Hawke’s Bay Art Guide describes the artist Ken Sando as “A multidisciplinary creative whose work is easily recognizable by its quirkiness and unconventional subject matters.” I believe this is a correct description in a nutshell that stimulates the curiosity of the art lovers to learn more about Ken Sando’s work. I am privileged to be one of Ken Sando’s family friends and also to collaborate with Ken in different projects.

Valentina TECLICI: Three years ago, you gave me very interesting answers to the Interview about creativity that I also translated into Romanian. It was published, in English and Romanian on different on-line magazines, personal blogs and websites in Romania, Australia and New Zealand. I am aware that, in the last couple of years, you have had a couple of personal exhibitions and you also contributed to collective exhibitions. 

Could you please share with me and the readers of this interview the main art events that happened in your creative work after your personal art exhibition “Rock’ n roll” that was held at Boyd-Dunlop Gallery Napier on  April 2017.

Ken SANDÖ: I’ve been in a few more solo and group shows. Noticeable ones were; Whorse-Sense, a solo show at Napier Contemporary Art Gallery in 2019. Looking Good, a solo show at the Taupō Museum and Art Gallery in 2020 (which was disrupted by the Covid-19 lockdown). As well as the Hawkes Bay Art Trail Exhibition at the Hastings Community Art Gallery.

Memories of Olympia. 2020. Acrylic and Charcoal on Board. HB Arts Trail Exhibition.

A number of works have sold over this period, with the most memorable one being of “Memories of Olympia” which sold prior to the opening of the exhibition it was exhibited in. I have also produced more sculptural pieces, mainly in the continuation of the skulls’ series, as I’m getting great enjoyment from making them.

Valentina TECLICI: I was able to come with my husband Robert Anderson to the launch of your personal art exhibition Whorse-Sense held at Boyd-Dunlop Gallery on 27th September 2019.

Your work “Power and Control” is for me an example of “unconventional matter” that gives me freedom to think of different ideas and meanings. My mind could make several assumptions of what was hidden behind it. In fact, what did you try to express and communicate through this interesting piece of art?

Power and Control. 2019. Acrylic and Charcoal on Board. Whorse Sense Exhibition.

Ken SANDÖ: There are certainly many different readings one can take from this imagery Valentina. Some of the core ideas I was contemplating when I produced Power and Control are as follows:

Truth is oftentimes considered or depicted as naked; I consider truth as formidable and confronting to those that foster alternate narratives. So truth is a paradox, for me, in the sense that it is both vulnerable and almost invincible. Truth, also, just exists as an entity in its own right beyond the control of external forces but exerts its own presence sometimes, and sometimes forcefully. It is what it is…

The powerful tend to be oblivious to all but themselves. Powerful people/organisations/concepts/etcetera frequently have no realisation that their actions present endangerment or outright dismissal of weaker people/systems/groupings/etcetera…  Power brings with it its own ignorance; as “you only know what you know” and power can find it almost impossible to look beyond its own privilege.

The closed doorway, guarded by the suited and masked figures, is the present Municipal Library entrance in Napier. This representation references control or denial of access to information and knowledge, which is apparently a constant in relationships of unbalanced power. If the way to knowledge is blocked it implies that

It’s nearly impossible to step out of the gutter if that’s the only vision you’ve been given.

Valentina TECLICI: Could you please tell us more about your philosophy and vision of “looking good” that was reflected in your personal exhibition Looking good that was held at Taupo Museum in April 2020.

Ken SANDÖ: This exhibition was centered on the pun of looking good; meaning to look at something well, to examine. Also to have an aesthetically pleasing appearance according to popular taste or social mores. So it meant, for me, to have the viewer look beyond the conventional or the surface to gain an awareness of what may lay beyond the superficial. I utilised images in separate works that referenced others in the show so that there was a thread of narrative within each piece linked to the overarching thematics. 

Looking Good. 2020. Acrylic and Charcoal on Board. Looking Good Exhibition.

Valentina TECLICI: I know that you would love to have more time for your art, doing it full-time and not as a side-hustle. Lockdown kept us in our bubbles for nine weeks. How did this isolation influence and affect your creativity and art work? 

Ken SANDÖ: Honestly, the lockdown sucked. Really big-time sucked!

My show at the Museum was mothballed, so I took a financial and emotional hit on it. No show – no sale… Every other solo exhibition I’ve held has been able to cover the considerable costs of holding them; I also feel my art making is  truly acknowledged when someone has the bravery to pay good money for one of my works. So a loss.

As you know, part of my symbolism utilises masks and skulls; suddenly it seemed everybody else started using this as a device within their art (understandably so). I felt that I’d have to reinvent a large part of my artistic lexicon because it suddenly seemed to be swallowed up in a greater story. This was also a draining experience that I’m still trying to work through.

The lockdown also revealed to me, Valentina, that I enjoy making artworks in solitude and uninterrupted and having my family at home over that period didn’t help my productivity at all. 

I did though get to spend plenty of time cleaning out my studio/workshop which was cathartic. 

Valentina TECLICI: It sounds that the Lockdown was a big challenge for you and also an opportunity to learn more about what you need to strive in your creativity and productivity. Did you contemplate/ creating a work of art named “Lockdown”?

Ken SANDÖ: No. Not at all. Perhaps in the future I may examine the experience a little more and produce a work that is Lockdown specific. At the moment though there is no desire to do so…

My work is quite self-referential, so it holds these experiences and references within it already without specifically highlighting them. Valentina, I feel somewhere along the line the Lockdown may present itself in my work, either specifically and/or obliquely.

Valentina TECLICI: A few weeks ago, your work “Moaner Lisa”, a replica to Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa, was presented in a group show at Community Arts Napier. Instead the enigmatic smile, a moan. I felt goosebumps and I was not sure if the strong emotion was positive. What did you intend to communicate through this work of art?

Moaner Lisa. 2019. Acrylic and Charcoal on Board. Looking Good Exhibition.

Ken SANDÖ: Well it seems I got what I wanted with this work in regards to your response; An emotional response generated by an artwork (whether elation, repulsion, or any other strong emotion) is what I believe should be at the core of any good art piece. It signifies, to me, that It reaches beyond the apathetic consumer/viewer and touches their mind. It means something more to the viewer than a simply forgettable visual representation. And I’m not dictating what sort of response – as long as there is one – because it hopefully triggers a train of thought within the viewer as to why they responded to the image the way they did.

Valentina TECLICI: Our collaboration has continued. You designed the cover for Poetical Bridges – Poduri lirice, my second bilingual collection and also involved in the New Zealand National Poetry Day, last year as artist for the Painted Poem event and this year as a photographer for Lens on Poetry event. How was it for you to collaborate in these poetry projects?  

The Spirit of Napier. 2020. Print on Glossy Photo-Paper. Lense on Poetry Exhibition

Ken SANDÖ: I quite like to be pushed beyond the known and mentally stretched so doing collaborative work outside my normal stylistic and creative intellectual content can be a refreshing experience. Although I do not actively seek out these collaborative projects it is quite flattering when someone is willing to trust me and share with me their work and then allow the freedom of layering my ideas over theirs. 

Working with you Valentina on these collaborations has been another way for me to broaden my skillset and contribute to something greater than myself. Thank you.

Poetry in Motion. 2019. Acrylic and Charcoal on Board. Painted Poem Exhibition.

Valentina TECLICI: Thank you, Ken, for your time and your interesting answers.

October 2020

Whorse-Head. 2020. Acrylic and Charcoal on Board. Looking Good Exhibition.

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