Aline Karlovic: Experimenting in the Absence of Control

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Today we interview 28-year-old, Brazilian artist Aline Karlovic. We talk about her technique, inspirations, vision and plans for her artistic career. 

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Aline Karlovic Burgos. I currently make art by cutting and reforming canvas, but what really motivates me is experimentation. I like to find materials and imagine all the possibilities they holds, then test a billion things. After that, I usually get bored and start working with some other materials. At the moment, I enjoy cutting canvasses.

Ok, tell us a little more about this project.

This series started when I bought a canvas because I was in the mood for painting. I was actually going back to practice drawing, I even went to some life model classes… I felt like playing with paint and brushes, so I bought a small canvas. Then I left the canvas there, that fucking white canvas staring back at me. I didn’t know what to do with it… Will I make a portrait? A landscape? I didn’t know what to do. So, I left it there… I thought “something will eventually pop up in my head”

Experimento_08_V2_ (See Through), 2018 | Canvas | 50 x 70 cm

One day I was working on a separate project, completely unrelated to art, using a cutting stylus, cutting paper, and that’s when I looked at the canvas and said to myself “I think I’m not painting this canvas. I’ll do something else with it.” What happened then is what keeps moving me now – to look at the canvas as a material, not as a base. You know, I wanted to rescue this childhood thing… You know when you’re a child and you grab a marker pen and you don’t care about what’s going to come out of it? You’re just testing what that pen can do. If you touch a napkin with it, it makes a huge stain, if you fold the paper and do the same thing you’ll have a reflected drawing on the other side… I remember I loved doing this type of thing. As time passed by, getting older, trying to define what I was going to do and having all the conception of the final result before starting anything ended up oppressing this creativity I had. When I came up with this idea of cutting the canvas, I started with no ambitions whatsoever. I just thought: what can the canvas itself give to me? And that’s the ‘vibe’ I got into. I did the first artwork and from it started to test other stuff I could do.

What’s the main reason for you to do art?

To do art, to play with materials, it's something I've done since I was a child, because my mom studied fine art and used to paint at home. When I was a little girl I would watch her paint and go through her art books; I wanted to learn. I was always one to dig around. It’s something I’ve always done.

So, art has had a lot of meanings to me… It’s hard to talk about a general meaning because it depends a lot on which stage of my life I’m in. Art is the expression of who I am, and that’s something that also changes. Art’s been my safe place, the place I went to when I was feeling bad, when I needed to rest, or a time for meditation, or fun… Instead of trying to adequate these past stages to the one I am currently in, I am trying to unify them all. Sometimes I think we have a thing for denying or forgetting all that we once were when we get to a new stage in life, or start to discover a new world. To me, it's about trying to see it as several experiences that sum up, as if the current “me” is the entirety of my previous selves.

In this moment, art is precisely about retrieving this primal sense of things. Is just this experimentation, this tactile thing, you know? To play with materials, to get to know them, for the pure pleasure it brings. No pre-conceptions or rationalisations. Not that those are bad things! Eventually I might even start to take this experimentation to the next level, to a more conceptual or ideological approach, but right now that’s not what I’m going after.

Experimento_09_ (Painting with two voices), 2018 | Canvas | 50 x 70 cm

So, art for you is like a therapy?

I think it’s about getting to know yourself in a different light. Do you know that initial bedazzlement you feel when you’re getting to know new things? Or when you travel to somewhere new, or get to know someone new… You see things in a different way. You pay more attention to them. You perceive them better. I want to keep on feeling that. I don’t want to lose it, and art helps me with that. With continuing to appreciate the world and things for what they are, not for the meaning we created to them. Being able to look at that material and see all the raw potential it holds without thinking about the final product. Just waiting for something special to happen and work from there. The excessive rationalisation breaks action, and I believe that letting go of that will allow me to have better results, exactly because I let unplanned things come to be.

So, from very young you loved art.

Yes. I think I have drawn everyday for as long as I can remember, even if just a scribble in a notebook. I don’t know, restless hands I guess! (laughter) I play piano too. I like everything that is related to art. I like music, literature, I took dance classes, acting classes, I like everything! Eventually I’ll want to try a lot more. I think that’s why I ended up focusing my art career on experimenting materials and techniques rather than following a style or theme. For me that would be very restrictive. I don’t want to do the same thing over and over. It’s what I said before, a time will come when I’ll get tired of this material. A time will come when I’ll look at it and think “I’ve done what I had to do. I tried everything I wanted. I took everything I could out of this material. Next.” It so happens I had a string series before this one.

It’s funny because, although I say this series is not about concepts or ideologies, sometimes just letting go and starting work gets me thinking about these things, as the piece passes them on to me. It’s cool because I can have both, the experience as an artist and the experience as an observer, at the same time. The artwork talks. It has freedom to follow its path because I am not dictating it.

Limits, 2014 | Fabric, white  glue, string | 50 x 70 cm

Tell me a little bit about your professional career.

I graduated in Industrial Design in 2011. Product Design to be more specific. I worked for two years designing furniture, I participated in contests and such… but there was a time I found myself in a very complicated spot, money-wise. I was in a difficult moment with my family, and I’d just become unemployed. This time was very hard for finding work in Brazil, and I didn’t have any more time to waste. So, I started to explore different work paths, unconsciously following this line of thought: to stop imposing the path I thought I wanted and start walking the paths I had in front of me. I took an illustration course, I did wood work for a wood glasses brand (which is a material I love) and ended up working with graphic design, which is what I currently work with. When I got stablished I was able to invest more in my art career. Before I had time but no money, and then I had money but no time; now I've got it balanced!

Even when I wasn’t focused in art, I used to take notes of all projects that came to my mind, so I could go back to them later and make them happen. Because you keep having ideas uncontrollably. There are things that happen in your daily life that you don’t expect to inspire you, but they do. You take a pair of glasses and think “Wow, this fits in another project I was thinking of… I like this curve…” So, that’s how I did things and here we are!

What do you expect of your artistic career in the coming years?

I don’t really like this question because I am always uncertain about things. I never really know what I want or who I am. I constantly change my mind. But I decided this would not be an issue – as many of us are convinced to believe. If I don’t know where I am going, I have to test, or experiment, to find out. And by experimenting I find other paths I wouldn’t walk on if I was sure of where I was going. Truth be told, most of the time I am not sure of what I am doing, but I stopped trying to find out and just do things. Follow my guts, my instincts. First of all, I do it because I have to, because my mind wants and needs to express itself, and then I try to find out what it means and where it wants to take me. That thing is inside me, in my subconscious, and it can only show up if I don’t think about it. If I don’t censor it with my consciousness.

To me, there will never be a final work – that’s the little joke when naming my artwork, they are all just another version (people who work with graphic design might get what I mean when I say “final” is never “final”). Everything is actually a process I am sharing. It so happens that my first artwork from the series is very raw, way less clean than the current ones I am working on. That happened because it was my first contact with the material, and from it, the rest of the series could be developed, but this version had to exist for all the rest to come to life, so I am equally proud of it.

I plan on continuing doing this because that’s what I’d do even if no one could see it. I have the ideas and I want to make them happen. I distract myself, I get to know myself, I like to experiment with things, it’s what I’d be doing even if capitalism, work, the art market, exhibitions and all other things didn’t exist. I’d do it out of curiosity. Out of love. Each piece of work takes me to the next. One gives me inspiration for the other. They give me experience so I can get to the next phase. If I try to push this vision too far ahead, it wouldn’t make sense to me any more.