Kathrina Rupit, also known as kinmx, is a Mexican-born artist currently living the dream as a full-time traveling artist based in Dublin, Ireland. Kathrina’s work is multifaceted in its beauty and appeals to a broad international audience, as evidenced by her success and the demand for her art in cities all around the world. Her works often include images of beautiful women in natural environments, the figures cloaked in colorful robes and garments with flowing multicolored hair or headdresses.
Kathrina’s pieces regularly incorporate organic elements such as feathers, flowers, wood, natural and geometric patterns and, in one of several nods to her home country, Dia de Los Muertos imagery. At different stages in her career, and depending on her mood and inspiration on any given day, her color palette ranges from bright, rich primary variants of red, blue, green and gold, to more subdued earth tones and grayscales – with each work’s spectrum seemingly custom-fit for the subject and its placement.
On a recent visit to San Francisco, the artist had time to sit down and talk about her work, career, travel and a range of subjects.
Hi Kathrina! Tell us a bit about yourself, perhaps providing a synopsis of your upbringing, school, art career or other interests.
I studied graphic design and photography at the University of Visual Arts in Northern Mexico but was really interested in all forms of drawing, painting, and tagging prior to that experience. Making paste-ups was a transition that I undertook while at the University. The school workshop was open and free after school hours, so I really took advantage of screen printing and other tools for mass producing paste-ups and stickers. I figured that this would keep me away from trouble with the police and also give me a better chance to be more creative. Before I knew it, I realized that I was having a dialogue with other street artists without even knowing them in person. Rather than overlapping existing tags, the paste-ups were more like “Here is an empty space. I’ll paste here!” Soon there would be more paste-ups beside mine, and I would do the same – paste in a place full of paste-ups already. I loved it. Then I started traveling and, totally by chance, I landed in Ireland. I began selling my paintings on the street as a way to gather a budget for travel. I still enjoy the cultural buzz of continuous travel! Without any expectations, I began getting involved with galleries and organizing graffiti jams, live paintings, and small exhibitions in alternative places. The decisions, activities, and informal shows were milestones, and I consider this time period a turning point in my life and career.
How long have you been decorating walls, and in what mediums have you worked?
My legal work started almost 10 years ago in Ireland and I’ve worked across a range of media, from paste-ups to installations and large-scale murals.
Can you talk a little bit about the transition from your early street tagging and sticker-art experiments to your current ornate paintings, wheatpaste, and original works?
Well, paste-ups were my way of combining my childhood passion for drawing with my teenage-rebel hobby of tagging the streets. As I grew as an artist and a person, I naturally set higher creative goals in many aspects of my life. I continue to strive to be a better artist, and experimenting and having fun are key elements of my creative process. This growth journey continues to this day and beyond.
Many of your works feature beautiful women intermixed with floral and other colorful patterns. Please give us a sense of the concepts, origins or backstory/philosophy behind these works.
It’s interesting. In my early works while studying in Nuevo Leon I tended to represent disagreements with social injustices, especially with the silent war in the north of Mexico. There was so much corruption and many people dying. I felt oppressed, sad and angry, and my work was a way of relieving the pressure from these thoughts. When I did my first solo exhibition, I was truly able to express these ideas through the exhibit. Seeing people’s reactions, their agreement about these feelings of dis-empowerment, victimization and those in higher power positions oppressing us all was quite revealing. At the time, I asked myself “is this really what I want to create in people….?” After much thought, I decided that it wasn’t, but it seemed naive and disingenuous to portray just happiness and personal development through my work.
Once I stopped judging myself I was able to focus on sharing my journey and feelings, creating a dialogue about the power to overcome situations and focusing more on the best little parts of life. It occurred to me that sharing these thoughts and feelings is my way of saying that we all have the power, day in and day out, to make choices and decisions which shape our lives in positive ways. That’s what the artistic journey means for me, and the idea behind the female and floral motifs. It’s the simple things. For example, I can pick up a pattern from the tiles of a corridor or an airport carpet and any daily thing that I can find on my way, like someone’s eye color, a simple flower growing from a crack in the concrete. Like in life, powerful symbolism and the inspiration for art is often found in the simplest things.
You’ve lived and worked in Monterrey and Nuevo León, Mexico, Dublin, Ireland, and have traveled extensively in the US and Europe – can you give us a sense of how widely your work is distributed – countries, cities, etc?
All around Ireland for sure 🙂 In the USA: Miami, Dallas, NY, San Francisco, Poland, Spain, Italy, France, Hong-Kong, London England, Belfast Ireland, Tel-Aviv and Goa in Israel, Thessaloniki Greece, Algarve Portugal, Tulum Mexico…. to name just a few cities and countries.
In terms of where your work isn’t currently up, in which cities throughout the world are you most interested in working, and why?
Tokyo, I think. I’ve been feeling attracted to the traditional Japanese art lately.
As far as your style, layout, medium, color palette and etc., who were some of your biggest influences or inspiration in the art world?
My influences are not so much a matter of who, as they actually come from a broader set of interactions. My color palette, influences, and inspiration are inspired by thoughts and sights that I find in everyday things. Subjects or colors are regularly inspired by sights as diverse as a sunset, someone’s eye color, a flower on the street, or the overall colors and textures of a street market. Pretty much everything can be a trigger for a new painting or wall.
Across your body of work, which pieces have you consider to be the “best” or favorite examples, in terms of placement, longevity, location, or your overall experience putting them up?
A piece that I did for Mur Murs festival in Decazeville, France really stands out in my mind. While I’m happy with the way the wall turned out, I really loved the overall experience associated with this painting. The Decazville people were amazing, the village was beautiful, and this was the first street art event in the area, which meant a lot to me. Prior to that event, there was no street art in the area to speak of. The Decazville people were excited and open, and the entire village and event projected a comfortable and welcoming feeling. The piece I did was inspired by Mayan culture and was based on my travels through the jungles of Mexico. The feedback from people was that of UNITY, and in my discussions with them, I discovered the village history and how many nationalities gathered there in the past while searching for work and a better life.
Another favorite from this year is a wall I did at the Lennox Building in Dublin.
Who are some (currently-working) street artists whose work you admire?
It’s a long list, I can not put all of it together. I’m a big fan of art in general, I admire all kinds of good art and techniques, so picking just a few is very hard for me.
How does the lifestyle of a traveling urban/street/studio artist compare to how you thought it would be – back when you dreamed of making art for a living? What is one of the biggest surprises (positive or negative) that you’ve found on your way to success?
Honestly, I never thought of making a living through my art. I think that on some level I knew that I’d always be making art of some kind, but it didn’t really matter what kind most of the time. Further, I didn’t have too many ambitions when I lived in Mexico. At the end of my time at university, I slowly started to feel that the time that everybody talked about was about to start in my life. I was going to get a normal job which might require me to change my look to fit into an office setting. Immediately after getting hired for my first “real” job, I quit! I thought: “…this is not me, I don’t want this. I’ll go traveling for a year, just keep making art and try to figure out the next step as I go.” This decision turned out to be the path that led to my current lifestyle.
Can you offer any guidance or advice for those artists still dreaming of working in the industry?
I think that each artist’s journey is unique, and the importance of any aspect of the journey applies in different ways. One thing that I can say is that passion makes a difference more than talent, luck, or education. I feel that when an artist is truly passionate about their craft, the path will unfold for them in their own unique way, and all the tools they might need to keep expanding will fall into place. I did many “not real” shows in the beginning rather than waiting for “The Show,” but maybe this way is not the best method for someone else.
I think it is the artist’s intuition that guides us the best – knowing what drives us, that intuition keeps lighting the way. I’m personally very enthusiastic and always eager to explore, create and do, so… me searching for the one big shot could have been boring and stressful, while doing small fun shows, gigs, festivals, etc., ensured that my interest continued to grow. Later, establishing boundaries and learning to be more selective came out of experience, not from education, in my case. But the passion inside me keeps me going and keeps me far away from thoughts of giving up. Quitting was never an option in my heart.
It’s a free day for you – say a Saturday – and you’re not working. What are you doing?
Well, it is hard to separate one from the other. It seems that I’m always working or I’m always on holidays! (laughing). If I’m working, I’m painting, researching, traveling, etc. In my free time I still like to paint, visit museums and galleries, travel, explore cities, jungles, mountains and deserts, whatever I find interesting, wherever I am. Often my activities during non-working hours will inspire me to draw, and sometimes those drawings lead to work production.
What’s bands or songs are on your best playlist right now?
Right now I’m listening to Etta James, Lhasa de Sela (El Desierto), Mars Volta, El Buho, Emancipator, Alt J (Taro), Butterscotch, Chinese Man, El Gran Silencio, Celso Pina, Brass Against (Jazz covers of Rage Against the Machine) to name just a few.
Without spoiling any pending surprises or big announcements, what can we expect from Kathrina Rupit in the future?
Many adventures and exchanges of cultures, my next stop is going back to France for another edition of Mur Murs Festivals in Decazeville.
By Tommy Gardner. Tommy was raised in the southern United States, and currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A Street Artist trapped in a tech salesman’s body, he installs his own creations around the world as he travels for business and pleasure – all the while photographing and collecting the work of other, far more talented artists. Having researched, visited, and photographed Street Art hotspots in most major US cities and many other countries (including the Netherlands!), Tommy looks forward to the day he can devote more of his time to this exciting pursuit. While he agrees that Street Art looks best ”out in the streets”, he’s also an outspoken proponent of artists being able to make a decent living doing what they love. As such, he regularly reaches out to Street Artists from all over the world to purchase a wide range of works, including original paintings, spray/stencils, actual wheatpaste sheets, stickers, and original, open, and limited edition prints. Tommy also created and moderates the Street Art Collectors group on Facebook. Join him there or on Instagram.
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