Movement, Lines, Shapes: Karolina Albricht

Karolina Albritch at Turps Studio October 2020 (photo by Laura Wormell)

Karolina Albricht is a Polish painter based in the UK. I interviewed Karolina over Zoom in late 2020. It was actually a friend that suggested that I check out Karolina’s work, and I am very glad that he did. I really enjoyed my conversation with Karolina; it got me thinking of how space is represented on canvas. In this interview, we talk about her painting practice and how her paintings are often responses and interpretations of external factors. We talk about the effect of the studio on her work, and we even discuss her approach to scale in her painting.

Let’s start with a day in the studio. How do you approach your practice?

I like to be in the studio first thing in the morning and have the whole day ahead of me. No interruptions, just get into it. It allows me to take my time, to think and look at what’s been done the previous day. Like warming up or stretching. Drawing is one of the studio activities that can easily shift the gears of thinking, without the pressure that painting sometimes may have.

I make notes of words that I hear or read, which resonate with me and somehow might come in useful in the studio. It might be fragments of lyrics that I’ve listened to. Sometimes it’s just a single word, that I think, “I must make a note of this.” And before I start the work, I often look through my notes, look at the words, and see if anything happens, see how I react. Sometimes it can be a physical reaction, or internal reaction, it can set things in motion.

Studio February 2021

I listen to a lot of music in the studio. I find that it helps me to disconnect from all those things that might hinder the process, and to isolate things I should focus on. So, music and dancing, amongst other things, help to get into the headspace that I need when I’m painting. A dance can simply mean a basic movement of a hand or leg, nothing too elaborate, just locating yourself in the body, a kind of kinaesthetic experience. Music and dancing have the most immediacy across the arts so they interact with you physically before being then filtered by the intellect. Music opens up a lot of ‘head’ and ‘body’ doors for me. It has an innate relationship with my work, and somehow things I’m listening to can find a way out, transgress.

It’s a multi-layered game, like a domino effect with books, with music, with painting: it’s all intertwined: the word, the sound, the line. But the music is the core layer, it is underneath the painting.

It’s interesting that you mention dancing as an influence on your work.

I’ve generally been thinking about the physicality in my work, and why it is that physicality such an important aspect of my work. It is a combination of things, of course. In a way, it might be a reaction to where we are now, as a society, and how we interact with one another, and with the world, or what these interactions have been reduced to. With digital media, the physicality is essentially wiped out so that must have a degree of influence.

Knuckle Rotation, (2020),oil on panel, 23x16cm

The shapes, the line and the movement, it’s all a constant exchange, in relation to the body. During first lockdown my attention shifted to how the body moves within the studio, and how/if that is linked and translated in the work. The series of paintings I then started developed a titling system: combining specific types of movement or direction, and body parts. All that was to do with mapping my movements within the studio and then transferring them from the floor to the wall- flipping them. The way you move about the studio floor, the way your arm might move to draw a line or how your foot might step on the ground— that creates a pattern, a repetition: a rhythm. I read that rhythm might have developed in humans as a way to unite collectively during wars and battles- a ‘battle trance’.  And I’m thinking what the rhythm is, what its function is and how it surfaces in my studio. I think my work, in many ways, is relying on this heavy, intrinsic thing of rhythm/ multi-rhythm/ syncopation. Especially syncopation. (Syncopation is the combining of rhythms)

There’s a very textural element to the way you lay on paint. Is that tied to physicality, with the use of materials like burlap?

Yes, that’s yet another layer of that physicality, which, over the years, gradually became more and more prominent in my work. I’ve started using different mediums and thinking about alternative substances that I can mix with the paint. I got my first Lukas Painting Butter maybe four years ago, and it’s become one of my go-to medium. What it does is it gives the paint a heavy body and speeds up drying. It gives it more flexibility as well.

Soft Dock, (2020), oil & other stuff on jute, 220x180cm
Soft Dock detail

It allows me to add what I want, from hair to volcanic rock. I have a box of sawdust that I’m looking forward to experimenting with. I can really play with the surface of the paintings with these materials.

Knee Cap North, (2020), oil & other stuff on panel, 30x24cm

How did that interest in materiality spawn for you?

I guess the explanation for it is more of a bodily reaction to looking; looking and thinking and processing everything that is happening around you and within you.

You experience the world through your body, through the entirety of your senses, named and unnamed, and my painting hugely relies on those experiences. The body can often act as a filter, it constantly processes the space around it.

We have talked about physicality in your work, but you also work in very different scales with certain paintings. How important is scale for you?

Yes, playing with scale is important. I recently finished Turps Studio Programme. While I was there, I had more space- larger walls, and I could experiment with larger paintings.

I’ve started painting on 220cm by 180cm canvases. Before Turps, the largest I had worked on was around 150cm. So it was a significant change. And I’m still learning to find myself on that scale. I also continue working on the smaller ones, small paintings, which are around 30 centimeters high — and trying to shift things between large and small, often simultaneously.

Studio February 2021

The small paintings are a kind of compression. It’s as if they demand more intensity, in terms of layering and in terms of detail, like snippets of something much larger.

Whereas the bigger paintings are a space you can physically enter. That space, you know, you can walk around. That scale means it’s already an object that you can spatially interact with and perceive in a very direct way, you can’t help it. It’s a different kind of an ‘entry point’.

There is this constant interaction in painting, how the body behaves when approaching these different scales, you know? From entering a painting which is taller than yourself, and then going back to something that is the length of your forearm.

These changes teach flexibility. There is an element of contraction and expansion, which continues to exist on all scales in various ways. You have to be alert at all times. I think of it as a way to challenge myself, and I like a challenge. The gesture or mark cannot be the same on such differences in scale. It’s a completely different approach.

I’ve found it very interesting the way that you name exhibitions and certain selections of works, like The baddies, the goodies & the sheriff (2020).

The baddies, the goodies & the sheriff is a group of paintings that I started working on during the initial lockdown. I had started painting some smaller works in Turps’ studios, but then they had to temporarily close because of Covid-19 restrictions. So I picked up my works, and I moved back into my old space in ASC. Something shifted when I put them up in a different space, on a different wall, in a space occupied by myself only. Divisions came about whereby some became “the good paintings, the nice paintings, the polite paintings,” the paintings that I knew how to make, and I felt comfortable making — and the other paintings, which were the opposite of those. They felt like the opposite because they were doing something forbidden (forbidden by myself…). So, if I’d look at one of the ‘nice’ paintings, I then immediately was tempted to just pack it up, take it and destroy it. Not in a physical way, not to tear it up into pieces, but just disrupt it completely, contradict it somehow.

Small Ones [formerly The baddies, the goodies & the sheriff] (2020), Studio Wall February 2021

And so while that process started happening, that was a point of departure as well for my work, because I started to experiment more — things kind of erupted. And later on, I divided the group of paintings, or they divided themselves, into the baddies and goodies, the wild ones that would misbehave and the ones that were easier to manage. And there was a painting that sort of connected the two groups, which I called  The Sheriff. The sheriff was watching both the baddies and the goodies!

No.3 [The Sheriff], (2020), oil on canvas, 30x26cm

However, these paintings now departed from my initial attempt to identify them, getting some kind of grasp of them. I now see them as simply the ‘Small Ones’ as they continue transmuting and twisting.

Before the lockdown, I think I’d gotten to a point where I was comfortable within the parameters of where I was operating. I suppose the lockdown and moving studio were the push that led to this change. And of course my time at Turps. I think I have to be 100% engaged and preoccupied with what I’m doing, otherwise the practice and thoughts slips away. I think you have to try to remain in this state of alertness, always on your guard, always be ready to attack.

You can find out more about Karolina Albricht’s work through her Instagram pages and websites, links below

thank you, Anne James for your work editing

You can support Painting in Text through Patreon, link below


Impure Things: Ronnie Hughes

Ronnie Hughes

Ronnie Hughes is a Sligo based painter from Belfast. Ronnie is also a lecturer in the local IT and is a well respected figure in the Irish art scene. I met Ronnie through local exhibition openings while I’ve worked at The Model. It was great to sit down with Ronnie over Zoom to discuss his studio practice and his views on painting and drawing. Ronnie touches on his studio practice and views on painting and drawing. We also discuss the evolution of his practice. You really get a sense that Ronnie has given great thought to the development of his practice when he talks about changes in his work. We had a really thoughtful discussion, I hope you enjoy.

Talk me through a day in your studio.

When I go to the studio, I have sets of paintings to work on. I tend to focus on two to three things at any one time. This is something I have done since I was at college. I might have a family of paintings that are related to each other but like all family members, they diverge and do their own thing. And I quite enjoy that. It’s almost like spinning plates. You are always putting a fresh problem in front of yourself.

I don’t use the wall space much unless there’s a show coming up. I have a particular space where I like to work. So, I focus my attention there and sort of blank out everything else. If I am waiting for paint to dry or figuring out what to do next, I’ll just put the work aside and use that time to sit and look and think for a while. They’re usually never too far away but sometimes, I leave them and come back to them in a month or two.

The studio is quite big. It’s fantastic to work in – especially in the warm weather – but it can be a cold studio in the troughs of winter. There are certain things you can’t do in the winter months because it’s too cold. I work around those limitations now. I figured out how to dress for the studio in winter, and I use the summer months to get a lot of drawing done because you can’t be sitting down to draw in a cold studio.

Ronnie Hughes in the studio

You have said in other interviews that the surfaces you paint on dictate the outcome of the work.

Yeah, I sometimes make a feature of [the surface]. If I’m working on linen, there might be raised bumps that I can use as marker points to make some sort of lattice structure. The painting develops from there. You can get similar types of patterns from plywood. Obviously, the different textured surfaces make a difference in themselves.

I don’t see purity as an important factor in art, generally. I feel the opposite is the case. Impure things elicit responses from people, and that is what I’m interested in. If I’m making a painting that is ostensibly abstract, it creates reactions in people, and I’m not completely in control of those reactions, but I can steer people in certain directions with my own particular use of formal elements. That’s something that I think about a lot.

Order/Disorder, 1991, oil on canvas, 229 x 241 cm

I’m interested in pattern. It has always appeared in the work in different ways. In my recent work, I’m exploring the construction of a pattern. When you think about it, what is a pattern? Whether visual, musical or psychological, it’s a structure that creates expectations for certain things to happen. And when you have that kind of structure, you can play off of it; you can frustrate the structure or use it to unleash something else. Even before I went to college, I remember reading about the Golden Mean [the Ancient Greek ideal of a desirable middle between two extremes], when I was an A Level student studying art. I have read a lot about it since. For me, it’s extraordinary that there are certain types of pattern relationships that run throughout almost everything. There is a book by [lecturer and water researcher] Theodor Schwenke called Sensitive Chaos which is about that idea. I find that all fascinating. It feeds into my work.

Commute I , (2020), Acrylic co-polymer on plywood, 93.5 x 73.5 cm    

You have mentioned in the past that paintings should be viewed as objects. Could you explain what you mean by that?

The Space Between, (2015), acrylic co-polymer on cotton, 188 x 183 cm  

Well, I think it’s important to say that paintings are not just two-dimensional. I think it’s a bit reductive to talk about paintings in terms of two dimensions. And I suppose the likes of [essayist and art critic] Clement Greenberg who talked about the flatness of painting, would have set a precedent for this. That may be of interest to some people but that was never the case for me. Like a lot of painters, I’m profoundly interested in the materiality of what I’m working with. It’s not this two-dimensional surface. In fact, it’s the four-dimensional character of the work that really fascinates me. What I see is that the work holds time within itself.

Some believe that abstract art encourages people not to think. I don’t really agree with that. I think of my paintings, in cultural terms, as prompts to reflection or contemplation.

Totem, (2009), colored pencil/ paper, 158 x 141 cm [Installation shot Goethe Inst, Dublin]

The process of how a work was made is embedded in its surface in various ways. If you look closely at a Rembrandt, you can actually see the evidence of touch. You see the making of the work even though it was painted a long time ago. It’s still held within it, and I like that about painting. That kind of intuitive thinking. I’m very conscious that I’m making a thing. There is a big difference in looking at a painting and then seeing its reproduction as an image. Nowadays, most will see it on a computer screen. Even when I’m documenting, I make an effort to retain that sense of the work as an object – lighting it with a particular shadow for example. For me, it’s really important and it’s hard to even say why. I’m certainly very conscious of the depth of the structure and what happens on all the sides of a painting.

It’s interesting that you mention time captured in the object because I often perceive a sense of immediacy when I look at your paintings.

That’s funny because there really isn’t a lot of immediacy in my process. A few years ago I had to catalogue all of my work for my website. I routinely take photographs when I’m working on the different stages of the paintings, mainly for comparison’s sake.  There is a level of objectivity in seeing a painting on a camera screen that isn’t possible when standing in front of it. I’ve used other ways too, to almost sneak up on paintings and try to see them objectively. I find myself looking at them in mirrors and through windows. When I was sifting back through these images, I was horrified to discover some paintings had taken me five years to make and I hadn’t realised! They keep on mutating and there is so much going on that I don’t always notice the time frame.

How did the switch from oils to acrylics come about?

Revise, Amend, Replace, Translate, (1994) Oil, wax, acrylic on canvas, 213 x 244,

My earlier paintings were very physical, and the technique I used called for bucketloads of paint and turpentine. At a certain point, I started to have problems with my breathing and contact dermatitis. My hands would continually be covered in paint and solvent. I had been working with oil paint for around eight years, so the switch to acrylics created quite different outcomes. It was challenging but there were a bunch of advantages to it – particularly the drying time. Before, I might have poured something on to a painting surface and waited two weeks for it to dry. I would have had these large paintings occupying floor space in the studio that I was paying rent for – twiddling my thumbs for two weeks. There’s a big difference between two weeks and two days.

Have acrylics become an advantage to your productivity?

Plinko I, (2020), acrylic co-polymer on plywood, 36.5 x 30 cm

I don’t know if it was an advantage or disadvantage but certainly a change. I had more control over the amount of pigment when I switched to acrylics. I could decide how opaque or translucent I wanted the paint to be. And I could control the finish – whether it was gloss, eggshell or matte. I could make a kind of textured glaze; those types of things were important to me. But at the same time, I missed the consistency of oil. Whatever your mix, the colour of oil paint doesn’t change as it’s drying. The fact that acrylic changes tone is still a pain. You could be trying to correct something and think you’re all done but when you come back in a few hours, it’s slightly too dark. Oil stays open [to reworking]. But generally, I don’t mind. I’m used to working with acrylics, and I have a grasp of them now. All mediums have their pros and cons.

Drawing is an important part of the process for you. You have said that it is more central than painting…

Hybrid Cabinet, Installation shot Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin, 2010

Around 2006, I started making an awful lot of more drawing work. I’ve never been a person to keep notebooks. It was never for me. I teach now, and I know for some of my colleagues, it’s very important to maintain things like journals. I can see how it’s important – my wife is an illustrator, and she draws furiously in journals – but I have always felt that, if I have the time, I want to make things out in the world. I did a couple of residencies in New England, in Vermont and Connecticut, back in 2006 and when I was there, drawing became very important. I started to draw much more freely, not stopping myself from drawing in a representational style. Things like signs from gas stations, trees and various objects. I ended up doing this whole extended series of drawings. It became something quite freeing for me when approaching a new painting. I suffered before from the temptation to keep developing a painting. In painting, you don’t have to do things in the exact way that they should be done because you can always do something else with the work tomorrow. The drawings were a lot more precise. By their nature, they don’t give you the same license to make mistakes and revise.

Assorted New England drawings, Installation shot Irish Museum of Modern Art, 2008

That particular mentality of precision became part of my practice in the studio. When I got back again, I started fostering a more drawing-like approach to my painting – in the sense of drawing something out from the process. I have been interested in that act of expressing something that is hidden or latent throughout my entire career. Looking back at my degree show, I made figurative paintings but they were about plants and natural forms growing out from figures. This idea of nature coming from within has always been there in the work. Those theological questions of randomness and design are of interest to me.

Lull, oil on canvas, (1988) , 183 x 244 cm, [degree show]

Has your role as a lecturer influenced your work?

Around eight years ago, I had to deliver a series of design lectures about visual literacy. That helped crystallise things for me because I had a lot of vague notions about that stuff, and I realised then that you can’t really get up and share vague notions with a class of students. I had to go and read about things like Gestalt psychology, how we perceive images, formal aspects and other factors that help to construct meaning. I began looking at various modes of perception – subliminal as well as conscious. That has also caused a big shift in the work over the last few years.

I had a show in Los Angeles back in 2011, and I remember the gallerist saying that he had never shown work as formal as mine before. That really shocked me at the time. I thought, “What? You don’t get the work. It’s the opposite of that!” Having thought about it since, I realise that it is formal work in many ways. I’m using a particular, reduced set of elements to orchestrate things. It’s important to stress that that doesn’t preclude allowing various types of associative meaning, or representations of sorts to enter the work! I have always thought of my work as being more akin to poetry than to prose. Poetry involves fewer formal elements in a way that suggests more possibilities which aren’t so forensic or specific. You could say the same about painting, and that’s what I like about it.

You can find out more about Ronnie Hughes work through his Instagram page and website, links below

thank you, Meadhbh McNutt for your work editing
You can support Painting in Text through Patreon, link below

Interview, Painting

Re-Defining an Artist: Tricia O Connor

Tricia O Connor is a Kerry based artist who’s perspective on art could not be replicated by anyone else. Her enthusiasm is infectious, and to talk to her reveals the great passion for art that drives her forward.  Speaking to her recently about her work, her personality shines through from her painting and her projects like the Feminist Tea Party and her Crafted workshops.


Tricia O Connor

This transcript has been edited by the interviewer for the purpose of this blog.

Let’s start with your project 40 Paintings in 40 Days.

So I recently had an exhibition called Anchor The Flow in Killarney, run by the Art House Gallery, which is run by a former winner of The Screaming Pope prize in K-Fest, Tracey Sexton. I had an exhibition there, and set myself the challenge of doing a painting a day for forty days. I decided to do the challenge to create a conversation around the reasons we create, and I hadn’t painted properly since I was in college. The element of getting back into painting again was a driving force, because I had been doing a lot of socially engaged work and I wanted to get back to what had gotten me into art in the first place – and for me, that was painting. The emphasis on production in the challenge was to get me to create without thinking – to see what type of a body of work would emerge out of that.  And it was getting really hard around the thirty day mark, if I’m being honest!

Being Irish, the forty days element has a connotation with religion for me…

Hahaha! It takes forty days to retrain the brain to do anything, so the number was about retraining the brain to access more creative flow! There was kind of a performative element to it.  But in the end, the forty day aspect of the challenge was a means to an end. It got me creating. And when it was done I could look back on how the process affected my work, without bogging myself down with thought experiments while I was making.


Anchor The Flow (2017)

Can you talk more about how the restraints of the challenge changed your work?

What happened was a huge change – I always used to paint in a quite small scale, and after I had finished the 40 Paintings, I found that I started to make bigger work. And now my paintings are moving toward larger projects, so there has definitely been a shift in my style and scale of work. As a practice, it gave me a lot of confidence to create again, and specifically working at a larger scale. For me as an artist, finishing art college and doing the Masters, I got stuck in trying to say something and trying to make a body of work that is relevant. And what I found was that I got so stuck in my head about it, that I actually stopped creating anything. The levels of mental energy it takes up, creating socially engaged art projects… My art practice is definitely going back into painting. It’s a space where I don’t have to think to create, and I don’t have to be attached to an outcome at the end of the process.

Can you talk about your socially engaged practice?

I guess the best place to start is The Feminist Tea Party. I started doing the tea parties when I was studying my Masters in Limerick, and they were a methodology I used to discuss a wide variety of topics concerning women’s rights and feminism. The conversations from each tea party are documented on the inside of each teacup. The teacups are then kept as an archive of women’s history in Ireland. The Feminist Tea Parties are influenced by my love of DIY aesthetics, and there’s an Irish twist on domestic home life there as well. And I love having subversive conversations! For me, it was a really fun methodology to use. And I think people really enjoyed it.


Feminist Tea Party (2016)

The tea party was an interesting practice, and I’d created an impressive archive of conversations people have been having around feminism and women’s rights in Ireland over the last few years. So I decided to move it into a more specific subject matter, and went on to create an archive around what men and women were thinking about abortion rights in Ireland last year. It was a really funny one, bringing it into abortion rights to have a conversation about it – you would think it would be easy, because it’s everywhere now, but the conversation around it was very stunted. When I got to the point that I was talking about abortion rights, I actually found that spaces and organisations don’t actually want to have that conversation. It seemed to come up against me when I would bring it up. And this killed my enthusiasm for it, and I just stopped.

I think the conversation around feminism flowed much more easily, because it had so many different elements and there were so many different opinions that could come from that. But with abortion rights, many are very guarded about their opinions for fear of being told they are wrong. I’m not saying it is impossible – I had a tea party in Tralee Institute of Technology and had 30 people at my tea party, both pro-life and pro-choice as well as the chaplain, so it is possible to have the conversation. But it is a very difficult conversation to have. I’m influenced by my methodology from The Feminist Tea Party when it comes to my work and how I facilitate my workshops.

Can you go into that in more detail?

I’m doing a residency this year with Crafted, which sets up artist residencies in primary schools across the Kerry, and I’ve become the regional coordinator for the programme. You go into a primary school, and work with a class for two or three months. It’s just an amazing programme – you can choose to work in any discipline. I’ve been doing printmaking, we’re making a play… The kids in the class are eight to ten years old, and the aim of the art practice was to get them listening to each other, and creating something as a group. I’m coming to the end of that residency now. It’s been great, I have been using my experience with meditation and how to do group work from my time running The Feminist Tea Party: I find I can use what I learned for my time learning about socially engaged practice with the kids, and that has been working wonders with their imagination. I mean, when you say ‘picture an artist’, they only think of a painter. I have been trying to teach them through meditation how to grow your imagination, and how to develop ideas to understand that there are more avenues to being an artist beyond just image making and to get them to tune into very specific things around them – like for example, the colour of a boat, or the colour of the trees, or even the sound of the wind. and all these different elements to create a holistic kind of way to get them to tap into their imagination.

With such an ever-changing changing practice, could you talk about your influences? 

For me, I’m really interested in listening to people’s conversations and listening to music more than looking at art. I prefer to be driven by influences that I can’t directly replicate, that I have to somewhat translate into my practice. As an example: my paintings at the moment, they’re very abstract and the colours are quite bright, because they are all inspired by conversations that I have had with people.  And because a lot of my conversations are about moon cycles and meditation, I find my work reflects that sort of conversation! The paintings are an attempt at expressing the movement of the conversations, the back-and-forth that takes place. Listening becomes very important when you’re trying to convey this movement, and the work becomes very reflective.


Sacred Art (2018)

I think everything is my creative practice; to me, everything that I do informs another type of creative practice, whether that’s painting or writing music or any other type of practice. I have my space set up with boards for painting near where I write, so if anything write influences an idea for a painting (or vice versa), I can pick up on that instantly. I might be painting for half an hour and go back later in the day. There is a flow to how I work, where I can move seamlessly to from one thing to another, kind of like jazz; for me everything bleeds into everything else. I love Benjamin Clementine, I love Sun Ra, and improv jazz – and that is the sort of music that would inspire me. 

What do you have coming up?

I am on the visual arts committee for K-Fest, an arts festival that shows emerging artists’ works, and it’s been running for six years. On June Bank Holiday weekend every year, the town of Killorgan becomes a space for over 150 artists and pop-up galleries which are set up throughout the town. There are twelve/fourteen people of us on the committee, with Neil Browne as the Artistic Director and Rachel Coffey and myself as the Assistant Artistic Directors. It has a nice DIY punk element to it, and there’s a very good collective mix of painting, sculpture, and others. Every building you go into is completely different from the next. We try and mix it up as well, putting video and paint together in a space one year and sculpture the next, and try and keep the spaces completely different from each other each year.

I’m also working on an online exhibition of my work. I just decided the amount of time it takes to apply to a gallery, to get refused by a gallery and come up with the costs to get my work to a gallery… and in the end it doesn’t even guarantee that the work will be seen! Just all this made me think: ‘why don’t I just use the internet to my advantage?’  It’s accessible to anyone, without the hassle of setting up in a physical space.

You can find out more about Tricia’s work through her website:
and thank you Adrian Mc Hugh for your work editing


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