. It seemed like the right time to go back to London. I like the feel of a big city. It’s somewhat unpredictable, similar to my working process. The visual input you get is immense, and I love London’s vibrancy, of people, culture, art and music. It has so many different areas, all so close together, yet with a different history and feel, which I appreciate.
And after you’ve lived in Vancouver for over a year, you laugh about the little bit of rain here.
2. How did you hear about Breed, and what attracted to join their books?
I was following their Instagram account as I really liked the imagery, and their great, diverse artists, when they contacted me. I was really new to this, so unsure what to expect, but hearing that someone liked my work was a wonderful feeling. I was familiar with the agency environment as I used to model in my early 20s to pay for uni. From that experience I knew that boutique agencies have a more personal approach, which is very important for me.
Loving an agency’s work is a starting point, but if you join their books it becomes about the relationship with the people you’ll be working with. And when I met with Breed for the first time it was a lovely experience, and we communicated well, which is key for a productive relationship.
3. You work with both analogue and digital mediums, how do you feel the two complement each other, especially in your work?
Every piece starts off analogue, as I love the process of sourcing and cutting. It’s hands on and can be quite addictive. Maybe it’s down to a sense of nostalgia that I still enjoy using basic tools like scissors and glue in our digital world. Then the digital comes in – all the cut-out pieces are scanned in and stored in my ‘paper library’. Digital can be a great tool for patterns, layering and resizing. Both mediums are important for my work and I appreciate their differences.
4. Where did you study and what did you study? Do you think it made an impact on your chosen art form?
I studied Fine Art at Emily Carr University in Vancouver, Canada and Central Saint Martins in London. When I first started I thought I would become a painter, but soon realised that I enjoy all other mediums way more. I started focussing on both still and moving imagery, spent days in the darkroom and editing video footage. It had a massive impact on me and my work. I have learned to follow my intuition and be driven by my curiosity.
5. Has the time you spent travelling influenced your style?
It certainly did, although in a more subconscious way. I think that everyone gets influenced by their surroundings in various ways. It can be an article in a newspaper, a song, a conversation or a stranger in the street. Whatever stimulation it is, it affects and helps us in the way we approach things. I once saw a granny on the streets of New York, dressed in pink on a little pink bicycle – what colour do you think I used in the next collage I made? But it is not just what you are seeing or hearing, it can also be a feeling that influences your work. If I am moody, I tend to use more subtle colours in my work.
6. When did you first start making collages – what was it that attracted you to this medium?
The first time I made collages was in art classes in high school. We were forced to do it and everyone rolled their eyes. But then I spent a lot of time at home putting far more work into the project than I needed to. For me, rolling eyes turned into smiles.
Though I put it aside for a few years, I kept being drawn back to collage, and it became a tool in my creative process. Once I accepted it as a separate medium, which took a long time because an everyday item like paper is not as obvious a medium as oils and canvas, it became my favourite creative outlet. Once I got used to the cuts on my fingers, paper and I became good friends.
I think collage attracted me because it is playful and imaginative. Although you’re never sure what you might find, there’s material for it everywhere and hunting for the ‘right’ pieces is exciting. I can create any image that I imagine, it has endless possibilities.
I like approaching the mundane and transforming it into something new and absurd, filling vanished spaces, stitching them back together with a new story and meaning. Collage gives me the opportunity to explore my imagination and dreams, allowing me to keep the meaning open to interpretation. It suggests, but stays slightly blurred, leaving each viewer with different illusions. At times it can be an escape into an abstract reality where time is flattened.
8. Where do you find the inspiration for your collages? Do you find you have a recurring theme?
As I usually don’t know what I am creating at the beginning, there cannot be a proper inspiration. There’s a motivation to create a story or colour, but chance is the most important aspect for me in collage. It gives me the opportunity to approach imagery in a random, unknowing way, which is liberating. I get confused by looking at similar work, so I prefer to get my inspiration from other sources, in everyday life. I do really enjoy going for walks with music, like the old idea of flânerie, taking in your surroundings in the big busy city is great and maybe another reason why I returned to London.
Recurring themes include faces and their loss of identity, the change of meaning. Faceless, mutilated humans that merge with natural objects to form surreal hybrids or people ‘stuck’ in humorous, obscure situations, intruded on by moving shapes.
9. How has your work evolved since you started… retrospectively, can you identify moments when you changed course?
The first change was when I began seeing collage as a separate medium. I became more aware of choosing and rearranging pieces, taking more time. Once it turned into creating a final paper piece and not just using it as part of the creative process, I started to place great importance on colour, and how it can blend several pieces together or contrast them.
Another evolution occurred when I got my first cutting knife. I had just been using scissors for years, so the delicate precision of a knife opened up new possibilities.
10. When you’re not at your cutting board, how do you like to spend your time?
I watch a lot of movies, TV shows and documentaries as they’re a great stimulation while cutting, but only ones without subtitles as I’ve had a bad experience with cutting my fingers while watching a French movie.
Otherwise I still surround myself with paper a lot – I like books. A lot. Ones with words not images. I love reading, but that doesn’t mean I just hide at home, as I really enjoy music and see a lot of bands, and like to be social with a glass of whiskey.
11. Lots of your work is humorous, can you tell us the funniest thing that’s happened to you recently?
I’d like to work somewhere with no gravity as I’m pretty clumsy. I drop things, I break things, or both. I even slip on banana skins (that’s right, it doesn’t only happen in cartoons). So I guess I provide more laughs for others than for myself, but I’m glad to be of humorous help to my friends and the odd random person on the street.
12. Which of your fellow Breed artists’ work most excites you?
Matt Blease’s work. Although our mediums are very different, he also has a humorous approach in a lot of his work, which I really enjoy. Hi Matt, you make nice things!