In the Studio with Karin Bruckner

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday August 17, 2022


Printmaker Karin Bruckner, who currently has a two-person show, Recollection: Fumiko Toda and Karin Bruckner at Susan Eley Fine Art,  will be giving a talk on printmaking processes, complete with a small press demonstration next Wednesday in the gallery. As one of her students, I leaped at the chance to ask some questions in advance of the event:

Peggy Roalf: When did you realize that printmaking—specifically monotype—would be your main focus in art?

Karin Bruckner: Printmaking artwork has always had a special hold on me, so once I got an opportunity to try my hand at it, I jumped on it. A neighborhood community center received a donation of an old printmaking press with a large, ink encrusted captain’s wheel, in 2005. Once I began working on it, I knew I had found my medium. The medium provided a congenial way of creating art given my professional background in architecture. Its unique combination of creative flow and process requires a structured, sequenced way of thinking in layers, shapes and colors not unlike architectural plans. Printmaking has allowed me to gradually make my way from the strictures of architecture to a looser form of creative expression, while engaging all of my artistic and design skills. I am not terribly interested in creating editions or multiples of the same image. I am very much an experimenter and like to move on and evolve, which working with monotypes in their transitory nature and innate happenstance forcefully allow for.

PR: Where do you live and how does that place contribute to your creative work?

KB: I live and work in the same place: my studio is my home is my studio. I recently rented a bit more space right next door to my apartment to be able to work on larger pieces and not worry about splattering paint. My printmaking activities are in one space, and mixed media, painting and sculpture can happen in the other.  

I love where I live, which adds to the magic of the work. The freedom I carved out for myself is reflected in the free experimentation within my work.

 PR: Please describe your work space and how it contributes to the artist’s basic condition of working alone.

KB : Working and living are one. I relish living alone, as I need a lot of downtime to come back to myself and hear myself think. Having another space to go into and work provides an interesting way of switching gears. I love working with people in my class and the galleries I am involved with, but I need to be able to retreat into my lair to process. I have a pretty ideal set up at this point and a bit of outdoor space off my bedroom, which adds a tremendous amount of quality to my life.  Having a park down the block also makes a difference. I would not have gotten through the past two and a half years marred by lockdowns, isolation and anxieties as relatively unscathed without all of the above.


PR: Having made a first career in architecture, in which budgets and deadlines can play tug of war with design and execution, how does that discipline affect your work as a studio artist?

KB: You can take a woman out of architecture, but you can’t take architecture out of the woman…. Printmaking and architecture share a certain rigor, technicality and precision. You will always find the horizontal and the vertical in my work, the compositional striving for balance, everything holding together. There is structure and construction. Printmaking, with its inherent feature of the ‘happy accident’ has helped me free myself from the rigidity of everything having to add up and line up.  It taught me to go with the flow, make a mark and see where it takes me, let a dialogue and narrative develop in conversation with the work.  

PR: What is the most indispensable item in your studio? 

KB: The printing press, I have two Takach Presses in my studio, one 12  x24-inch and one 30 x 60-inch etching press. The latter is my piece de resistance. I may not have a couch any longer, but I have a big press. Gotta have your priorities straight when you work and live in the same place.

PR: I’ve noticed that found materials often become catalysts—even the main subject—in your prints. Could you tell the readers a little bit about this kind of experimentation

KB: I think the gravitation to the found, discarded and undervalued stems from my personal history. If I were to write a memoir, I might call it “The Life of the Afterthought” or “Once removed”. For that reason, the Japanese concept of ‘Kintsugi’ appeals to me greatly. My life and work is about repair. You take the broken and damaged and fix it, but not to the extent of pretending it never happened. You take the fissures, repair and highlight them by applying gold leaf.  There is beauty in damage. I want to celebrate it.


PR: What kind of breaks do you take to clear your head when working to a deadline?

KB: Walking in the near-by park. Nature clears the head. I follow a dear old friend’s advice to ‘walk it off’. I get my best ideas and solve most conundrums walking or in the twilight zone of sleeping and waking in the morning.   

PR: Do you see a lot of museum and gallery shows? What’s the best takeaway from seeing art shows rather than looking at online media, books, magazines?

KB:  I only go to shows that call out to me, which mostly has to do with a particular artist. The inside of my head is very crowded as it is and I can get easily overstimulated and sidetracked. Big museum shows often hit the viewer over the head, they are so vast and overwhelming. I try to focus on what draws me in when I walk into a space. 

The magic in a well curated show emanates from the relationship different works form across the space, the energy that flows between each of them individually and as a group, the narrative and communication that evolves between seemingly disparate works. Never fails to captivate and only occurs in a physical space


PR: How do you know when the art is finished—or when to stop working on it?

KB: On rare occasions things just wander together quickly and let you know they’re done. More frequently it is a matter of finding the visual balance and resolving tight spots that continue to bother you.  Sometimes that goal is unachievable. I suffer from too-muchness, I often overshoot my comfort zone and have to reel it back in. A work is truly done when it sings. Very few pieces ever manage to sing, but when it happens, you know it.

Born in Zurich, Switzerland, Karin Bruckner was educated in Switzerland, Germany and the United States.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Architecture from the Technical University in Munich and a Master’s of Science in Architecture and Building Design from Columbia University in New York.   

Bruckner came to printmaking through architecture after working in the offices of Richard Meier & Partners and Philip Johnson Architects. Due to a structure not unlike architecture's layers in space, printmaking offered a unique way of re-connecting Bruckner to her life-long passion of creating art. She has exhibited and sold her work worldwide and is included in numerous private and public collections. Karin Bruckner is a represented artist with Susan Eley Fine Art and Carter Burden Gallery, as well as a Teaching Artist for printmaking at Carter Burden Network in New York.
Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @kbmatter

The two-person show Recollection: Fumiko Toda and Karin Bruckner continues through September 5, 2022 at Susan Eley Fine Art NY, 46 W 90th Street. As part of this exhibition there will be an artist talk with Karin Bruckner on August 24th at 5:30 pm titled: “What Exactly Is Printmaking? Everything you’ve always wanted to know about various printmaking techniques", complete with a small press demonstration. Seats are limited, so kindly RSVP to