Artist and designer, Kira Phoenix K’inan, brings together fine art and craft through works on paper, inimitable glass sculptures, ephemeral installations and multi-exposure photography, which are sustainably and ethically produced in her studio in London. Today her collections are known for their rich colour palette, dynamic lines that intertwist into one another and works that are in constant visual flux.
Kira is one of a small group of artists who regularly works with BobCat Gallery, a small scale gallery specialising in original art at affordable prices.
Here we chat with Kira about her journey so far…
Tell us more about your journey into the art world.
My love of art and creating began at an early age. I grew up in a vibrant community of artists on Lamma Island, Hong Kong, and would spend my weekends exploring the island. I developed a close connection to nature, and I was able to explore my own imagination, which came across in the stories I would tell and works I would create.
After leaving Asia to study in the UK, I had the chance to to travel on my own back to to Hong Kong, Bali, Singapore, and Thailand in 2012. During this time, I created a series of watercolour works on paper that explored colour washes and the strength of the line.
My work has grown organically through my studies (University at Central St Martins and Masters at The Royal College of Art) and two residencies, one at Konstfack, Sweden and the other at Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland. Travel has also been a significant influence since my earlier days in Asia and later in Europe and North America. Different cultures, sciences, language, colours, mythologies have influenced me greatly.
I set up my own studio in 2022, which was a big milestone in my career. I am also proud to say that I sell globally to a dedicated clientele spanning the UK, Scandinavia, and USA. I continue to exhibit internationally, with highlights including the Bullseye glass competition Emerge Bullseye (2018), being shortlisted for the Ashurst Emerging Artists Prize (2019) and a finalist for The Visual Arts Open (2020), exhibiting at London Craft Week (2022), Decorex International (2022), Future Icons (2023) and MADE London (2023).
How would you describe your signature style and technique?
I have been lucky in my glass career to have created several styles of work that have become signatures for that period.
During my time at The Royal College of Art studying Ceramics and Glass, I developed a technique of translating my two-dimensional works on paper into three-dimensional glass sculptures known as the Relief Glass Drawing technique. This labour-intensive, hands-on process allowed me to experiment with surface textures by carving into plaster batts and combining different glass colours for a vivid outcome.
Whilst the composition might at first glance seem unconstructed, I have set a series of rules to follow, like the plaster batt size to geometric shapes. These rules then allow for the more intuitive glass drawings to flow.
Can you tell us about your latest work? Where did you find inspiration and what is the story behind it?
The Superposition series is a selection of free-standing glass sculptures exploring the transparent nature of fused glass when each individual layer is placed upon another. These translucent, almost unreal sculptures look like they should be as light as a feather or as sweet as sugar. The interaction with light in both the inner and outer surface is delicately beautiful, at times reflecting the colours around the piece to channelling light through the centre.
The Superposition series has been evolving since 2021. The initial inspiration came from a desire to combine my sculpture training with my glass knowledge, explore colour using the qualities of glass and interpret the term ‘rough around the edges’.
I chose the word superposition, which means ‘the action of placing one thing on or above another, especially so that they coincide’, after a song title of the same name. The lyrics discuss the many possible outcomes that can exist, but when things fall into place as superposition it coincides.
Each piece of glass for each individual layer falls into place, then is fired in my kiln to create one layer of glass and each glass layer is placed on top of another, eventually creating freestanding and balancing sculptures. I have also chosen to use geometric shapes, from circles to hexagons, as these shapes recur throughout the natural world.
Initially I created all Superposition series in clear glass as I wanted to explore the transparent nature of crystal-clear glass. I fired each layer of glass to the temperature that holds the glass droplet texture.
Each glass droplet reflects, refracts, and diffuses light, so when each layer of glass is placed on top of another, the light is no longer able to pass though clearly, creating works that look almost opaque. This process creates an almost unreal series of sculptures. The pieces have been likened to bubbles, raindrops, ice and sugar.
As the series evolved, I began incorporating colour. The Superposition series became the perfect vehicle for exploring colour mixing in a three-dimensional format. I used my knowledge of colour theory and art history to create colour combinations that look like a detailed view of pointillist painting or a pixelated digital image.
Superposition Waves and Superposition Balancing are the latest development in the series. The Superposition Waves uses different sized circle circumferences, and through layering, creates a wave effect. I take inspiration from sound waves that I have recorded and then translate them into binary. The 0 is the smaller circle and the 1 is the larger circle.
The Superposition Balancing series brings ideas I have explored in past work, mainly how you can create beauty and discomfort in the same work. The two fine points the works balance on create intrigue, but also a sense of unease in case they topple over. The choice to make these work out of blue black glass was deliberate, as the black glass looks both solid and liquid simultaneously.
The Superposition series looks both familiar and unfamiliar. The unfamiliarity can generate the desire to want to make sense of the work, but the true beauty of the pieces is found when they are able to exist as they are.
Are there any exhibitions or events you’re planning in the near future?
2024 is already looking to be a very vibrant year with a solo show at 67 York Street in February and exhibiting at Craftworks in May.
I exhibit regularly with BobCat Gallery, as well as with ArtCan and others across London, online and internationally.
What is the best advice you’ve been given as an artist?
There was one piece of advice I was given when I was 17 and it was to pick one material immediately and stick to it. I personally disagreed with the statement. Instead, I tried all the materials that I could, I played and experimented.
What this enabled me to do was to learn about all the different ways of making, be able to transfer skills to other materials and gave me the understanding to be able to speak with other artists in other fields. When I found glass, I knew it was a special medium for me, and it is one of my main materials, but I still learn about other fields as it keeps ideas flowing and the discussion with others can be very inspiring.