In Conversation: Malina Sintnicolaas
With the installation “Always Growing, Never Healing,” Malina Sintnicolaas attempts to give visual form to the raw, often unseen wounds of post-traumatic stress. The ongoing project combines a twisting formation of double-stitched wool with cradled ceramic forms. The weblike installation evokes fibrous bodily tissues and rounded bones—a deep red display rendered sinister with its sprawling scale.
Read on to learn more about Sintnicolaas’ motivations and process.
Your installation gives the viewer bodily associations, with textiles and ceramics suggesting vascular and bone-like formations. Is this combination of materials established in your practice, or was this a new strategy for Always Growing, Never Healing?MS
Using bodily forms in my work has always been prevalent in my practice. The combination of marrying textiles and ceramics, however, is a somewhat new exploration that began during my final year of MFA studies at Emily Carr University. Initially, I had begun to explore how to transmute emotional energy into a physical form using solely ceramic sculpture, but when I came to the idea of how to represent post-traumatic stress disorder, I found that ceramics alone wasn’t accomplishing the feeling I was trying to convey. I wanted to explore a material that was more flexible and fluid in its own way. I also enjoyed using fabrics and textiles (materials that are often associated with protecting, and taking care) to represent the raw and complex subject matter I was working with.
Your use of crochet is visually reminiscent of the body’s connective tissues, but also addresses ideas around craft as contemporary art. Is crochet as a process important to this installation?MS
It is important. The crocheting technique that was used in this installation is called “hyperbolic crochet”—you increase the number of stitches for every row in the form, and as it accumulates, it creates a brain-like mass. This process is almost endless, as you can keep adding crocheted stitches on top of crocheted stitches until it reaches a form of absurdity. I became obsessed with this technique because of its repetitious nature, and the fact that the material could essentially mimic the way something like a brain forms, acting as a connective tissue. I also found this process in direct conversation with PTSD and trauma, because trauma is something that accumulates. When untreated, each experience intertwines and overlaps itself with the other. Therefore, the act of using crochet to channel that energy seemed like the most appropriate option for this piece.
Your installation is an ongoing project that expands with each iteration. Do you see this project as continuing indefinitely? Do you envision is as having an end point eventually?MS
My intent is for the installation to continue indefinitely, at least until it is something that fills and entire room—whether that is a space that is fully engulfed, or where multiple “growths” are forming in different places and interconnecting with one another. I am interested to see what form this will take if I am still adding onto it, even into my sixties.
What do you hope that viewers take away from the experience of being with your work?MS
While this piece was inspired by my experience with post-traumatic stress disorder, I do not expect the viewer to understand that emotion specifically. Perhaps they can see the tension in the materials, or complexities in these seductive patterns that, when you look close enough, take the form of the grotesque. I hope that it is a piece that allures the viewer to come closer, where it instills a form of anxiety. My overall intention for this piece (and any other work I create when I am working with subject matter surrounding mental health) is to create a space for the contemplation of our own interior lives—a space of empathy, or even a space of relatability.
Malina Sintnicolaas’ installation “Always Growing, Never Healing,” was on display in the BAF Garage from September 9 to October 23.