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PoetsArtists ‘The Creator and The Muse’ @ 33 Contemporary + Kathrin Longhurst Interview

Join PoetsArtists and 33 Contemporary in celebration of ‘The Creator and The Muse’, curated by Didi Menendez and Sergio Gomez, and let this incredible collection of artwork pique your artistic senses. With arresting emotion and compositional elegance, each portrait imparts a distinct narrative between the artist’s creative vision and their muse. View the entire exhibition via artsy and don’t miss their spring weekend sale!

To delve deeper into the ‘The Creator and The Muse’, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathrin Longhurst to discuss her inspiring work as well as her experience painting Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Danijela Krha Purssey. I hope you enjoy!

PoetsArtists ‘The Creator and The Muse’ | 33 Contemporary

Exhibition Dates: May 15 – July 10, 2020

 33 Contemporary | 1029 W 35th Street | Chicago, IL 60609 | 33contemporary.com

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Kathrin Longhurst "Against the Stream",  PoetsArtists The Creator and The Muse exhibition
Kathrin Longhurst
Against The Stream (Portrait of Danijela Krha Purssey)

I’m deeply honoured by the incredible portrait dear friend and amazing Australian artist Kathrin Longhurst painted of me. I feel it not only captures my likeness but it also reveals my nature/personality. ‘Against the Stream’ [“I’m calling it “Against the Stream” cause you’re going your own way, defying the art elite and pushing ahead with your own aesthetic. Your pose exudes strength and defiance.”, words by Kathrin]. – Danijela Krha Purssey

Kathrin, thank you for taking time to share with our readers… it’s a pleasure to talk to you and learn more about your stunning work. You recently met with Danijela, our inspiring Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, to create a beautiful portrait for the PoetsArtists and 33 Contemporary ‘The Creator and The Muse’ at the Zhou B Art Center. I know our readers would love to hear more about this experience and how it came about. 

I met Danijela a few years ago when she was still living in Sydney. She is a huge supporter of the local art scene, figurative artists in particular, and we frequently met at exhibition openings. We have quite a few friends in common as we tend to frequent the same social circles. Danijela and her husband Richard are fabulously entertaining and funny and I loved having them over for studio visits and lunches. When Didi Menendez from PoetsArtists suggested that we should pair up for a portrait to be part of a large exhibition in Chicago (‘The Creator and The Muse’), I jumped at it. Danijela came in for a sitting at my studio. She had to travel for many hours as she had moved out of town.

We had a fabulous day together, playing with outfits, looks, poses and it culminated in a number of my artist friends popping in for drinks at the end of the day. I wanted to portray her as a homage to her own aesthetics, with a doll-like expression, large dreamy eyes, rosy cheeks but without compromising on strength and determination. I called the portrait “Against the Stream” as she is pushing along, defying mainstream art elitism and creating a voice for figurative art.

Relating to the composition of your empowering female protagonists and your contrasts between war-propaganda imagery and glamour, what are some of the key components of your technique and vision for your current body of work? And how has it evolved over time?

I find that my work is ever evolving, influenced by current politics but also my own personal inner state at any one time. For me, a huge shift happened in 2012 that allowed me to express myself more authentically and share a huge part of my own history with the wider audience, something that I did not have the courage to do earlier. So the soldiers, fighters and pilots entered the canvas, part mockery of propaganda art that I was so familiar with growing up in Communist East, part manifesto for a female liberation movement. It struck a chord with many. This body of work started off quite “angry” with women throwing grenades, Molotov cocktails and handling heavy weaponry. Over the years my imagery has somewhat softened, often celebrating female qualities of caring, introspection, nurturing and reflecting. To me it is important that there is an emotional connection to the viewer, which I think portraiture is a beautiful medium for.

I agree! Looking at your portraits and figurative work, each have a distinct story to tell; they communicate your creative vision in such a magnetic way that it not only allows the imagination to ignite, but it also allows the viewer to feel a certain kinship to each of your subjects. What can you tell us about them?  

I think if you create honest works, if you are truthful in your storytelling instead of trying to please, then people will relate to it. The most satisfying moments in my career have been when people connected with my work, when viewers described how my work makes them feel and how it inspires their actions and outlook when they have one of my pieces in their home. You cannot buy that for any money in the world. I find it often fascinating that my most challenging pieces that talk about heartbreak, hardship, suffering and resilience are often the once that relate. Even if the viewer does not know the full story of the sitter, they can often get a sense of connection.

What does a typical day look like for you? 

I try to stick to Brian Tracy’s advice of “eating the ugliest frog” in the morning, which for me means doing the hardest items on my to-do list first, whether that is working on a new composition, writing an artist statement, resolving a difficult part of a painting or answering interview questions hehe ;). Working solitary is extremely difficult for most of us; getting into the flow requires so much effort and distractions (especially social media) are just so abundant. I find if I push through the first 15 minutes of painting, past the fiddling and arranging of brushes and paint, it usually flows. But the first 15 minutes are usually excruciating.

I have long given up on TV. For the past 4 years or so, I have not watched commercial television and instead spend my evenings at the easel. I am lucky to have a supportive family who share a lot of the household tasks with me so I have more time to create.

Kathrin, what has been the driving force of this artistic journey… and what do you have planned for the days ahead?

At a seminar more than one and a half decades ago, before I set out on a full time artist career, I was confronted to seriously consider the question what I thought my legacy would be. It completely rocked my world as I realised that what I wanted to leave behind had nothing to do with what I was doing at that time. Instead I longed to leave my mark through paintings. I quit my corporate job pretty much the week after. We have such a short time on this planet; you have to follow your calling.

Given the current situation we’re in, it is hard to plan anything. I’m trying to keep busy, producing work, spending time with my closest people and hope that we all come out the other end of this mess with our sanity (and health) intact.

About the Artist // Kathrin Longhurst’s visual language collides with the starting point of her own journey, as a child of the cold-war era, who has been to both sides of the iron-curtain. The contrast between war-propaganda imagery and glamorous promises of the other side of the wall, have been the inspirations of her early works. Longhurst reconsidered war propaganda aesthetics with ‘flying’ female warriors, in place of fearsome male figures of power. Her early works aim to bend the visual paradigm of men and women at war, imposed by the patriarchal power structures of the past. Longhurst’s initial approach is self-observational, rewriting the recent history to empower the idea of a gender-equal future.

‘Volatility’ has been given a new meaning with the arrival of the digital age, as the nuclear fear of the past has been suspended. Longhurst’s interest in the ethics of progression has inspired her to track the footsteps of other women’s journeys, to understand the future-challenges of digital natives. Women’s struggles are an important part of the undocumented history of our civilisation, carrying meaningful information to help analyse the mistakes of the recent history and to avoid any fallacy of progression.

A well-respected member of the Sydney arts community, Longhurst served as vice president for Portrait Artists Australia and was the founder and director of the innovative Project 504. She completed her 16th solo show in 2019 and has been a finalist in numerous awards including the Archibald Prize, the Doug Moran, the Darling Prize, the Sulman Prize, the Percival Portrait Award, the Mosman Art Prize, the Portia Geach Award, the Shirley Hannan National Portrait Prize and the WA Black Swan Prize. Her work is collected widely in Australia and internationally.

‘The Creator and The Muse’ Exhibition

Elizabeth Barden Be Still (Portrait of Kathrin Longhurst) PoetsArtists The Creator and The Muse exhibition
Elizabeth Barden
Be Still (Portrait of Kathrin Longhurst)
Tanya Atanasova Boudoir: Portrait of Alessandro Tomassetti 'The Creator and The Muse'
Tanya Atanasova
Boudoir (Portrait of Alessandro Tomassetti)
PoetsArtists ‘The Creator and The Muse' exhibition
Rosa Fedele
Threshold
Arina Gordienko Orchid (Portrait of Viktoria) 'The Creator and The Muse'
Arina Gordienko
Orchid (Portrait of Viktoria)

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About Author

Internationally exhibited artist and creator of Wooden Ophelia, Bella Harris is not only the Online Editor at Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, she also oversees all staff writers and helps support website functionality and development. As a contributing writer for the website, active copy editor, and editorial photographer, she plays a vital role in the growth of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine while working closely with advertisers and artists. Wooden Ophelia is a contemporary collection of original moon designs, handmade woodwork, artwork furnishings, and sacred crystals... all to enchant your home.

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