Katja Farin (b. 1996) lives and works in Los Angeles. Interview by Maria Owen.
MO: Hi Katja, thanks for agreeing to chat with me. Can you tell me a bit about your background and what led you to your current artistic practice?
KF: I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and then ended up going to undergrad at UCLA for fine arts. There I really embraced painting and couldn’t stop. It allowed me to investigate myself and the world around me. Figuration permitted me to create spaces that could position myself and others into the collective consciousness.
MO: Congratulations on your recent show in New York! You’ve also received some really lovely press from Artforum and Cultured. It’s always interesting to ask young artists what advice they have to those just starting out – what do you know now that you wish you knew at the start?
KF: Yeah, it all happened so fast for me. The main advice I have to give is to never stop creating, no matter what. Keep working through problems, creating obstacles for yourself and trusting yourself.
MO: “Keep creating obstacles for yourself” – what kind of obstacles are you creating/facing now?
KF: Right now I am trying to work big again and use more paint. Whenever I find myself comfortable with a style or a way of working I get bored. It is also about getting rid of painting “crutches” like an image reference or a projector for outlines. I am also going to start more experimentation with mediums and airbrush. Whenever I do something new its invigorating and makes the work exciting to make.
MO: Your paintings are always visually enticing, but some also possess a kind of rich claustrophobia. How do you go about designing these anonymous – yet specific – scenes, and what is driving them?
KF: The scenes that I create are derived from many different places, sometimes from a staged photo shoot, illustrations, and lived experience. These ambiguous spaces allow people to interject their own emotions and body into the canvas. I find social and interpersonal interactions so significant to understanding people and depicting the culture around us. Recently, I have been really interested in the comparison between insect hives, colonies and swarms and globalism, groupthink and social media.
MO: This idea of interjection into a painting is very appealing – especially now when many people are seeking a little more escapism than usual. Yet losing yourself in a painting can sometimes amplify negative emotions rather than soothe them. Which artworks do you interject yourself into? And how do those experiences feel?
KF: Yeah, my personal escapism comes very subconsciously. I’ll start off with a figure and a general idea of composition. It is only really until the painting is close to being done do I realize what kind of escape I am making or what part of my psyche I am exploring. I think this is why it is cathartic. I am processing without being fully aware of what I am processing. Once I look back I can reevaluate and add things that exemplify those points.
There have been a few works recently for sure (since I have had so much more time to be introspective), “Passion Flower” and “The Card Player” come to mind. It is surreal when other people interact with them and see things exactly the same way as me or completely differently. “Passion Flower” was exploring the need for compassion and human interaction during the early stages of the pandemic and “The Card Player” was based on troubles and fear of intimacy – that I was just a performance or game. My personal emotions are not always leading the way in the work, but also the emotions of those around me and the context of the current moment.
MO: It seems that with globalism and social media, everyone is living in two worlds. How do you think that living in Los Angeles influences your work? And how does your social media experience play into that?
KF: Los Angeles is a small big city. Since I have lived here my whole life I have been able to see it change and stay the same. I am hoping to move soon, just to expand my understanding and see more. Los Angeles’s blasé attitude can be seen in some of my figures. The uncomfortably posed figures in groups, loneliness and uninterested nature play a role. We know they are all going to drive home in their cars alone separated from each other. This city is so large it is hard to meet other painters in the “wild”, that’s where social media comes in. Instagram has helped me foster relationships with peers as well as see more painting than I ever thought I would be able to. It also makes the art world so much smaller and slightly less daunting.
Discover more of Katja’s work