Third-year OCAD U student, Kristin Morthens describes her work as “busting out of the conventional picture frame.” And literally she does just that, in many of her works. Perhaps it’s her life and love of travel that draws her to the unconventional. Born in Iceland, Morthens has travelled the world. From growing up in Iceland, to living as a teen in Kenya, where she was home-schooled, to painting walls in Brazil for five months, to studying at OCAD U in Toronto, Morthens believes that all of the places and cultures she has experienced have given her a broader perspective of the world. And now, as an exchange student at The Art Institute of Chicago, she further explores new territory.
“When I first started painting, I was doing graffiti as a teenager, and later ̶ street art ̶ so I didn’t start painting on canvasses until a couple of years ago,” says Morthens. “I think in a sense, I was always very connected to site-specific pictures and painting on walls that were not a square or a rectangle.”
Morthens’ work is digitally inspired, contrasting between materials such as traditional paint and spray paint, exploring textures, mark making and colours. Lately, she has been fascinated by fabrication and the materiality of the canvas. “I’ve been dying canvasses and using bleach, painting a lot on raw canvas, and using unstretched canvas,” says Morthens. “I feel like I want to go in an installation direction with creating a space that you enter… busting out of the rectangle. It’s not new, it has been done for many decades, but the idealization of the rectangle is something that an art student in 2016 should question.”
As an exchange student living in the United States during the recent election, Morthens encountered a different sort of cultural experience. “The country was paralyzed… people were crying and the energy here is very heavy,” says Morthens. And how did this affect her work? “I couldn’t paint for a bit, after the election and I decided to do a portrait of a friend of mine from Chicago. I haven’t done a portrait on a canvas in two years, but it was an urge that I felt that I had to document something.”
Grateful for her time at OCAD U, Morthens, who was awarded the Curry's Art Store Prize this year, and the Helen Eisen Scholarship last year, asserts that she has been shaped and very influenced by her professors, fellow students and the aesthetics that are happening in Toronto. “The scene has pushed me into new directions. I feel like since I started OCAD, I haven’t stopped evolving.”
Check out more of Morthens’ work online.