A global exploration of art

Kristin Man began exploring her self-expression through photography and writing when she was sixteen years old, whilst attending United World College of the Atlantic and pursuing the curriculum of International Baccalaureate. She fell in love with analog black and white photography and the dark room so much so that she would skip the (underwhelming) boarding school meals.

She received guidance from teachers but did not take formal art or writing courses. Most of her “art” learning has been from reading a wide spectrum of books about art, photography, poetry and philosophy, and watching films, particularly following her favourite directors of photography. Later at Brown University, thanks to a wide-ranging Liberal Arts University education, she took a couple of Art History courses alongside her major in International Relations and started to appreciate art in its various genres and forms. When she continued on to Columbia University’s MBA program, she took one elective at the Film School on campus. As she consistently visited museums and galleries during all of her day-to-day living, whether it was in New York,  London, or other international destinations, she studied and soaked it all in.

Before moving back to Vancouver, Kristin spent several years in various regions of Italy meeting culture workers, primarily artists which resulted in beautiful friendships and a testimony in the form of her book 9_9 published by Skira. The studio visits and dialogues, as well as daily immersion in a country full of art and history became a part of her art education.

Kristin took studio art courses at University, as well as photography courses through Central Saint Martins, Magnum and National Geographic while she was working in another sector. Throughout the years, Kristin has been fortunate enough to have had several thought-provoking mentors who challenged her thinking and helped to expand the possibilities of her approach to art making. 

Plastic Ocean I, Kristin Man

Yoga and nature as studio practice

There are currently several projects on the back burner for Kristin, with the main focus still on her series A-MARE. It is a multi-disciplinary project which serves as a framework for her research into yoga, art, ecology, anthropology and as such, she is doing as much research as she is actually making the work. In terms of the process, suitable images are matched together, printed on different materials, then cut and woven together all by hand. In addition to the more tactile physical pieces, there are also videos.

Kristin’s occupations and priorities are in tandem; she is an artist and a certified yoga teacher. “A-MARE” more than most series she has done to date is interwoven with her yoga practice and her role as a yoga teacher. She wakes up with a brief stretching exercise or run, then works, whether it be reading, looking at her images or weaving in the studio. Every two hours or so, she returns to the mat to stretch out again and reverse the forward bending employed in weaving and sitting. Around sunset she tries to squeeze in a yoga-meditation session which may be her way to start instead of to end the day. The word “tantra” in Sanskrit originally means “weave”, and many have noted that her pieces are filled with tension contrasting need of mitigation and meditation and some yield a form of reconciliation or peace. Life, as Kristin often lives it, seems to take a similar process, let alone what goes on in her studio. She tends to believe that when she breathes the pieces, the pieces breathe her.

If we do not conduct ourselves mindfully vis-à-vis our nature/ environment, we will have to seriously mind our existence.

Whether she is working through her art or her breathing, Kristin is very much focused on aligning herself to the voices of nature. Nature is not necessarily kind or willful, it is human beings which take personal characteristics. She loves swimming in the ocean, running on the seashore, and wandering through and smelling our forests. Photographing nature also gives her a conduit to a deep observation and immersion with nature.

Conservation through a holistic approach

Kristin believes it is an artist’s responsibility to evoke action with their work, a responsibility that she takes seriously. In this online show, her piece Plastic Ocean 1 is an overt call to that. Through this piece, she’s not only calling out other people but also asking herself why, as a contact lens user, she has inadvertently led to the pile of plastic problem. There are 100 pieces of plastic backs, as she questions the likelihood of these marked “recyclables” to be recycled, given that statistics show that only 9 to 12% of plastic is actually recycled. She wonders if manufacturers could do more. She wonders if regulation could play a bigger role. Through this piece, Kristin imagined how the plastics might look if “woven” into the ocean. Alas, all that glitters is not gold.

…one can certainly go into a beauty parlour, but come out without beauty. An aesthetic is the result of various languages that give rise to a functional form of symbolic communication; to really achieve that communication, it must have real concept inspired by ethical principles…Art can lift people up, so it can help the world become more harmonious…

From 9_9 by Kristin Man

In this context, climate change is an important social issue which every individual and the greater society need to work on together in order to tackle. An artist, being privileged with greater sensitivities, is not only part of this all, but should stay on the forefront of social consciousness.  In this online exhibition, the curator writes “Is it best used to highlight the beauty and importance of the natural world, or should art be a device that teaches the viewer how to respond to environmental challenges?” Kristin believes that showing beauty and importance of the natural world is one way to motivate us to conserve it. She also believes that art should provoke the viewer to respond to environmental challenges in a holistic approach with the rest of the world. They are part and parcel.

If you are interested in learning more about Kristin and her work, you can check out the following items:

Website: A-MARE

Instagram: @kristin.man

Youtube: Kristin Man Meditative Art