April 4, 2014  |  MoMA Teen Takeover
MoMA Teens Take Over Inside/Out: Karni Krikoryan, Artist
Portrait of Ringo Starr, by Karni Krikoryan

Portrait of Ringo Starr, by Karni Krikoryan

Karni Krikoryan is an artist born in Istanbul and currently living in the United Kingdom. She is also my aunt. Starting only at age five, she began creating art. “I had something to say about everything around me. So my eyes became my words,” is how she explains her early interest. Her work ranges from still lifes to realistic portraits of her friends, family, and favorite musicians. When I first really saw my aunt’s work, I was really in shock. The real reaction to her work when I first saw it was shock. Why? It was a very large painting of my other aunt.

The painting, Susan With a Can of Peas (c. 1980), measuring four-feet high by four-feet wide, was one of the more challenging pieces she’s made, commenting that it took “about three-four weeks to execute.” The piece is airbrushed. However, Karni had to learn how to airbrush: “The biggest obstacle I had to overcome was learning how to use an airbrush. I experimented with spray paint cans first, trying out different types of masks and resists. I finally achieved the paint consistency I was after by mixing all my colors in advance, thinning them and straining them several times through old pantyhose into sterile jars.”

Karni Krikoryan, Susan with a Can of Peas, 1978. Airbrushed.

Karni Krikoryan. Susan with a Can of Peas. c. 1980. Airbrushed

She has used many different tools for her trade, her favorite being graphite, saying, “I absolutely love it. It becomes an extension of my mind directly to my hand. I can be delicate with it—achieving nuanced grey scale or brutal black and white.” Her inspiration is also drawn from film, stating that, “Film is a massive influence on me.” However, Karni’s drive is quite different from what others’ might be: “Coffee. Reactions to things. Fear. My own obstinacy. I’m stubborn and so if I have nothing to say visually, I’ll do nothing. I’m not interested in the process.”

Portraits of David Bowie (l) and Ringo Starr (r) by Karni Krikoryan

Portrait of David Bowie, by Karni Krikoryan

She has two favorite works of art, the first being Jacques-Louis David’s The Death of Marat, which she says “had a profound influence on me as a young teenager. I was exposed to this ‘type’ of neo-classic artwork though my father, your grandfather, who was French-educated from the age of five.” Moreover, Karni states that, “The painting represents an image of transition—life to death: the spirit of the ideals of the French revolution and the romantic ideal of dying for what you believe in. It was the end for the masters of a system who rapidly lost their grip on the reality of shifting politics and social ideals.” Her second favorite piece is Where Reality Lies, by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi. Her reason being that, “He had the most profound influence on me. He was my mentor and we became friends.”

Finally, I asked Karni what her advice for aspiring artists was, to which she replied, “Be honest, sincere, and don’t be a phony.” She also added, “Everyone can spot a phony. Be fearless and don’t doubt your ‘voice’ because that is your relationship with yourself. Face the world you are in or not in.” We concluded our interview with her giving you one final piece of advice: “Don’t worry if you aren’t any good. Plenty of people will tell you that for free. Just keep at it like you did when you were a kid. Also, master drawing, even if you are never going to be a visual realist.”


The author, William Maximilian Parkinson

The author, William Maximilian Parkinson

This week, every post on Inside/Out is created by participants in the MoMA + MoMA PS1 Cross-Museum Collective, a behind-the-scenes program for teenage alumni of our In the Making studio-art classes. Over the course of the 16-week project, the participating teens work with educators, curators, security staff, conservators, and other Museum staff to gain hands-on experience across a number of fields. In addition, they create collaborative artwork with a range of contemporary artists. More info can be found HERE and HERE. Info on our 2014 free summer art courses for teens is available now.