Ann Kuen / Major NYC
shot in Vienna on Feb. 7th, 2016 / published on Apr. 11th, 2016
A model is classically a muse to an artist. But what if she happens to be both? Ann Kuen masters the balance of being a creative tool to others and her own mastermind, of working in a team on set and alone in the studio. Intrigued by this complex perspective, we took it to her atelier for some snaps and a talk about everything between stereotypes and the creative process, to discover that the more unusual your path is, the more will and discipline you will be going to need. But Ann is not one to shy away from challenges, as she navigates her image within both worlds. Read the whole interview and enjoy this new exclusive Models in the Raw feature!
Thanks for meeting us and for having us take peek into your studio, Ann! You have recently changed your look radically, going from brunette to platinum. What's the most refreshing about such a change? And have you actually experienced a shift in the way people interact with you?
As a model one gets used to look different almost everyday, I really enjoy changing my look but on the other side I am not vain at all, so I don’t really care in my private life. The funny thing is, all those clichés on how strangers react to a blonde girl happen to be true.
So, is playing with such stereotypes something you enjoy? And is the blonde do actually booking you more jobs?
Yes, I definitely like to play with that a little bit. And the blonde fairy look is actually getting great feedback.
Along with looks, attitude is said to be key to personal branding. But in our smooth world of trigger warnings and in industries built on connections, is a strong personality truly a plus?
I would say personality in a sense that you know who you are is very important, but you should always keep your feet on the ground.
Art and fashion are worlds that enjoy getting together on fancy occasions, like art fairs and fashion weeks. But when the curtains fall and everyone go back to business, are these two worlds really so close?
Yes and no. After such occasions everybody has to go back to business and daily life again - it is definitely not a never-ending Studio 54 party. In order to create and paint I need my quiet and I need to be grounded. It takes time to find the focus and the right routine to help me develop my works. That's sometimes hard to find when you, like me, are also traveling a lot and can find just a few days in a row for working in the studio. And when it comes to modeling, it's the same thing around, I need to care about my body, which is my capital, and that calls for time and energy, too.
Getting back to stereotypes, is the gender-gap still an issue within the arts? Are female artists going to catch up on their male colleagues? What's your prediction?
I don’t know, unfortunately I am not a fortune cookie... On the one hand, there have always been great female artists from the beginning on and that won't stop. On the other, sure, there also is a very male dominated art world, especially in painting...
How would you define your own creative process?
My work is very much about memories, stories, what I see, and what stays in the mind. At the moment I am working on paintings that originate from paper works and collage material. For me, it is very important to work on a topic for a very long time and to build something new out of it again and again. It is a never ending process of ideas, of visualizing and developing them.
You actually keep a diary, recording your daily life in the studio. How important is a narrative to the becomings of an artist?
This diary is very important to me as it helps me focus on painting and working in the studio. I write down whatever comes to my mind, whatever distracts me on that day, as well as ideas I don’t want to forget or thoughts about what I have done in the studio on a certain day. It is also interesting to go back and read in my own documentation about what I was thinking. It clears my mind.
How important are ritualized routines such as your diary or always wearing your work trousers when in the studio? Are hold and routine something an artist needs?
To me this routine is helpful and important, as I don’t have the possibility to go to work in the studio everyday. It is somehow my working uniform, it helps to focus since my work is free and without any rules. So I need to make up my own rules. I think, as an artist, you need to be very disciplined in order to develop your work.
Life as an artist in by no means less competitive than as a model. What is the drive that keeps you going and why is quitting not an option?
I only do what I love. I appreciate my possibilities and that I am able to do what I like most. Even when it gets a bit complicated or even difficult I always keep going, quitting has never been an option. I am a fighter, I don’t give up easily because that would not satisfy me in the end.