I love Christina Kenton! Her work is as unique as she is, exquisite and intricate pieces all built around cigarette lighters. Most undoubtedly a one off, she lives in an apartment in Vancouver BC with her musician husband. Here she talks to me about her life and work and gives us a tour of her art-filled home…
Hi Christina and a big welcome to Om Pom Happy. I’ve followed your work for a long time now so it’s very special to finally meet you. Your creations are just wonderful. What are your influences?
Hi Cand, I’ve been making lighter art for ten years now and am heavily inspired by surrealism and my grandfather, Ladislav Guderna.
Ladislav Guderna, your grandfather, was a surrealist painter…
Yes, he was considered by some as one of the main founders of Slovak visual surrealism. He was a painter, printmaker, and worked with collage. He has influenced me hugely and I am in the process of trying to put together an exhibition of his work.
Above: Ladislav Guderna standing next to COINCIDENCE 1990
Above: Ladislav Guderna CIRCUS
I can see how he has influenced your work! Can we perhaps see your studio?
The studio this is where I build and prep all my lighter pieces. I use found objects and mixed media. The lighting isn’t great so it’s a good place to just listen to music and put things together, but not do all the detailing. I will usually have my cat on my lap and headphones on. In a way it’s organized. I can always find what I need, but it is definitely packed with stuff and houses around 105 lighters at the moment that I have made over a 3 year period. I haven’t painted on canvas for over 10 years, but there are some old paintings I did a while back on the walls.
I use whatever I feel will work. I have used milk cartons, cigarette packs, toys, chopsticks. I usually have little money to spend on supplies so I invest it in better quality paint and miniatures. I don’t sell my work too often, I guess I kind of got this idea years back that I wanted to get to 100 lighters and maybe have a big solo show. Now I’m a bit over 100 and want to go for 150. They take so long to make so maybe in a year or so I’ll be at that number and then probably want to get to 200.
My husband Brody McKnight shares the studio. He’s a virgo and enjoys a more organized working space. The framed photos are taken by him. He is a musician with a project called Gretchen Snakes.
Ha, Dan is a virgo too and so neat and tidy. Unlike me. My work sprawls everywhere. So if your studio is too dark, where do you paint all your pieces? They are so detailed and must take hours of work.
I hand paint in the living room. I can often spend 2-12 hours a day painting patterns. I sit on the floor and watch true crime/ forensics documentaries. The natural light is great and I get to listen to the birds.
We have never eaten at the dining table! It’s used as storage for books, plants and jackets. It’s a friend’s table and she’s going to pick it up someday. It has a cat area complete with cat crib/ husband’s records decorated with artwork by my uncle Martin Guderna(top corner), friend artist Chad Murray(2 bottom) and P. Walker (large Rabbit).
This painting below in the dining room is titled Twist and Shout by Noel Doyle…
I see you have a record collection in your hall. Me too! Well it’s not mine, it’s mostly Dan’s. All my old vinyl seems to have got lost through the ages.
It’s my husband’s collection too! And on the wall are my grandfather’s paintings. I like to be reminded of him. He died in 1999. The painting above the record player is by Daniel Arnold and there’s also a framed photograph ‘Party Naked’ by John Oliver Hodges. The red room is the bathroom.
There are more of Ladislav’s paintings here with my uncle Martin Guderna’s work…
You mentioned a cat…
My cat is called Lily, she is 13 years old and looks like a kitten. She has the biggest vocabulary and sounds angry almost always. I grew up around Siamese cats my whole life, this is my 3rd and my only one as an adult, my childhood pets all lived into their 20’s.
Do you have an outside space?
We have a communal garden and a balcony. We have lived in this apartment building for over 13 years. Brody and I moved in 8 months after dating.
Do you work full time on your art?
No, I work at a cafe to pay my bills and to support my painting, but I submit to shows all the time. I’ve been really lucky to be a part of some great group shows so I’m always hopeful. Right now some of my work is in Portland Maine, it’s cool it can travel even when I can’t.
This piece is called RATTLING HORSE. It has a second horse (red/white) coming out of the black horse…
HOME SWEET HOME WITH TWIN PIGS LIGHTER below
CROWDED SHEEP LIGHTER below
ELEPHANT LIGHTER below
TILL DEATH DO US PART LIGHTER below
My work has no deep meaning. I like how nonsense makes sense to me and that I don’t need to follow any structure or rules. My work is light, I want it to make people happy. The only deeper meaning is the time I spend making and decorating each lighter. I definitely have favourite pieces because of what I was going through at the time I was making it and the time I spent on it. It’s my therapy, painting gets me through good times, tough times, anxiety, depression and chronic vertigo. When I feel too dizzy to leave the house some days it becomes my world. I know it’s probably just a distraction, but its so special and personal to me.
Christina thank you so much for sharing with us. I wish you all the best with your fantastic ever growing collection. Maybe it will reach one thousand! I would like to come back and talk to you some more then. But in the meantime can you please leave us with your favourite song?
Thank you, Cand. I’d like Nirvana Do Re Mi.
words: CAND JUSKUS and CHRISTINA KENTON
images: BRODY MCKNIGHT