Kirsty Whiten has been working since 2000, exhibiting her distinctive drawings and paintings internationally. In collaboration with other artists and in street settings, Whiten has used paste-up techniques to enlarge her characters and work them into public murals.
She is known for her warped large-scale portrait paintings and highly detailed photo-realistic drawings, often containing powerfully subversive content and irreverent humour. Her work has been featured in magazines such as Juxtopoz and Hi-fructose, and art-blogs worldwide. Whiten’s work is about people; human behaviour, history, family, society, sexuality and culture. Her take on her subjects is quirky and unsettling.
I built a house with my partner, Ben Seal, a couple of years ago. We moved out of Edinburgh and into a small village in Fife. We designed a passive house; that is one which requires little or no heating, and it has a sound studio for him and a painting studio for me. It’s by far the best studio I have ever had – in the past I was always in a semi-derelict building with mice and frost. I still can’t really believe it every time I walk in – I love it. Because I got to design it from scratch, it has good north light and a skylight to the east for morning sun.
If I am painting I work at the easel and make a mess everywhere, other times I sit at a drawing board to work on paper and try to be precise. I have images and little bits of text all over the walls, and I find my brain makes good and odd connections out of these in it’s own time, when I am not concentrating too hard. I have to keep refreshing this pin-board to keep ideas flowing. I also have a few images of favourite artists around – Paula Rego, Charles Avery, Frida Kahlo, Dorethea Tanning – just to remind me where to aim I guess.
I bring people into the studio to photograph them and dress-up and play – it is essential to have this neutral, creative work space – everyone behaves differently in there, quieter, more focused and sort-of free.
I’m working on a set of rituals and rites just now – I have an exhibition in Austria in July and I have a lot of work to make – so I am collecting little fetish power objects and photographing and drawing different people in costume, dancing and freaking out.
From time to time I work outside because I can make my work public and monumental by enlarging the drawings into paste-ups. I really like the public aspect of it – it is the antithesis of the gallery where it all has to be clean and crisp and the feedback is very civilized. It is highly glamorous work, often balancing on commercial bins and chatting to various tramps and passersby in an alley like a wind tunnel.
‘Where I Make’ invites readers behind the scenes of artists from many disciplines to share photographs and a little insight about where they create their masterpieces. See more from the series here.