An Interview with Kim Puil, the Artist Behind Inner Landscapes, Arisings from the Space of Being

Written By Simran Birk

This month's exhibition at Twist Gallery, Inner Landscapes, Arisings from the Space of Being, features the extraordinary work of Kim Puil. Half way into the show, Kim’s work has met many positive reviews. Each piece is a big, bold and colorful collage that has its own backstory. We sat down with Kim to gain some perspective on how she was able to create such magnificent pieces.

I understand that you started off as a dancer, was art something you’ve always been interested in? or did you find it as another medium that you could express yourself?

 I have always been interested in art and cannot imagine a world without it. I had the privilege of being a young artist in a very exciting time in the art world. The 70’s were bristling with artists breaking boundaries and rules- and the independent art scene was thriving. The dance form that I trained in was technically very hard to do requiring discipline and commitment yet it was full of emotion, intensity and included the shadow side of the psyche. I have been drawing and creating alongside my dance since the beginning.

I understand Bon-Buddhism and yoga are important influences to this exhibition. Could you elaborate on this? Could you describe what Bon Buddhism is?

The dancer and yoga have always walked hand-in-hand so from a very young age I have practiced yoga and continue to do so. They are very complimentary to one another- i.e. movement and stillness etc. As a seeker in life, meditation was the next natural step and I even paused from my life to enter an ashram for a number of months to deepen my experience.

For me, meditation is not about “exiting” the reality of one’s life here on this planet, but it is to understand and work with the realities on all levels, of what it is to be a human. This includes all parts of us whether they are labelled “good” or “bad”, “pleasant” or “unpleasant”. I feel blessed that I was fortunate in my life to have an art form whose purpose of expression and content was to transmit these realities to the audience.

Buddhism has always peaked my curiosity because the teachings are about how to navigate the waters of this life. There is acknowledgement that suffering does exist but at the same time the idea is that we are responsible for and can mitigate how we cope with and react to the challenges that we come across.

Bon buddhism has its roots in the ancient shamans of Tibet and its culminates in the advanced meditative practices of Dzogchen- “The Great Perfection”. The Bon practices encompass the “whole” - our external world as seen in nature and the universe, and the internal world of our mind, emotions and thoughts.

I enrolled in a self-transformational program in the United States called The 3 Doors Academy that was started by my Bon teacher Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche . Over a period of 2 1/2 years one had to practice various meditation techniques, do group and personal retreats and reflect on challenges, resistance or blockages (a.k.a.”pain”) in three areas of our life: personal self, family and work/community. This culminated in 63 written “transformations” where over a period of time by working with formal and informal mediation practices we “dissolved” or experienced a “shift” in the nature of our “pain”.

Kim Puil and In the Midist of It All

Kim Puil and In the Midist of It All

Could you also explain the processes behind these collages? They’ve must have taken hours and hours of work! Could you elaborate on the type of mediums you used?

The first step in my process is meditation practice either with or without a purposeful intention. My subject is my experience of “how things are living in me” at a particular moment in time and my working relationship with the meditation practices in any given moment. It’s funny that my work space is very, very tiny and yet the collages are big! I am choreographing in a new way - and at times I am moving my body all over the place as I cut and try to reproduce the kinesthetic sense of what it is that I have felt. I like to use handmade papers from around the world, discarded and found objects as well as the recycled cardboard that is the “canvas.” It takes usually 3-4 weeks to lay down the layers of paper and objects. The job I hate the most is the gluing as I do not usually glue as I go along. I have to make sure that I am well-centered and not tired as this is an arduous process that requires concentration and great patience - a practice of its own!

Inner Landscapes, Arisings from the space of being. Why this title?

“Inner Landscapes” refers to me, the traveler, and my reactions and feelings travelling through the different terrains of my life. “Arisings From The Space Of Being” alludes to what they refer to in Dzogchen as the base of all or on the elemental level - the element of space where everything in existence arises from and dissolves back into. These collages are my arisings- past, present and future and an expression of what it is to be alive.

Finally, what is your favorite piece in this work? Why?

I don't have a favourite piece. I know all of them very intimately as they are all “me” and are a visual, kinetic experience from a very real moment of time in my life. My connection to them is much like that of 2 lovers…we shared, we loved, we travelled the heart and corners of ourselves and now it is time to part, to continue the journey of exploration and share the love with others.

With many great reviews, Inner Landscapes, Arisings from the Space of Being is not to be missed. Come on down to Twist Gallery before June 30th, to see the work before it is gone!