Karolien Chromiak makes installations. She surrounds herself with objects and items she finds interesting, and draws inspiration from her environment and the people in it. She tries to process everything that moves her even though it takes a while before an artwork reaches its final state, that is if it has one. “My work started from photography and video, which I have studied, but soon I found it rather boring and deficient. I then started examining the boundaries of these media.” Nothing stays between the boundaries of one medium in Karolien’s work. As such her work can be characterized as an interaction between the analog and the digital.
Furthermore, Karolien’s work never even stays between the boundaries of her atelier. When she exhibits her work it often changes still. “I always have an image in my mind of what it should become, but it often changes onsite. That is why I love to exhibit my work. It’s an exercise that keeps it interesting. A lot of artists finish their work in their ateliers, which I perfectly understand. However, I’m not purely an atelier artist. My surroundings really do matter to me.” Not only is the exhibition venue an important place for Karolien but also her neighborhood. These places play a role in creating her artwork. “A city is always inspiring and interesting. That’s why I also try to travel as much as I can. I’m originally from Genk. When I’d just moved to Antwerp I would walk the streets at night and see all kinds of new things that inspired me. I’d also carry an analog camera. The photos I took with it eventually became the starting point for later work.”
Likewise, during a visit to Beirut with STRT Kit (an international development platform for young artists) Karolien only created work with things she could find in this city. “I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and the energy of the people there. I had never been to the Middle East before. In Belgium the street lights are orange, but over there everything is white, plus you also see a lot of brightly colored neon lighting. It was simply beautiful. I was really impressed by it. After that trip I tried to preserve the essence of that city in many of my works.” Accordingly, much of Karolien’s work emerges from an experience or a feeling which then requires some time to develop. “A lot of my work originates in an experience or feeling about something which I then try to translate into my art. However, it does demand some time for an installation for example to reach its final state.” Hence, according to Karolien a work of art is something that keeps growing, changing, evolving. “That’s why I keep reinventing my work and keep it in perspective.”
Karolien further works on projects with her boyfriend Dennis, who is an artist as well as a musician. He produces digital music. “When we create a work it is a new artwork that we have made together. As such it is not a fusion of our separate works. For example, we are working on a project called “Synthesis” in which visual and auditory information of the exhibition space is reinterpreted. We convert images to sound and sound to images. For the eventual result we make use of the format of techno track. It is a completely different way of working, but I like cooperating too.” Something else that requires a different way of working for Karolien is the assignment she was given to make a sculpture in the City of the Dead in Cairo. It is a completely different undertaking for her because the sculpture will stay outdoors permanently. “I often work with projectors and computers but now I have to create something which will forever stand outside. In the f***ing desert (laughs). It’s a different course of events, in terms of budgeting, transport… But I also like to be engaged in this project in this way. However, it is important to me that I can synchronously set up smaller projects in my atelier.”
Art is not something Karolien can turn off and on again, it is her life. “Life is often a concatenation of habits. Before you know it you’re 80, 90 years old, and you die without having lived consciously. When you’re engaged in art, you’re continually searching for things standing out, affairs that really interest you, move you. You search for something transcending. But art is also trying to learn and grow. I think that is the most important to me.”