Studio Visit: in conversation with Lisa Krannichfeld about the expressive female representation through her paintings

Lisa Krannichfeld was born and raised in Little Rock, AR in an interesting cultural mix of a Chinese family living in the American South. Her experiences growing up in these two intermixing cultures and their traditions have greatly influenced her work, which primarily focuses on the woman as its subject. Growing up surrounded by women born of the mindset to serve – not indulge, be humble – not bold, and to suppress – not express, Lisa gives the women in her paintings a voice and an outlet. Her expressive portraits refute the traditional portrayal of women being passive subjects to gaze upon, evident in their disinterested and at times defiant expressions. Breaking traditions further, Lisa often uses traditional Chinese ink and watercolor materials in a nontraditional uncontrolled, free-flowing way often mixed with unconventional materials.

Lisa’s work has been featured in numerous publications and exhibitions nationally and internationally including shows across the southern United States, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Stockholm, and Hamburg. Most recently she was chosen as the October 2016 cover artist for the international art publication, Fresh Paint Magazine.  In 2015 she received the Delta Award in the prestigious 57th Annual Delta Juried Exhibition showcasing contemporary American art from Southern artists. Her work has also won First Place in the 2015 Batesville Area Arts Council National Juried Exhibition, and the Juror Award in the 2015 Irene Rosenzweig Juried Biennial Exhibition. She has been named “One To Watch” in Saatchi Art Magazine and a “Woman to Watch” by Soiree` Magazine in her home state of Arkansas. Her work is included in several private and corporate collections throughout her home state of Arkansas as well as in collections around the world.

We were delighted to have a conversation with Lisa about her studio art practice and the vision for her work. Read more about Lisa’s career and thoughts, from cultural experiences in her childhood to the current state of the US, where she resides. Find out how she spends her daily studio life and how her work has matured as she has as a person.

AMM: Hi Lisa, you have a very interesting background which must have heavily influenced your work. You were born and bred in a Chinese family living in the American South. Culture-wise could you expand a bit more on your early experiences of growing up and how this shaped your outlook? 

LK: At the time of my childhood, my hometown was not very diverse. You were either black or white, but there wasn’t much in between. I was very much used to being the minority in almost every situation I found myself growing up in. I think this experience made me feel comfortable with always being different, which to an artist is a blessing. Generally Chinese girls and Southern girls – there is an amazing similarity between the two worlds – are taught to be humble, pleasant, and to smile all the time. I, as a Chinese and Southern girl, on the other hand wrote a strongly worded letter to my 6th grade PE teacher and school principal that girls should be allowed to try out for the school basketball team too. It was an early sign of my defiance of traditional female expectations, I suppose. Both cultures have their idea of how a “proper woman” should act. But being familiar and comfortable as an outsider, I learned that this didn’t have to apply to me if I didn’t want it to. They ended up letting girls try out for the basketball team, by the way.

AMM: The representation of women is one of the main focuses in your work. Your female portraits are very exotic in terms of the colors and the technique you use which make your paintings look so expressive and emotional. Would you say your work reveals your personal character?

LK: I think the emotional qualities of my portraits do represent my personal character in a way. There are always times in life where I wish I would have been more confrontational, more confident, more forward. And I feel that these specific emotions come through in my work more often than any others. I suppose you could say they are my alter egos in a way, as well as representative of all the ways women feel but may not feel empowered enough to openly express in everyday life.  

AMM: As we mentioned previously – your painting technique is very exquisite! How did your painting style and use of materials develop?

LK: I was first introduced to Chinese ink in college when I took a Chinese calligraphy night class on a whim. I immediately fell in love with it – how it moves so freely and almost has a mind of its own. Since then I have been continually finding new ways to use it and other materials to combine with it. The beginning of the work I am doing now started in 2013 with small scale headshot portraits in ink, watercolor and resin. I tend to get bored easily and am always striving towards new challenges. So they slowly grew larger and more involved as the years went on. I started incorporating collage with painting in 2014 and am now doing large-scale interior scenes with entire figures. I like to paint rather quickly to prevent overworking pieces. So naturally I find the medium of ink and watercolor as my preferred foundation to every piece I make.

AMM: Let’s talk a little bit about your creative process. How do you begin a new piece — with an image in mind or a particular idea? Do you use photographic references and any other sources of inspiration?

LK: I usually have an idea in mind that I use as a guide, whether it be a certain figurative pose or emotional expression. But I also let each painting evolve, reacting to it as it takes shape. When your subject is the human figure photographic references are a must but I use them just as a starting point.  Generally I embrace the direction that I see the piece start to take on its own and by then I am operating more on intuition than anything else, which is my favorite part of the process.

AMM: What would your perfect day in the studio look like?

LK: I am a coffee addict and have a bit of a sweet tooth. So a good studio morning starts with a bold, black cup and a pastry. Other than that, a perfect day in the studio would be one with good music, without any injuries or accidents, and a couple of dog-petting breaks with my pups sprinkled in between painting.

AMM: What influences outside the visual arts inspire and impact your approach to making work? Are there particular things you are reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work? 

LK: I’m sure the entire world is abreast of the current political divisiveness that is happening in the US right now. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that this has impacted my work the most lately. On November 9th, 2016, many Americans including myself woke up to a country they didn’t recognize, which is an unsettling feeling to say the least. My work aims to celebrate diversity, inclusiveness, independent thought and gender equality, which are under attack again in my country even decades after Women’s Suffrage and the Civil Rights Movement. My approach to making work, at least at the moment, is both therapeutic and to help propel progressive thought in response to our current regressive government.

AMM: Do you have/have you had a day job? 

LK: I was a full time art teacher up until a year ago. But I’m happy to say that now my art is my full-time job! So far so good!

AMM: You are represented by M2Gallery in your local artistic community in Little Rock, AR and also by Retrospect Galleries in Australia. What do you think are the differences between the two international art scenes in the US and Australia?

LK: The art scene here in my local community has roots in very traditional art-making. However, I feel part of a new collective of artists that is changing that. I’ve been exhibiting here for over 10 years and now have a reputation. I love that I’ve reached the point in my career that I am able to make such an influence on the art scene here. My relationship with Retrospect is cool in the fact that they do traveling shows all over the world. I’ve gotten to exhibit all over Europe and Asia in addition to Australia. It’s still a relatively new relationship so I haven’t quite gotten a good grasp of what the art scenes are like in those places. One of these days I hope I’m able to pack myself up with my work to go visit and get a first-hand look!

AMM: Who are the artists that currently interest you? 

LK: My favorite artist now is and probably will forever be Egon Schiele. He changed the way I thought about drawing the figure the first time I saw his work. Some other giants in the art world I love are Marlene Dumas, Lucien Freud, Wangechi Mutu, Yue Minjun, and Jenny Saville. Although, I have several Instagram art crushes on contemporary artists too, including Jenny Morgan, Daniel Segrove, Michael Reeder, Benjamin Bjorklund, and Ness Lee to name a few.

AMM: If you could collaborate on an artwork with anyone past or present, who would it be, and why? 

LK: As an extreme introvert this question both excites and terrifies me to even think about! I would say that it would have to be a collaboration with Egon Schiele. I would love to just sit there and watch him draw. And maybe I would eventually come up with something to offer up to the collaboration! Another artist I would like to collaborate with for a totally different reason would be Ai Wei Wei. I think the work he does is so important for the world to see. And I would be honored to just be one of his worker bees on a project.

AMM: What’s next for you?

LK: I have several shows coming up that have been keeping me extremely busy. Extremely happy, but extremely busy. A solo show here in my hometown as well as a group show at the Affordable Art Fair in London that I’ll be a part of. Following all of that I have a few art fairs through some of the southern states. Somewhere in between all that I will be continually making new pieces that are a part of my new Undomesticated Interior series. After that, who knows!

Find out more about the artist: www.lisakrannichfeld.com