A conversation about creative collaboration.
When you study a painting by NG Collective Studio, you're immediately swept up in the fluid strokes, the subtle but striking layers of color, and the compelling exploration of space. But read on, and you'll find there's something else at play in each of these pieces: a conversation.
Although living in two different states, sisters Laura Naples and Kristen Giorgi collaborate closely on their pieces for NG Collective Studio, resulting in pieces that are as personal as they are beautiful. The two siblings were gracious enough to share with us the details of this dynamic, their inspirations, and their dream projects in the interview below.
Consort: Tell us how you got started in art.
Laura & Kristen: We've always been involved in creative pursuits and professions from advertising to graphic design, but really started painting about three years ago. At that time, Kristen and I had been engaged in ongoing conversations about the work of several abstract painters we admired. We decided to encourage each other to paint, just as an expressive outlet. It started out as an exercise and a natural extension of our conversations. We've always had different, yet complimentary, styles, and the space where they intersect became an integral facet of our individual studio practices. We began to collaborate with each other on specific works, and then series of works, a leap that was inspired by other creative partnerships between sisters that we know.
C: Why did you choose your medium?
L: Interestingly, I've always been drawn to precision and control - so working in acrylic presents challenges for me, but I'm also excited by the process of dilution and mixing hues and not knowing exactly how a form might take final shape. Recently, I've added pencil strokes to some works. I like to see how those controlled, calligraphic lines interplay with the more freeform acrylic shapes and brush strokes.
K: I have always loved working with acrylics. Recently I have incorporated water soluble oils into my mix which creates the most saturated hues when applied to the raw linen I use. It also gives me the ability to get this perfectly imperfect "bleed".
C: What is the most challenging part about working with your medium?
L: Much of my process involves the natural movement of water and the way it interacts with paint on a flat surface. To achieve these effects, most of the time the canvas or paper has to stay flat on the floor - which means I find myself crouched down or in Twister-like positions for a good deal of time.
K: Much of my works are mostly controlled, but sometimes things take a turn in a more organic direction due to the paint and linen doing what they want - sometimes happy accidents, sometimes not.
C: What is your creative process like?
L: I like to work in pairs. Sometimes the pair of canvases or papers will end up together, and other times they diverge - but working this way allows me to take a breather from one, move along to the other and make my way back with a different perspective. A lot of my process involves thinking, and observing; I'm always absorbing ideas, taking note of visual elements I'd like to replicate from architecture or books or magazines or clothing. I find ideas in strange places. Recently there was this woman I spotted in a department store restroom - she was this amazing combination of colors, from her beautiful blush-lilac jacket to cream colored sunglasses against her gorgeous dark brown skin and I thought, I have to recreate this palette. I like to mix colors and grab a brush and lay down a few strokes, then take a step back and see what happens next - what my mind feels it needs. Sometimes I'm feeling high contrast, other times very subtle. The marks themselves are all intuitive and an extension of a movement I must feel internally, but they otherwise don't have symbolic or representational meaning. Sometimes I take a picture and text it to my sister for her opinion. I always trust her; she's an extension of my brain.
K: It's a very emotional process for me. I definitely have to be in the right state of mind mentally to get the results I'm happy with. In order to achieve this state of mind I usually go through a series of "exercises" each day. As soon as I wake up I make coffee, put on music (usually some type of rap/hip hop). I always start the day with a new piece. Something that is not a commission - only for me. It gets me loose for the works I "have" to work on that day.
C: How has your style changed over the years?
L: It's been a process of chiseling away to reveal the consistent elements that have been present in my style all along - really, since I was first aware that I even had an aesthetic, which was when I was a kid. I've always been drawn to and influenced by ballet; the color palette, the textural references of the shoes and clothes, the expressive movement and rhythms. I identify with the minimalist ideals of a black leotard and blush shoes. Maybe a white or pink tutu. These references show up in my personal dress, my home and surroundings, and my work.
K: The journey has been a long one, but I finally feel very content with where I am in my current style. I feel like I have reached a place where my work is constant and even possibly recognizable to collectors and followers. Its an amazing feeling.
C: What do you believe is a key element in creating a good composition?
L: Movement. I need the eye to move around and take in the interaction of elements, but have a landing spot, too - a place to feel grounded.
K: Definitely balance. Its a constant exercise that I am trying to conquer. Keeping each work a perfect mix of light and dark, soft and hard, transparent and opaque.
C: Who are some of the people or what are some time periods that influence your work? Are you attempting to recreate the past in your work, energize the future, or both?
L: Recently Kristen and I went to the Agnes Martin exhibition at the Guggenheim, and watched a video of her working when she said "I just live in the upper section with love and beauty and happiness." This is an ideal rather than a consistent reality for me, but a state worth working toward. It's desirable. It comes across in her work, and I hope some of that same optimism presents in mine. I just read this William Faulkner quote, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." It seems true for me that my present is a collection of past thoughts and experiences; the same must apply for things I think about in the future. I think that sensibility probably comes through in my work, too.
I'm currently influenced by talented, smart, creative women with whom I now work on a regular basis. Inspired by The Wing workspace in NYC, we all typically work from home but started meeting, weekly, at each other's homes to work alongside each other, to offer ideas and act as a sounding board, and to champion and critique each other's work honestly. We appreciate our time together so much and the energy we create during these work sessions is undeniable. Currently we have several collaborative projects in the works. On a micro level, I think this group represents some of the dynamic ways in which we're seeing women propel new ideas forward and influence social and political change.
K: I have an obsession with female painters from the 50's/60's like Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell and Grace Hartigan. I love how they managed to find a way to be successful and stand out in such a male dominated time in art. I think I am always trying to add a bit of influence from the past. Again, balance. Taking something from history and making it relevant to our time.
C: What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
L: My husband and I have a nine-year old daughter and a six-year old son, so often our non-working times involve them, or their activities. We like to watch their personalities and preferences take shape. They are both very creative, but express themselves in such different ways. Catherine loves to build Legos and plan special events and surprises, and James loves to invent games and draw football fields.
On my own time, I like to go to museums (Cleveland Museum of Art is my favorite nearby), listen to live music (Local Natives concert this month), sing in the car (La La Land soundtrack), work out (run or Ballet Beautiful), travel (the process of planning where to stay, where to eat and drink, and what to do is half the fun for me), read magazines (T and WSJ Magazine are current favorites), or books (recently finished Sweetbitter; next up: Shoe Dog); mix a good cocktail (St Germain, Hendricks gin and splash of Prosecco). We are lucky to live close to lots of friends and family, so they're often involved in these pursuits.
K: Anytime I am not working in the studio I'm spending my time being a mom to my four year old daughter, Vivienne. When she's with her dad I'm usually traveling. I love meeting new people (industry specific and otherwise). Having an amazing conversation with a stranger gives me a high. After travel, long or short, I always come back recharged and full of inspiration.
C: Do you have a memory of the first thing you ever bought or owned that occurred to you as “art”?
L: I remember asking for a drafting table when I was about 10, and my parents gave me one. I always wanted to be an artist in some way or another, and they supported me and and believed in my talent, which made me believe I was talented, too. Our mom would get our work professionally framed, or we would give it as gifts to our family. That legitimized it for me, and made me feel like it was "art" and not just some school or art class project. I'm so grateful she did that, and I try do it with my kids' work, too.
K: It wasn't a tangible item, but a experience. My mom gave me painting classes when I was about 9. I remember going into the class feeling like it was definitely different than the art classes I took at school. The teacher was this very eccentric (and attractive from what I can remember) artist who taught out of his studio in the city. He treated us like adults. I felt very "cool".
C: What projects are you working on right now?
L + K: One special project is an illustrated picture book that is about childhood friendships, empathy and creativity. The goal is to marry sophisticated visual and written content that will appeal to all ages. It incorporates an absolutely beautiful story, written by friends of ours who are also sisters, with illustrations by the both of us that are integral to the narrative. It's such a fulfilling collaboration on every level. The relationships of all the women involved in creating it are kind of the story behind the story.
C: What is your dream project?
L & K: We'd love to get a commission for a large series of works. We'd have to go to the location and create on-site, possibly for a couple weeks or more, setting up a temporary shared studio where we paint and chat and work and listen to music and drink coffee and wine and critique and eat chocolate and drink coffee...
C: What memorable responses have you had to your work?
L & K: A few years ago the Australian interior designers, Arent & Pyke, put together side-by-side pairings of some of our selected works alongside photographs by Korean photographer, Kyung Soo Kim. It was fascinating to see how they made the visual connections and, on an entirely different level, to experience the global connections between a pair of sister artists originally from Ohio with these talented designers and photographer from such different parts of the world.
C: What food, drink, song inspires you?
L: Food - sugar cookies baked by our grandmother, Jodie. Drink - anything shaken and served in a coupe. Song - One Day Like This by Elbow.
K: Food - anything healthy. I feel most inspired when I treat my body right. Drink - coffee (the bolder the better). Song - Pretty Thoughts by Alina Baraz.
C: Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.
L: My sister, Karina Bania, Barbara Hepworth
K: Laura (duh), Helen Frankenthaler, Marsden Hartley
C: What is Your First Memory?
L: My record player playing the soundtrack of the movie Annie.
K: Going to Florida to visit my grandmother. I would spend hours setting up her shell collection and then pretend I owned a seashell shop.
C: What is the First Piece you Sold?
L: A painting I absolutely loved, Limpia, to my good friend Colleen Locke, a designer in Nashville.
K: Kamina 30 x 40 on canvas to a designer in San Francisco. I had been following her work for awhile, so it was really exciting!
C: What can you first remember really wanting?
L: An aquamarine ring (my birthstone).
K: Overalls from Limited Too.
C: When was your first kiss?
L: Seventh grade dance. The song was Everything I Do, I Do It for You by Bryan Adams.
K: Also seventh grade to Matt Miller. We were dancing to Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin.
C: What was your first car?
L: A teal green Ford station wagon first driven by our mom. Five years later, it became Kristen's first car.
K: Yeah- I got the hand me down. It was sooooo ugly.
C: What was your last phone call?
L: To Kristen.
K: To Laura. Duh.
C: What was your last meal?
L: Oatmeal with blueberries and cinnamon sugar pumpkin seeds, a banana and black coffee.
K: Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets and an apple with almond butter. I'm all about balance.
C: When was the last time you were drunk?
L: The last time I sang karaoke with 40 of my friends. (Last week.)
K: Last night.
C: What was the last emoji you used?
L: Winky face.
K: Kissy face.
When was your last vacation?
L: Chicago in February. I visited two friends I've known since we were in middle school.
K: I went to New York for 48 hours to get my hair done- does that count?
Photos by NG Collective Studio