Ilona Kiss

Ilona Kiss is a Swiss artist based in Manchester. Her work is strongly influenced by dreams and nightmares, collective memory, and the question of place and belonging. The poetic qualities of uncertain situations influence her work as such and connect with traditional genres like Romanticism. Her work is drawn to the ambuigity and she is interested in the tension between the familiar and the weird, the real and the imaginary.  


     2011 - 2013

MA Fine Art, Manchester Metropolitan University, School of Art, Prof. Pavel Büchler and Ian Rawlinson

     2003 - 2005

Manchester Metropolitan University, PGCE in Secondary Education, Art & Design

     1989 - 1993

Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, Magister Artium in Theatre Design, Prof. Erich Wonder

Forthcoming Solo Show


Art on Paper in collaboration with BOZAR, Brussels, Belgium



Forthcoming in November: The Sense of Things, Durden & Ray in collaboration with PAPER,

Los Angeles, United States and

Like the Lines of a Hand, PAPER and C4rd (Centre for recent drawing), London

Mostyn open 20, preview 7th July 2017 in Llandudno, Wales

Hepworth Print Fair, Wakefield

Drawing from the Future, Salon fuer Buchkunst, 21er Haus, Vienna, Austria

The End Is By Yur, Elysium Gallery, Swansea

Be Strong, Live Happy & Love, Portico library, Manchester


The Cat Show, PAPER Gallery, Manchester

Mixed Exhibition, Newave Gallery, Aberdeen

Realism on the Edge, PS Mirabel, curated by Axel Bottenberg

BEEP Wales 2016, International Painting Prize, Swansea, Wrexham and Cardiff

Royal Scottish Academy Summer Exhibition 2016, Edinburgh

Platform Open, Morphets of Harrogate, Harrogate

West Lancashire Open Exhibition, Ormskirk

Spectrum, PS Mirabel, Manchester


Drawing Exhibition, 3rd Floor Gallery, Manchester

Neo:artprize 2015, Bolton

Anonymous Drawings, Galerie Nord, Kunstverein Tiergarten, Berlin

touring to Galerie ARTQ13, Rome, Italy, Galerie GEYSO20 Braunschweig, Germany and Kunstverein Rüsselsheim, Germany

Griffin Gallery Open, London

Collection of Small Paintings, curated by Michelle Lee Medjeral-Thomas, The Contemporary London


Glitter + Gold, Congou Projects, cardroom, Manchester

Derwent Artprize, Mall Galleries, London and touring

Longlist for John Moores 2014

Optima Mihi In Chartis, Galerie Römerapotheke, Zürich

Something Like Now, cardroom, Manchester

Resolution, Malgras|Naudet Gallery, Manchester


Contemporary Art Society North, PS Mirabel, Manchester

Benzie Building Opening, Manchester School of Art

Saatchi New Sensations 2013, Victoria House, London

MA Show, Holden Gallery, Manchester School of Art

Summer|Show, Malgras|Naudet Gallery, Manchester

Anonyme Zeichner, Galerie Nord/Kunstverein Tiergarten, Berlin

School of Arts VOL. lll, Absolventen und Studierende der School of Art Manchester in der HfBK Dresden


Oil, Grease and Rubber, Picadilly Place, Manchester

INTERIM II, Bankley Studios and Gallery, Manchester

INTERIM, NEO Studios, Bolton


Open Contemporary Art Exhibition, Stockport Art Gallery

Cow Lane Studio Relaunch, Salford


ArtWorks Open, Barbican Arts Group Trust, London, selected by

Graham Crowley and Timothy Hyman

Waterside Open, Waterside Arts Centre, Sale, 2nd Prize Winner


Salon 09, Matt Roberts Arts, London



Saatchi Online, ‘Thin Air’ has been featured in the Best of 2013 selection



Glitter + Gold, Congou Projects, cardroom, Manchester

Resilience, Congou Projects, cardroom, Manchester

Resolution, Congou Projects, Malgras|Naudet Gallery, Manchester

Theatre Design

     1994 - 2000

Freelance Theatre Designer, Engagements at various theatres all over Germany and Austria    

     1994 - 1998

Assistant and Theatre Designer at Schauspielhaus Bochum, Germany

     1992 - 1994

Freelance Assistant Designer at Schaubühne and Schillertheater, both Berlin and Burgtheater, Vienna


     2014 - 2015

Loreto Grammar School, Head of Art, pt, fixed term, KS 3, 4 and 5

     2013 - 2014

Brookburn Primary School, Art Workshop Leader, freelance, KS 1 and 2

     2005 - 2013

Whalley Range 11-18 High School, pt Teacher of Art, KS 3,4 and 5


Schauspielhaus Bochum 1995 - 2000

Wie es wirklich wa(h)r

ISBN 3-926337-05-2

Freeing the Shadows

Words by Sara Jaspan for PAPER Gallery, Manchester

Dreams have been a powerful source of inspiration since the beginning of human creativity. But it’s the space between sleep and wake that fascinates PAPER artist Ilona Kiss. A realm that exists beyond even slumber-logic, dominated by strange visions and deeply resonant sensations, the details of which usually fade as soon as our conscious mind regains control.

The feeling or mood left behind is where Kiss begins in explaining the essence of her work. Whether drawing from this semi-conscious state before waking, or from the unexplained effect of certain images, scenes or even words she encounters in everyday life; her practice is built upon an attempt to capture something of the intangible, elusive hinterland of our lived experience. To coax it out of the peripheries and into focus.

With this in mind, Kiss’ drawings and paintings are surprisingly figurative: populated by a series of ghostly people, silent landscapes, strange animals and fairy-like beings; rendered in dreamy yet precise detail. They have an odd familiarity to them that boarders on uncanniness: though never having encountered these spaces ourselves we feel as if we have, in some forgotten past or other life perhaps. They hover between beauty and threat, existing in a state of fragile balance that could dissolve or collapse at any time ­– a notion encouraged by the veil of white specs that float within the foreground of many, casting a magical air upon each scene that gently prevents us from fully entering.

Kiss is personally very interested in the feeling of familiarity that her work generates, which she conceptualises in two ways. Firstly, through the shared experience of our collective memory, shaped by early childhood beliefs in magic, fairy-tales and other worlds. And secondly, through what she describes as the existence of a higher reality or deeper set of truths, which we are unknowingly brought closer to by means of the individual unconscious.

Kiss’ process for translating her internal experiences and achieving such psychological-charge involves extensive planning. She begins by constructing each picture on the computer, using layer-upon-layer of found images which she either stumbles across in everyday life or searches for online, as well as drawing from her own backlog of photographs; playing with opacities and boarders until satisfied that something of her original vision has been captured. This then forms the preliminary ‘sketch’ from which she paints or draws, following the original blueprint exactly.

Recognising her tendency towards images of a vintage quality, Kiss associates this in part with her desire to establish a sense of ‘other-worldliness’ within her work. That is, to offer spaces that seem tantalizingly real yet out of reach – testing our notion of reality and the limits of possibility. This interest may have begun in her childhood, growing up in Switzerland where she developed a fascination with native masks, tales and legends. Or later in life with her career as a stage designer, inspired by the magic of theatre – of costume, lighting and atmosphere. Now her participation in the Portico Library’s upcoming exhibition based upon Milton’s Paradise Lost is providing new inspiration in terms of spaces once known yet no longer open to us.

Working from her studio at Suite in Salford, Kiss is encouraging us to pay closer attention to the thoughts or experiences that don’t always sit within our normal frame of reference. To acknowledge, if only momentarily, the wider realm of possibilities that we instinctively believed in as children. To give freedom to the shadows of our minds.