Creativity runs in the blood for New York-based artist Curtis Kulig. Surrounded by it from birth, it was through the lens of a Nikon F2 that a young Kulig first explored his own. “I shot all 35mm at the time and was mainly documenting punk shows,” recalls Kulig. In the years that followed, the artist’s practice has evolved beyond the lens to encompass more or less every other artistic medium you can think of. Proficient in the realm of photography, illustration and painting, Kulig is one of those can-do all-rounders who makes you believe that, with the right attitude, anything is possible.
It was, after all, Kulig’s impassioned ‘Love Me’ manifesto that awarded him global notoriety, appearing in a compendium of mediums including stickers and neat cursive script laced through city streets, larger canvas-based works in acrylic and mixed media, even showing up illuminated in neon and cast in bronze. Ubiquitous? Yes. Kulig’s work is far reaching, fuelled by the artist’s continued exploration of raw, human emotion. For him, travel, reading and old films provide a constant source of inspiration. Friends, too, as demonstrated through his Polaroid series, which documents “the people I adore and who make me happy”.
From the street to the gallery, we catch up with Kulig to talk about how he came to do what he does, and learn a little more about his ongoing Polaroid series.
How did you come to be an artist?
From a young age I was inspired by my uncles and my father. My uncle, Philip Salvato, was somebody I really looked up to. He is a traditional oil painter and I had so much respect for his mastery of the medium. Being around them actually pushed me away from painting and I gravitated towards photography when I was younger. Later in life I decided painting was something I had interest in.
Is there an underlying message or theme that infiltrates your work, irrespective of the medium?
A lot of emotion. I pay attention to process and referencing ideas. I think that is important in making work. I have been painting targets for the last year. They are shot with arrows and represent my overall emotional state for that month depending on the accuracy of the actual puncture. The titles are that month and the year and they will go on, add infinitum.
Where do you find inspiration?
Travel and friends and old films, mostly. A lot of reading, as well. Albert Camus and Thich Nhat Hanh. The Wall Street Journal sometimes.
What inspired your Polaroid series?
My Polaroid series has always been about [the] documentation of my friends over the years. Mostly studio visits. They are very natural and I think that shows through in the photos. These are all people I adore and who make me happy.
What do you look for in a subject?
Their natural look and attitude. The way they had put themselves together that given day.
In what ways does New York influence your work?
New York is obviously a melting pot of all cultures which makes for good food and different energies. The architecture is significant and the parks are a perfect place to breathe and get away. Annabelle Selldorf designed a new building on Bond this year that I enjoy each time I pass by. All of the characters and the momentum of the city. There is nowhere I would rather be for long periods of time.
Do you have a mantra that you live by?
Lately my mantra has been stay positive, keep it moving and everything happens for a reason. Before that: Om Namah Shivaya.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a new series of paintings and putting a book together of photos and drawings. Staying focused in the studio and being as healthy as I can be.
WORDS Edwina Hagon
PHOTOGRAPHY Curtis Kulig