Widely exhibited artist Kristen Martincic, recognised for her infatuation with H2O, spent her childhood at local swimming pools and on the banks of Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio. Surrounded by vast bodies of water, being in or near it has had a lasting effect on her career. She is poetic about water, and not just depicting it in ink—also representing the sensation of weightlessness, its muffled sound and experiential qualities.
Subjects include swimwear, apparatus, and inflatables; pretty much anything associated with the act of swimming. How Martincic executes her often ink-based mixed media print and tactile sculptural work is of particular interest—using a process of ‘ink transparency building’ using her favourite blue and green hues.
Indispensable in her mixing is Hanco lithographic transparency base, perfect for higher intelligibility, creating flawless layering that is tonally rich. Martincic’s delicate aquatic palate is expressive and hypnotic, much like her subject matter.
The artist’s Pool Series focusses on the interior volume of swimming pools, from the lucid tones of the shallow end to the deeper richer depths of the diving well. The artist uses handmade Japanese papers of various weight and transparency to complement her choice of ink; approaching sculptural pieces in a much similar way, creating semi-opaque bathing suits that challenge exposure, transparency, and form.
As part of a series of features exclusively publishing content from the printed pages of Create Zine, the independent creative promotion publication go in search of aquatic explanations; speaking to Kristen Martincic about the water’s entrancing ways.
Where and when did your fascination with water begin?
I love water and all things swimming or pool related. My siblings and I all swam competitively on our local swim team, so we ended up spending most of our summers either in pools or at the lake. Being in or around water was a large part of what made summer feel like ‘summer’.
I have always been captivated by the stillness of being underwater. Being in water lets us consider our bodies in new ways and affects how we navigate through space. When we are in the water, our senses are enveloped by the experience. It’s the feeling of water on our skin, the sensation of weightlessness, the muffled sound, the skewed line of sight, and the inescapable attention to the moment. It’s very experiential.
When did you first begin to use your hands creatively?
I came to making in a sort of roundabout way. I was a Spanish major in undergrad and did a year-long study abroad in Spain in my second year. While I was there, I travelled a lot and saw so much amazing art and architecture throughout Europe. I came away from that year craving the tactile experience of making, wanting more than to just look at art. When I went back to my university in the States, I started taking studio art classes, and it just happened from there. I worked with as many different materials as I could and fell in love with making.
If you had no constraints whatsoever, what would your ideal project be?
I think part of the challenge of being an artist is working with and within constraints. I seem to respond to having some kind of parameter—be it an idea, a material, a certain size, a particular space, or a collaboration. That being said, I would love to work on a larger scale and still retain the sense of intimacy in the details.
Your aquatic palette is certainly distinctive and tonally explorative, how do you develop the colours you use? What inks are your most favourite to use?
I use a lot of transparency in the printmaking inks I work with, and I build up my blues through multiple layers of really transparent blues and greens. The ink that is indispensable in my mixing is a lithography transparency base from Hanco. Most of the colours I mix up are 90—95% or higher in transparency base. Right now I am really in love with Charbonnel’s turquoise blue ink.
Tell us about your Pool Series …
I’m drawn to the interior volume of swimming pools. I love the contrast between the clear light blues of the shallow end and the dark, slightly opaque blues of the diving well, and the full range of blues in between.
The Pool Series considers a pool’s structure as viewed through its cross-section. By bisecting the pool’s container, I solidify the water, leaving it brimming, uninhabited, and hovering in space. I like to move the two-dimensional image into an object by bending water, ladders, and diving boards around the panel’s side. I try to isolate and reduce this environment to its most fundamental parts: the container, the access ladder, the pool tile, and most importantly, the water itself.
Do you use a wide range of papers to capture all this?
I love working on handmade Japanese papers like Matsuo Kozo or Inshu Mitsumata. I’m particularly drawn to papers that are thin, delicate, and translucent but strong and durable. The papers and the translucent blues and green inks glow after I mount them to the white surface of a gessoed panel.
And the Sheer Suits series …
The Sheer Suits came out of many conversations and a two-person show I had with my friend Althea Murphy-Price. Althea’s work uses hair, or representations of hair that are bound and tangled to raise issues of tension, discomfort, and surrender that are shaped by culture. Her work and our show made me want to push the sense of vulnerability with my bathing suit series a bit further.
My Sheer Suits call attention to the body through absence. They focus on a sense of vulnerability while playing between protection and exposure. They use a fine, drawn line that up close references fabric textures, but through the placement, it becomes body hair.
Will you be collaborating more?
I have collaborated with several of artists and have had the opportunity to work with a couple of master printers, which was a fantastic experience. Working collaboratively can really take me out of my comfort zone and have found it to be an integral way for me to challenge my creative practice. It’s always an excellent source of dialogue for ideas and making. It reminds me to stay open to different modes of making and being as an artist.
What’s next for Kristen Martincic?
I’ve started a series of small mixed media works that better fit my current time reality. I have been working on this series of 100 pools that pare down the image of a pool to essentials like the colour of water, the shape of a pool, and playing with pools steps and lane lines to invent new pool scenarios. I’m at the halfway point and it’s been so fun to push ideas about pools and water through this series of small mixed media drawings.
I have work in a couple group shows coming up this year. And I have a solo show of bathing suit works at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles in 2019.
This interview with Kristen Martincic was originally published in Create Zine Issue One.