Artist Spotlight: Kotryna Ula Kiliulyte


Amanda Aitken writes about Lithuanian photographer Kotryna Ula Kiliulyte ahead of her upcoming exhibition at Street Level Photoworks.


About the artist:
Kotryna Ula Kiliulyte is a photographer from Lithuania currently living in Glasgow. She studied at Vilnius Art Academy and Glasgow School of Art from which she graduated with first class honours in photography. Since then she has been making her own work, taking commissions and even shooting an occasional wedding. In 2011 she was awarded the Glasgow Visual Artist Award to complete her photographic series Homo Faber about Scottish makers and the craft scene. This year she was selected to take part in the Young Photographers Alliance Mentoring Programme and spent the summer developing the project further. Kotryna also got shortlisted for IdeasTap’s Magnum Photographic Award, an exhibition of which is opened in London, Downstairs at Mother (10 Redchurch Street, London E2 7DJ) on 31 October.

What is the name of the project and how did you get involved?
The project is called Away Home. The YPA mentoring programme has been running for a few years now and I heard about it through my colleague and dear friend Sarah Amy Fishlock who took part in it last year. It is a great opportunity for photographers to get involved in local photographic circles, get weekly mentoring from industry professionals and develop a project with their support. This year’s theme was ‘escape’.


What was your interpretation of the theme?
I was thinking about food and the way we eat for a long time. Being a foreigner in Scotland, I found myself cooking up Lithuanian or Polish feasts (my dear grandma is Polish) for my friends, shopping in local Eastern European shops and getting excited when I find some very average Lithuanian lager for sale at Wetherspoons. I then spoke to other people, who moved away from their home countries and realised there is a common topic for us- nostalgia related to home food. I thought of different ways to visually tell the story, when it occurred to me that 17th century Dutch still life’s have striking visual language. Even though the Vanitas paintings talk about vanity of earthly pleasures, similarly to Memento Mori concept, it reminds the viewer about how fleeting and fragile life is. Drawing on this, I used the visual language of still life to communicate my idea of remembering (or being reminded of) a home country. Memento Mori becomes Memento Patria. The theme of escape stands in the very core of this, since my subjects – people who have agreed to fill in the questionnaire – have left their home countries for multitudes of reasons. And being far away, living very different life, they tend to escape back home through a plateful of nostalgia.


What are your plans for the future?
I am still working on this project trying to expand the list of nationalities that take part in it and tweaking the visual language a bit. I don’t think I will ever get bored of this – food and home are the core of my identity, and hopefully this applies to many people who will find this project interesting.


[Amanda Aitken]

To see more of Kotryna’s work head to the exhibition opening at Street Level Photoworks on 14 November, 7 – 9pm, or head Kotryna’s website.

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