I am an artoholic – Kitty Ritig | Sunday Observer

I am an artoholic – Kitty Ritig

21 March, 2021

Kitty Ritig is a familiar name on social media for her dainty, colourful; mostly watercolour based art as well as for her creative illustrations. Kitty has been working as a visual artist and illustrator for many years and recently launched her first solo exhibition at the Cafe Cauldron and it will end on April 15.

In this interview this talented young artist outlines her vibrant artistic journey.

Q: You have been working as an artist and illustrator for many years and this is your first solo exhibition. Tell us about the concept and specialty of this exhibition.

A: I have been painting for ages, but later when I metamorphosed into the visual artist, I was, I had a purpose in my creative practice and it was always delivered successfully without the necessity of an exhibition. But as time went on collections, patterns started to emerge in my creative process and I started to have dreams and questions such as; maybe exhibiting them one day.

During my Master’s Degree program I met a wonderful circle of artists to work with and we had several group exhibitions and those experiences pushed me more towards “Maybe a solo, one day”.

And it arrived on March 14, 2021 when I started to curate the space at Cafe Cauldron with my own pieces, for my solo.

Q: It is an artist’s dream to exhibit their first solo exhibition in an art gallery. But you have decided to display your work in a cafe. Why?

A: Cauldron is my second home, when I was a full time freelance artist, living in a tiny annex that got heated up to 100°c in day time, Cauldron was my oasis. My work is research based and almost all the final products have a story behind it.

Dushanthi Wimaladasa and Tharanga Kasadoruge, the owners of the cafe, are amazed by the stories behind my work and gave me this most generous offer to utilise their space to let other people get to know about them too. I’m amazed by their humble offer and as an up-and-coming artist I’m so grateful to them.

Unfortunately, as a person who seeks kindness, humanity and trust, I still can’t find it in gallery based fine art culture in Sri Lanka. I worked in the Saatchi Gallery in the UK and how I was treated there, respected as a team member disregarding my ethnicity or gender or social class, I still haven’t received it here.

I still cannot find a gallery in Sri Lanka that I can belong to. Because I’m aware how delicate my heart is and I’m unashamed and fierce when it comes to protecting that child-like delicateness I have because that’s where my inner artist lives. So when I find kindness, love from a gallery space which offers me the ‘home’ I look up for, I will surely embrace it.

Q: What was the most challenging in preparing for this exhibition? And the most rewarding?

A: Every bit of it was most challenging. Curation, publicity, production, everything was so challenging and chaotic. But I have the most amazing team of human beings around me to walk with me, help me in everything I do.

The most rewarding was definitely the grins, smiles on the faces, my loving audience.

Q: You were selected to exhibit your work in an international artists platform recently. Tell me about your experience.

A: I represented Sri Lanka as one of the 10 South East Asian artists to take part in Artist Canvas done by Project Fuel 2021. The experience was transforming and amazing. Deepak Ramola and his team were amazing towards me throughout the whole process of conceptualization and funding, etc. It was a great experience.

Q: Can you describe your illustrations in three words?

A: It’s definitely more than three words. Let me phrase them as; clumsy, pudgy, kiddish, black comedic, honest, brutally adamantly honest, research based, innocent and extremely fragile.

Q: When someone commissions you for a project, what’s the first thing you do? Where do you start?

A: I request them to look at my portfolio and decide whether they want to work with me, my style and my ideation. Because I understand for some reason I’m the odd one out most of the time, but I love that character of mine. If they agree and then I melt and sink into their project and I won’t give up until the purpose is delivered.

Q: What is the muse behind your creativity? What is it exactly that inspires you? And how?

A: Nothing and everything. The truth is, the only way I can exist in this world is as an artist. Whatever is thrown at me or offered towards me comes out as art. I’m an artist and art is in my blood 24/7, I’m an arto-holic.

Q: Colour seems to have a special place in your drawings. How do you choose the colours for each illustration?

A: The most paramount element when it comes to colour is maintenance of the imperfection, fragility and so I have a broken, faded or minimal palette mostly.

Q: Any final thoughts?

A: I thank Kasun, my students, the amazing staff of Cafe Cauldron, the AMDT team and each and everyone who accepts me for who I am and lets me be the artist.


Viewers thoughts on Kitty Ritig’s art:

“Kitty’s art is an ongoing negotiation with the pressures and pushes of a world that has been trying to hoover in Kitty (the person) through a long journey of coming to terms with herself. It is her language against the language of oppression, space against imposed claustrophobia, and counter in facing a world that, among other things, doesn’t think in colours or mix up its shapes.

“Kitty’s art shapes itself from her stepping back to realize a bigger canvas in front of her; which, as a natural extension of herself, collects by her, on the sides. The art mirrors Kitty’s experiment and struggle to coax a common idiom with an upright world, and her humbleness to converse in spite of its alienating ways.

“There is no line between Kitty, the floating soul – hovering in bookshops, praised in gallery-corners, immersed in colours and cat fur – and the urgent impressions she shapes on canvas. The tip of the brush is merely a permeation point. The day the paint runs out, Kitty Ritig withers and dies.” – Vihanga Perera, writer

“What Kitty Ritig proved to me was that all what I had learned and taught about art were wrong! Her grandma-inspired imagination and creativity with ‘bed-time stories’ is the most natural spring of art; that’s it (Period). That is what it happens everywhere, every time, and with everybody.

“With inspiration from the most passionate grandparents, kids imagine and create the world’s most amazing things; may be creatures, plants, rivers, mountains – not identical to anything we see in the real world. What happens to this most incredible ‘super-real’ imagination and creativity as we grow?

“Parents control it; teachers kill it; professors bury it; and critics bomb the grave. Creativity – ridiculed, tortured, murdered, and blasted. Scattered around are the RIP-etched fragments of the marble stelae, weeping silently for the lost creativity.

“Growing into adulthood is art’s antithesis! Kitty’s display of pure and unadulterated imagination and creativity of the ‘child’ signifies victory over a war against artists’ elitism, club-ism, academism, clique-ism, factionalism, institutionalism, hypocrisy, pomp, and pretence.

“Swimming upstream needs enormous courage and determination, especially if you are a woman and young, and that is what we see in Kitty’s art. Kitty inspires us with her art very much in the same way her grandma inspired her with infinite forms of imagination.

“Let’s be ‘kids’ once again. Let’s remind ourselves the bed-time stories grandmas told us, free our imagination, and share Kitty’s experiences of her Mended Hugs.”

- Prof. B.D. Nandadeva