Works created by the graphic artist and illustrator Kristina Norvilaite are praised for their visual language both in Lithuania and abroad. During her career, she has held over 30 solo exhibitions, illustrated more than 80 books and at the end of 2009 she was awarded a diploma for her works shown at “Estampas” exhibition. We met the artist in her cozy studio in Užupis just before the opening of her solo exhibition.
You studied Graphics at Vilnius Academy of Arts (VAA), why did you choose this particular path and this artistic expression? Did you ever consider other art forms? Were you born knowing you will be “a graphic artist”?
No, when I was born I didn’t know (laughs). When I finished school, I loved theater, cinema, I was a frequent visitor, I read a lot of books. Then the need arose to express my thoughts, but neither writing nor theory was enough to satisfy it. But the linocut worked at once – I tried it and it turned out good, I liked it, it “stuck”, I cannot explain it. I’ve tried many different techniques, but linocut was my language, I understood it, it suited my character. There were no discussions when I got in (into VAA). When the panel asked “why graphics?”, I answered: “because I like it very much”. I could not explain it, I just knew that this is my language.
You actively participate in various exhibitions. Do you have time to work?
There would be no exhibitions without works (laughs). I dedicate a lot of time to my work. I do this on a daily basis.
Do you discipline yourself?
Yes, my self-discipline is quite strong, because participating in exhibitions in Lithuania and abroad and holding solo exhibitions you cannot do without self-discipline, it’s impossible. I have to consider where, when I will participate, what exhibitions are held in winter and summer. Cycles... Otherwise, it is impossible to make a solo exhibition.
But I also have a need. I cannot go two days without making work. If I’m not creating, I’m screwed/in trouble, creativity is essential, I cannot do without it. If during the day I have no time to work, then I work at night, when everybody’s sleeping. If I don’t pour it out, it gets too much and, it seems, I can explode. Others can talk, share their daily impressions, but my experiences and thoughts stay in my head. If I don’t work, I cannot sit still and I think that the time has passed by meaninglessly. Maybe that’s good because it always makes you feel a sort of dissatisfaction with yourself, which pushes you forward, keeps you in motion.
In addition, when you print on a daily basis, you are always in shape, you know how much paint to use, how to press, which linoleum to use. This creates a strong connection to the material.
How does a new series of works appear? What are the stages? When do you know that it is finished?
Actually, they always seem incomplete to me. I would like to improve each series, it always seems to me that I could have done more here or there. But…
Life dictates topics to me randomly. I don’t know about other artists, but my intuition is very strong. The theme, colour and mood appear and you try to grab it and start to realize it at once. My intuition also has to be disciplined, you have to notice and observe when something has caught on, when the subject is interesting. For example, at the moment I’m inspired by anatomical objects and I’m working on a new exhibition. I now understand that walking around Santariškės (hospital complex) has subconsciously triggered this topic. I never thought that after my studies I would go back to anatomy. Suddenly it has become so relevant. See, my daughter recently broke her leg (laughs). Just as I never thought I would make an exhibition on the subject of music. Each day working on my sketches I observe the things that surround me: piano, sounds... The topic catches you like a tornado, you just have to keep up with it. You make 20 – 30 works and then it releases. You pour everything out. And that’s how a series is born.
Do you think about the reaction of the viewer? Is it important to you? What thought do you want to convey to the viewer or do you aim to incite internal sensations?
The viewer is important. But when I work it’s hard to think about them, I want to have my say. And during the exhibition you can watch how the viewers “catch” this or that idea. But when you work – it’s hard to think about the viewer. You think more about the technique, how to press it, how to cut it, what colour, subject, size, large or small? At the time, I want to do it quickly, to say it all. I start to think about the viewer when I start arranging my works, when I begin choosing for the exhibition. Then I make sure that the idea is continuous, that it addresses the viewer… An exhibition is important to me, the dialogue with the viewer is important, this is why you make an exhibition. I can hold an exhibition at home for myself. The viewer brings new ideas, gives meaning to your works more than you can give it yourself.
Do you identify yourself with the characters you create? How much of you is in them?
A lot, very much so. Every image can be read, there is a lot of information about me in them, I don’t hide anything (laughs), I show everything.
Is your work like a diary to you?
Some time ago I used to keep a diary, but when the need for creativity increased I started saying everything in images. Now I don’t write anymore, I say everything in my works. When I work on illustrations for books, I immediately start working on images and those images are my language. And when new tools appear… Even a new chisel can suggest a new subject because the opportunities are different.
When I made ornaments, I spoke in ornaments. And now it’s different. In this exhibition, I wanted there to be ornaments. Thank you for the title (“The Story of One Girl”), because that girl brought back memories. I remember when I was a teenager there was a readers’ contest and I chose the poem “Girl’s song” by Nyka-Niliūnas. And that girl is still within me. Later, a child’s birth lead me to thinking about how those girls become women.
At the time when I was creating ornaments, I said that I would never ever create people. I was so interested in those ornaments, there was so much information in them, you could go really deep, there were many different meanings... Then came people and that’s it – you don’t want to remain behind the scenes, I talk about what’s important to me. About my daughter. About the music. About the body.
Indeed it’s a diary.
Does the girl character in this exhibition represent yourself?
Yes, as I mentioned the title brought back memories about my childhood. The word itself “girl” seems lovely to me. When I remember myself as a teenager, I didn’t really understand it... But now I realise that I see myself through that same girl. I’ve become this person since I was a child. With all the happy and sad events. That’s what I speak through. That foundation, it seems, is so strong and those certain events... And then you grow up. My daughter has brought back those childhood memories with which I travel through the world.