Interview with Katarse

Katarse is a 24 year old artist who creates whimsical and eerie scenes.

Where are you based?

Until like a week ago I was based in Flensburg – Northern Germany, now I moved to Leipzig.

What does art mean to you?

You know when you are obsessed with something so much that you go to sleep and wake up with this thing on your mind? So this is art for me. It may sound very romantic, but this is the cause of constant and rigorous self-criticism. I’d like it to remain so though. 

What does your work aim to say?

My work mirrors things that fascinate me, I do not work with social criticism, and political topics most of the time (there are exceptions, of course). I like to create whimsical and eerie scenes. I want the beholder to enjoy a short presence of magic, to sort of transport them into my mind and let them have a moment of melancholic joy.

What is it like being a female artist? Do you find it to be challenging to be a woman in the art world?

At first, when I was just starting, I did feel underqualified for any kind of publicity, but it was never because of my gender. Later, when I got to know more artists from different fields, and especially street art, I felt a bit looked down on. I did not have any patience to deal with phantom self-doubt, and I decided to dedicate my time to constant professional improvement. I surrounded myself with female artists, and it was indeed the best decision – the atmosphere is so much more relaxed.

Who are your biggest influences?

Olexander Murashko – a ukrainian artist from the 19-20 century, James Jean, Ruprecht von Kaufman, Denis Sarazhin, Lauren Ys. A lot of inspiration comes from movies – Sophia Coppolla, Michel Gondry, and old surrealist movies like “Valerie and her week of wonders”.

Do you work better solo or in a group?

I used to be a loner when it comes to work, but for the last year I have been working on multiple projects with other people, and I had to learn how to communicate properly. Now I enjoy group projects a lot – it was just a matter of time and motivation.

What work do you enjoy doing the most?

My ever favorite part of work is, of course, painting itself, but I also love the organization part. I want to keep on doing both, and I want to try curating at some point in the future.

How did you get into painting murals?

Painting murals was my dream long before I started exhibiting my paintings. I was absolutely mesmerized by the scale and possibilities that they provide. When I moved to Flensburg from Lviv, I thought of organizing something myself, and that’s how it all started. I found the right people who shared my excitement, and we got our first wall and a minor financial help from the city. It was the first mural in Flensburg city center.

This mural was Katarse’s first mural. It is in Catania, Sicily. It was a very spontaneous project.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start painting murals?

I can only say what I learned from other artists – go out there and try. Ask private landlords for the walls, look for legal walls, experiment with the materials and techniques. I do not feel qualified enough to give more advice, for I am still in the process of learning myself, but the beginning is the same for everyone – you just have to get your paint and find a wall, the rest is the matter of individual experience and style.

What is the largest mural you have painted?

The most recent one, for the Looming Large. It was 9*5 meters.

What is Looming Large and what was your part in it?

Looming Large is the first street art festival in Flensburg. This is so far the biggest project I have ever organized and/or participated in. Dany Heck, my good friend and colleague, and I have put together the concept and organized the main part of the festival. Together with some other fellow artists, we invited 4 artists from different countries and in total, we had 8 female artists working on different walls in Flensburg.

What is your artistic process right now?

Right now I am trying to take things slow. The past 6 months were loaded with work and I did not have time for anything. Right now I want to enjoy the new city, find a new studio and new people for future projects, but above all I want to dedicate time to improving my style and technique – learning must be a daily activity for everyone who wants to pursue an artistic career.

Mural by Katarse and two other artists. This was Katarse’s second project.

How have you developed your craft?

I had a bunch of private teachers when I lived in Ukraine. Some of them were merciless, and exactly from them, I have learned the most. I was always very curious about the theoretical part of art, so I was eager to learn. Right now I feel like this knowledge has exhausted itself, and I need new teachers/supervisors/lessons.

Her first mural in Flensburg City Center in collaboration with several artists.

Professionally, what is your goal?

There are a lot of them, but to put it in a nutshell, I want to keep on improving the storytelling behind my paintings. I want to push my imagination much much further, and I want to bring more attention to details. For instance, I would like to learn the history of costumes because I work a lot with clothes, I also have to learn the anatomy of animals. These are the things that I noticed only when I felt the urge to incorporate them into my work.

What do you wish to accomplish in this life artistically and spiritually?

Getting along with my imperfections and not punishing myself for them so much. Self-criticism is a great trait when it comes to professional development, but it can be unnecessarily harmful. I learned to accept other people’s behavior, and now it is time to come to terms with myself.

What are your favorite mediums?

Acrylics, oil, and spray cans – I love layering and transitions, so these three are my number one choice. I also love graphite pencils – I do a lot of sketches with them. They have this nice flowy texture and are very adjustable to my style.

Do you have any tips for using these mediums?

Oil is the most demanding one – look up different recipes for the mediums, try them all out. Believe me, it will not be a waste of time or paint – it’s a necessary evil on the way to getting to know your material. Try various brands, you will notice the differences and in time you will start picking the ones that serve your techniques better.

What is your favorite piece of art you have made?

One of my most recent works – the self-portrait/ Katarse.

How do you seek out opportunities?

Sometimes I spend hours browsing the internet for places to exhibit or for projects, and sometimes they find me. Most of my projects came to my life very organically – people just contacted me through social media or offered me a job because they saw my exhibition.

How do you put yourself in a creative mood when you need it?

I treat art as work, and I love my work more than anything else. I am always in a creative mood, just sometimes I need an extra push to start painting. I conditioned myself to regular practice – sketching or picking color palettes, tidying up my workspace, or writing a plan for the next project. When I feel like I am stuck and cannot do what I have to, I just shift my attention to something else, but I always try to stay within the mindset for the aforementioned activities.

What advice would you give to artists who are just starting out? 

There is ALWAYS a lot to learn, and you will never be good enough to stop learning. Do not be afraid to be criticized, it is much more valuable than getting a pat on the head for every piece you create. Seek for challenges and do not allow yourself to be satisfied too quickly. Art is a battleground of your ambitions and your skills.

What inspires you?

Literally everything, and this is the most beautiful part of my life. I accept every setting I am in, and I believe that everything that crosses my way is capable of giving me valuable impressions or lessons. The hard part is to extract that value from things and people – to be ready to let go of your own standards and beliefs and to dive into the unknown, and embed this new information into your artistic vision.

Describe a real life situation that inspired you. 

Recently I was passing by the train station in Leipzig, and I saw a tiny meadow around a fountain. There were these red flowers, and their color was so incredibly saturated that it felt like they were illuminating the light from inside. In fact, they were not, but the color setting around them made them look so unbelievably vivid. I was carefully observing this setting for half an hour or so, and the moment I came home I started making color studies for my current project. My upcoming mural is inspired by this experience.

Any last words you would like to say to the world today?

I will give you my favorite quote instead:

If we really have had a genuine experience of art, then the world has become both brighter and less burdensome. Hans-Georg Gadamer

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