Kathrina Rupit aka KinMX has been adding to the gaiety of the nation for more than a decade with her public art. These days, KinMX is an internationally renowned painter, and distinguished in collage and digital art besides.
Kathrina claims Mayan culture among her influences and this explains her pseudonym, KinMX. MX alludes to her Mexican origins, while Kʼin is the smallest unit in the ancient Mayan Long Count Calendar system – it also means “sun” in the Mayan language. Indeed, time is an important theme in Kathrina’s work – and art’s ability to capture a moment in time. For instance, certain of her works use newspaper not only as an art material, but also as a thematic clue. An abiding interest in anthropology also informs Kathrina’s work; with Mayan, Toltec, Tibetan, and other motifs and ideas found throughout.
When she first arrived in Europe with €300 in her pocket, Kathrina gave herself one year to make art – and so she did. Living and working in a hostel, she sold her early art in Temple Bar Square. You can still see the Blu Tack on the walls where she used to display her work, she tells me with a laugh.
Katherina sees synchronicity in her Dublin story: the friend she first met on the street, who went on to become an art curator; the passing admirer, who asked her to paint murals in his restaurant for €100/wall – her first big break.
“Once you dance, no one can take the dance away”, she says.
Below, Kathrina discusses her Mexican background and how she found her feet in Dublin; her imaginative landscape and cosmology; her influences and her message; and the impact of the lockdowns on her work.
How did you get started as a street artist?
I did a bit of graffiti as a teenager in North Mexico. Then I wanted to do something more artistic, so I started to do street art and paste-ups through my university. But it really became my centre of attention full time when I arrived in Dublin at the age of 22, just after graduating in Mexico. Somehow, the environment here was perfect, even though street art wasn’t yet so common as it is today. Maybe, it was for that reason that it was easier to start and keep developing my skills.
How does your personal background and the place you are from influence your work?
I definitely have a Mexican flavour to my art. Not just symbolism, but some of the traditional colours and patterns too. Even muralism is a tradition in Mexico.
Who are your influences, who do you like?
There is an immense list of artists that I love and admire, from past and future. Just to name a few: Tamara de Lempicka, Jorge Gonzales Camarena, Alphonse Mucha, Alex Grey.
Also I really like anthropology and the ancient art of tribes, especially in Mexico, Japan, Tibet…
What is your “message”?
Peace and Unity. I feel that over the years this is my biggest protest against all the misinformation out there that tries to divide us by colour, beliefs, economic status, sex, opinions…
What is the significance of the recurring motifs in your work?
Many of them actually symbolise unity and balance. Others are from Mayan numerology and are related to my birthday and cosmology, like a hidden signature that describes when and where I was born.
How would you describe your style, your aesthetic?
This a hard question. I think I’ve been trying to figure it out through the years and I’m still not sure.
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What’s the difference between the Dublin street art scene and the scene in Mexico?
Well, I used to say that the difference is related to the acceptance of this art movement. Or the fact that I’m from an overpopulated country and how this affects people’s interactions with public art. But now that I’ve lived all my adulthood in Dublin, I’m not sure how the scene is in Mexico anymore.
I’ve seen Dublin street art develop in the last 11 years, when Instagram wasn’t even a thing, and how social media has also played a role in it. Now, we are more connected with far away countries, but there was a time when my only way to contact friends and family was through phone calls. During those years, I totally distanced myself from Mexico and I feel that since I got the internet on my phone, I’m reconnecting myself again and even being more appreciative of my culture.
Where are the best places in Dublin to see your work?
I’m not sure. I think I’m all over the place but nowhere specific, if that makes sense. Some of my murals or exhibitions are temporary, some are still there through the years in Dublin, Galway, Dundalk, Waterford…
Which Irish street artists do you follow?
The Minaw Collective! Signs of Power, Holly Pereira, Aru Bubu, Emma Blake, Friz, Novice, Anna Doran, Harriet Myfanwy, Klo-wi, Chelsea, Clare Prouvost. These ladies are super talented! Defo check them out!
And, of course, Subset, Oner, ADW, Aches, DMC, JMK, Shane Ha, Niall.ol, Submission_control, Kambogram, Atmos, Kevin Bohan, Iljin…..
Is street art political?
It depends on what you paint and where you paint it.
Have the lockdowns affected Irish street art?
I think so. Even though we keep on going, the restricted mobility and the closure of businesses that were possible sponsors of street art events slows down the growth process. But it’s still going on and there’s much more to come this summer.
In general, what role (if any) do street artists have to play in the national discussion?
It all depends on the artist’s aims. Art can influence people’s opinions, especially if they have opinions outside of the mainstream media’s agenda. Then people that resonate with it can feel supported rather than alienated by the general idea of what is happening.
Where can people follow your work?
Since her arrival over a decade ago, the Red Cosmic Dragon of Irish street art, all passionate and cosmological, has become one of the country’s most admired public artists. She’s also in great demand: this week, Kathrina is working on a major piece at 27 Sir John Rogerson’s Quay by the Samuel Beckett Bridge, a meditation on duality and transformation in the form of a woman with butterfly wings. It’ll be more than 100m² when it’s completed.
Of her journey and her art, Kathrina tells me that the last battle is with yourself: “In Spanish, it’s called ‘La Batalla Florida’”, she says, “‘the flowery battle’ to find peace within yourself, regardless of the outside world“.
Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, 16 May 2021. Photo courtesy of the author.
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