Interview with Mimi Kunz

This photo was taken by and appears courtesy of Maite Morren.

Mimi Kunz has had her works exhibited internationally – in locations ranging from Glasgow to the Nature Art Biennale in Gonju, South Korea. Furthermore, her exhibition « Shapes of a Day » is still available to enjoy online until 23rd August this year.

Her most recent physical solo exhibition was « Pedestrians », in the Muntpunt Grand Café of Brussels (by the city’s renowned Muntpunt Opera House.) She has lived in various different parts of the world, including Germany, Australia, Thailand and Belgium.

An artist not bound by one specific art, Mimi Kunz has also published her writing, which has appeared in performances, videos and artbooks, and is published in magazines like Entropy and the Adjacent Pineapple.

Preview from the catalog for ‘Pedestrians’ by Mimi Kunz

Semantic Express : Mimi Kunz, you recently exhibited « Pedestrians » in Brussels’ Muntpunt Grand Café… how did this exhibition go for you ?

Mimi Kunz : Great, it was really lovely! The high black walls were perfect for the Pedestrians on Japanese paper. The dark background brought out the structure of the paper, it’s lightness, and it was really nice to see the black and white works in this setting, as it’s quite unusual to have such high dark walls. I also liked showing the series in a place for Pedestrians. I received pictures from friends who’d work or read in the cafe, it was very lively, very communicative. And the Muntpunt staff is great! And I was so lucky it happened at the beginning of the year. 

SE: Definitely! It must have been nice for those enjoying their coffees there, too! So how did you come up with the title, « Pedestrians »?

MK : Thanks I hope so! And good question. I don’t remember. The works in the exhibition were from 2016 and 2019 but I made a similar series in 2011 – it was the first work I ever sold, a line describing an old woman’s walking figure from behind. I saw her in the street on the way to the Academy one morning. I like the title because its our defining feature – we’re all pedestrians by nature, we carry our head on top and walk on two feet.

SE : Certainly… so inspiration came from a real life person in the street. Now looking at some of the works in the collection, we can see diverse poses and body language in these – hugs, dances, yoga poses, acrobatics, and so on… what influences the way onlookers may perceive these poses ?

MK : That’s a really interesting question. Their life and experience I think. You identify with a posture or kind of movement like with a character, see yourself in them, or your love story, your mum, a close friend.

SE : So it seems like personal experiences influence us, and also influence the way we conceive of an image, whether we are painting a picture on canvas or in our minds…
A memory certainly influenced the first painting in the « Pedestrians » collection, didn’t it?

MK: Yes, for this first one it was the memory of seeing someone once – for the newer ones it is often the memory of a recurring movement – either felt or seen or imagined.

It can be a posture experienced in daily life, or the walk of someone familiar, how people hold themselves. I often don’t know when I felt or saw a certain posture or movement, if the image came from my physical experience, or from seeing someone, if there was an actual person holding themselves that way or if it was in a story maybe, or if it is the visualisation of a state or feeling expressed though the body. I know and draw the form of the feeling.

SE: Certainly. It appears that the works in the collection may be may be interpreted either as abstract forms or as the embodiment of physical people in various poses. If onlookers see the works as embodiments of physical poses, might it be influenced by something they saw or experienced in their lives?

MK : Yes  – That’s why it’s so interesting to me to exhibit – I get to see them though other people’s eyes in a way I didn’t know before. I get to hear people’s stories.

SE : That must be interesting for you too! Nice… so do you think that the way an onlooker may interpret each work depends on the person looking at the art ?

MK :Yes absolutely !

SE : So it seems we could say that people have a tendency to ‘fill in the gaps’ when interpreting an image, thereby influencing the way we interpret it in a certain way based on their life experiences… what would you say to that?

MK : Mmm, yes. And it depends on the people – some prefer the openness, and a more abstract form, others like a story. The first like to entertain different ways to see it, and the second build the picture’s story.

SE : Very interesting… different people really do interpret the works in different ways. Now some might see cursive script in the varying thickness of strokes in the images. Is calligraphy a significant influence for you ?

MK : Yes. I always paint with calligraphy brushes because they have that feature – you can make big thick lines and really thin ones in the same stroke, and they’re really light. We had a professor from China at the academy and he made us draw lines for two hours – just lines. And it had a big effect on me, the breathing with the movement – I like that you can see it in the lines, that it’s so immediate and immersive. And I learnt some Thai, and a little Japanese and Korean, which first felt like drawing to me. I like that any kind of writing depends on the relation of lines and forms to each other and how we attach meaning to them. 

SE : Certainly… now in addition to your expressions in visual arts, you write ; your writing includes poetry, flash fiction and short stories. Do you find that one of the arts influences the way you see the others ?

MK : Good question. And yes. When I read I don’t need a lot of description to imagine the setting and characters, and when I write it’s a very visual process, too. I like the peculiarities of each form – so I like art that works sensually, that’s very physically visually, present, and I like writing that uses sound, wording, voice and punctuation to paint the atmosphere.

The different forms are like eating and drinking to me ; they are distinctly different but there are no borders between the forms – they are defined by their place on a spectrum. I guess poetry would be like ice-cream – the form is really important and concise and it expands and opens while you take it in.

SE : That’s a very new way of looking at poetry, and a very tasty one too! Form is important in different arts, and it’s certainly true that for certain types of poetry the form is indespensable. You certainly wouldn’t have a limerick with three lines, or a haiku with five… so with you having lived in several different countries, has that influenced your form of expression , and if so, how ?

MK: Yes, and I think poetry is also constantly developing new forms! I think what I express is always something coming from somewhere around me. Living in different places fed my interest in language and translation, and, especially in Thailand, where I was an analphabet at first – body language, because so much is expressed through gestures and I was amazed at how much can be communicated without speaking at all, just through body language. 

A gesture can mean opposite things in two different cultures. I love art because it’s so physically present, so there, yet the meaning changes depending on the context.

SE: Yes, and where we are can definitely influence the way we see things, it’s true.
The medium through which we see art might affect the way we perceive it too. Currently you’re exhibiting online, with « Shapes of a Day ». How does an online exhibition differ from a ‘physical’ exhibition in terms of the reactions of people and the feedback you get?

MK: It’s easier for lots of people to see it, especially in times like now. I get most reactions in writing which is comparable to someone coming up to you in a physical exhibition. And I get stats, I can see which images people see more pictures of, which is interesting.

SE : Sure… so a definite difference there. So, lastly, do you think online exhibitions will be more common in the future? Plus, what will this mean for artists?

MK : Mmm, yes I think in general more and more is happening online. But it’s not an either or, it’s complementary – for example, I like the idea of having an online exhibition parallel to a physical one, to combine the local, physical, and the virtual, international. Online exhibitions are very inclusive in that you can see them even if you cannot leave your home, or when the journey would be too long. They suit some works – others, like ephemeral installations, need to be experienced in a space. For artists it means a new way of sharing their work with people all over the world without taking a plane, less money spent on spaces or gallery percentages… and lots of photoshopping to present the works in a life-like way.

SE : New developments allow for these new possibilities… it seems good to be able to adapt. Certainly, the ability to reach a wider audience will be nice! So thank you very much for your time and your responses Mimi Kunz!

MK : Thank you!

‘Dancing’ from the collection ‘Pedestrians’ by Mimi Kunz