Updated: Jun 18
I want to give my works the air of archaeological artefacts – as if the piece had experienced a change in how it is being perceived and used
You took part in the first Rea Fair edition. Can you tell us about your experience there? What challenges or successes have you encountered since then?
A lot! Participating in ReA! Fair in 2020 was an incredible adventure. My partner and I took a short trip to Milan from Germany and took my work with us on the train. I assembled the frame in the hotel room! We were there when there were exceptionally few tourists in the city due to Covid, and many safety precautions were implemented. That was a blessing in disguise because it was safer, and we could visit a few tourist attractions that would have been too crowded otherwise.
In 2021, I received two work grants, participated in a group show in Rome, and curated two local exhibitions in Germany. A dear friend, a curator, had invited me to Hegel Now in Rome – a collaboration with the philosophy department of Uni Roma Tre, celebrating Hegel's 250th birthday. In March 2022, I took part in the #ukrainesupportpledge. This led me to be invited to a residency in Buffalo, NY, and to visit NYC in the summer of 2022. I started a cooperation with a gallery (Atamian Hovsepian Curatorial Practice), handing over work I had made in Buffalo. I participated in a fall group show at Red Gate Gallery in Beijing. Although I couldn't go in person, one work was sold, and I'm looking forward to collaborating with the gallerist once the market in China opens and collectors become more active again. Despite these beautiful experiences, 2022 had challenges: as with many artists, my income dropped – Covid-related funding, Art grants were less frequent, and the economic situation led to fewer people investing in Art. I planted a few big seeds but didn't harvest a lot yet. I hope to do so in 2023.
Could you tell us about a significant artistic activity during this period?
Besides painting, another tremendous creative output for me is knitting. I had been an avid knitter for more than ten years, thinking a lot about the difference between classic fine Art vs what many perceive as crafty and where this differentiation stems from. I realized that many aesthetic rules – the function of colour, texture, and materiality – apply to both kinds of creative work; it is possible to paint with yarn similarly to colour. Although I had experimented with deviating from traditional painting techniques, I rarely took the time to explore textile Art more systematically.
In the summer of 2022, I had the opportunity to work at 321 Residence in Buffalo, NY, a studio space for artists in residence. I took it as an opportunity to experiment with adding textiles to my paintings – to try different things that had been on my mind for a while. Sometimes, I like to work under pressure to generate a high output within a short amount of time. In the two weeks, I was there; I made eight small-scale and one large painting, many of which were adorned with textile interventions in one way or another.
Magdalena Cichon's personal exhibition TACOMA, 321 Residence, Buffalo, NY, 2022.
What are you focusing on right now?
I want to become more adventurous, experimental, and sculptural, combining textile elements with my paintings. So, I'm doing that right now: exploring new ideas for combining both techniques. The textile can be ornamental (echoing the shape of the canvas) vs organic (reflecting what's depicted), relate to the depicted figure in some way or be independent of it; paint and thread can melt into one another vs be distinct from one another. I present the painting as a window into another world and a tangible, three-dimensional object.
By having them go through the stages of painting, assembling, tufting and embroidery, I want to give my works the air of archaeological artefacts – as if the piece had experienced a change in how it is being perceived and used – like fragments of antique tombstones being reused in medieval buildings, or parts of the tapestry being cut and sewn into garments.
How do you perceive your work concerning the Art world or contemporary Art scene?
My work is classic and not hip, or trendy compared to many current Art trends. However, after deciding to go textile, I saw material Art everywhere. It might partly be due to algorithms, and my filter bubble, but textile Art appears prominent in the Art world. We are witnessing a paradigm shift in the way textile techniques are viewed. I don't think I'll stop once the hype is over, though!
Magdalena Cichon, Wolf, 2023.
Which artists inspire you?
Contemporary figurative painters: I look up to those who combine impeccable skills with an air of spontaneity and abstraction, ironizing the creation of illusion in an image: Jennifer Packer, Nicola Samori, or Alex Kanevsky, to name a few I'm in awe of. They create and destroy a shot in the same breath. Textile artists I adore are Sheila Hicks, Sonia Gomez, and Cecilia Vicuña, among many others. Most textile artists work in strictly abstract, sculptural forms. So far, I've only seen one other artist who combines figurative paintings and textile elements in a similar way that I do – Lin Wen, a Chongqing-based artist.
What horizons would you like to move your artistic research to soon?
I plan on starting monthly ‘jour fixe’, bringing together people from different areas of self-expression through textile media. I believe that we can benefit from dissolving the line between high-brow 'textile Art' and low-brow 'craft', and I want to create a platform where people can meet and inspire each other, present their work, and explore questions around aesthetics, materiality, function, cultural appropriation, the 'decorative' etc. within the given framework.
In your opinion, what are the right ingredients for artistic research to grow?
Funding … the livelihood of the participants must be secured for them to be able to focus on their work.
Magdalena Cichon, John (Tacoma Ave), 2022.