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Upclose with Caribbean Artist Kriston Banfield

Upclose with Caribbean Artist Kriston Banfield

Daniel Watson
Kriston Banfield UPCLOSE Interview
Artist Kriston Banfield
Artist Kriston Banfield – photo credit Kibwe Braithwaithe

The Creative Mind Of Artist Kriston Banfield

In this exclusive interview, we have the pleasure of delving into the creative mind of Kriston Banfield, a multidisciplinary artist whose work reflects the rich influences of his Caribbean heritage and upbringing in the Santa Cruz Valley of Trinidad and Tobago. With over 15 years of experience, Kriston’s art explores themes of community, identity, and belonging, drawing inspiration from the diverse cultures, landscapes, and histories of the Caribbean region. Join us as we delve into his creative process, the impact of his background on his work, and his thoughts on the evolving role of art in society.

Kriston Banfield
Strobe. Acrylic paint on paper. 29.5”x41.5”.2021

Can you tell us about your background and how it has influenced your work as a multidisciplinary artist?

I was born and raised in the Santa Cruz Valley in Trinidad and Tobago. The town I lived in, La Canoa, like many villages in the area, was nestled in nature, set between two hills with access to rivers and beautiful rainforest, and amazing views. This environment greatly influenced my paintings. Moreover, growing up in a place with a diverse mix of cultures, ethnicities, beliefs, and myths has also had a profound impact on my work.

Kriston Banfield
Flotsam. Acrylic and spray paint on paper. 24”x42”. 2020.

How does your Caribbean heritage influence your work and creative vision?

Definitely, my work is about trying to understand where I’m from. The Caribbean is a deeply layered and complex region where many different states were born under the catalyst of slavery. Each state has its own history and culture. It’s a beautiful place, and I draw inspiration from my environment and experiences there. Whether it’s the simple act of going to a “hork and spit” (dive bar) or exploring the intangible ways in which we explain and justify happenings or even the poetic nature of our storytelling, I seek to translate these aspects back into my work.

Kriston Banfield
Firm Decision/Conviction. Acrylic and Aerosol Paint on Paper.42”x41”.2021

How do you balance the different mediums you work with, such as sculpture, photography, and painting, in your creative process?

I believe in avoiding getting too fixated on any one thing. Sometimes, in order to solve different problems in my creative process, I need to change the rhythm and “stretch my hands,” as I like to call it. Certain ideas just naturally fit better in different forms, especially when limited by the physical space where I work. Currently, my practice is primarily drawing-based, using ink and charcoal, as opposed to the more painterly approach I embraced about a year ago. Working with delicate paper has been liberating, allowing me to break away from the constraints of a four-sided polygon while still maintaining control over a limited palette. However, I am also eager to return to sculpture in the near future.

Can you discuss the recurring themes and concepts in your work, particularly those related to community and belonging?

Growing up, I often felt out of place within my community. As an introverted child, I would often observe from the background, which cultivated an outward gaze. This perspective made me deeply interested in the experiences of the people around me. It’s fascinating how even the most mundane events can have a profound effect on an individual. Much of my work centers around disparities, particularly those experienced on the margins, and how the lack of access to power, both economically and socially, shapes one’s relationship with the people and places around them.

How do you approach collaboration and community engagement in your artistic practice?

I am part of an artists’ collective back in Trinidad called Relative, consisting of artists Khaffi Beckles, Pianca Peake, Elechi Todd, and myself. Together, we have organized several exhibitions in unconventional spaces, ranging from a dilapidated building in the heart of Port of Spain to a World War II bunker that doubles as the studio of renowned Mas man Peter Minshall. While we are still defining our collaborative intent, we prioritize accessibility as one of the guiding principles behind our exhibitions. We strive to create spaces that offer a more approachable entry point for individuals who may not be familiar with the creative community, spaces that do not carry the imposing weight of the traditional white cube gallery. Additionally, it has been interesting to see how, as artists, we find ourselves interacting with individuals from various fields to bring our shows together.

Kriston Banfield
Glass Roof, Stone Foundation. Iron, glass, gravel, and quartz. 7”x7”x 36”

Can you describe your process of finding and incorporating found objects into your work?

Using found materials was a significant aspect of my work during the creation of “Centre of Power,” a multi-site installation for the 5th Ghetto Biennale. My art partner, David Charlier, and I embarked on creating the 5 Totems (though we ended up making only 4), incorporating what we saw as the main pillars of Haitian society. Due to limitations in access, availability, and the cost of materials, we had to rely on what we had at hand and what we could source from our surroundings. In the end, this experience allowed me to explore a new artistic direction that I had not previously pursued but has since remained dormant, for now.

Kriston Banfield
Lagan. Acrylic and spray paint on paper. 40” x 24”. 2020

Can you walk us through your favorite project or piece of artwork and what inspired it?

My favorite body of work to date is probably the “Dreevay” series, which consists of 12 drawings inspired by the trials of Hercules. I created these drawings at the beginning of the pandemic, during a time of consistent solitude, away from others, and my regular 9-to-5 routine. This period of isolation provided me with the opportunity to process numerous events from my life and gather the conviction to express them on paper and share them with the world. The series focuses on themes of redemption, healing, and acknowledging that I was sometimes my own biggest obstacle. It’s an honest body of work that marked a pivotal period of experimentation and significantly expanded my visual language.

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How do you hope your work contributes to ongoing conversations about identity and place-making?

At this point in my life, defining my own identity has taken center stage. Adopting a new identity as an immigrant, finding myself in a new place, and grappling with different customs, rules, and social expectations, is an ongoing process that I am still navigating. There is a personal and self-focused conversation happening within me now, rather than speaking to the broader community. Currently, I am examining what it means not just to start over, but to start again and the effort involved in doing so. I believe that everyone can relate to the experience of starting anew.

Kriston Banfield
To Found This Land. Acrylic paint on paper. 24”x42”. 2021

How do you see the role of art and artists evolving in society, particularly in terms of community building and social change?

Art has become an increasingly powerful medium for enacting social change and addressing societal issues, whether done overtly or covertly. As an artist, I don’t see my role as directly evolving society or effecting change, but rather as a historian and record-keeper. Through our work, we can speak about our human experiences and share them with complete strangers, creating a passive connection and shared experience. More than anything, artists are charged with being honest in how we see the world and sometimes saying things through our work that resonates with people who may not have initially known what they needed to hear.

Can you discuss any current or upcoming projects or exhibitions that you are working on?

Currently, I am hoping to have a project later this year, but, in adherence to my Trinbagonian superstition, I prefer to speak about it when it actually happens. For now, my primary goal is to delve deeper into my practice and take more creative risks. I simply want to have fun in my career.

Follow more of Kriston Banfield’s journey on his Instagram and purchase prints on Artsy here.

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