Interview: Katrin Schöß
Luca Curci talks with Katrin Schöß during THE BODY LANGUAGE 2021 at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space.
Katrin Schöß was born in Oldenburg, Germany, in 1968, and studied architecture in Berlin. After her graduation, she moved to Milan where she began her career as a freelance architect. While living in Italy, she also worked as a stage designer. After returning to Germany, she worked as an architect in Berlin and in her hometown. Becoming more and more aware of the limitations of the very technical, strict and rather unemotional process of drawing and designing as an architect, she searched for new ways to express herself and turned to drawing freehand and working with (mostly) nude models. The focus of her work is on the human body. More recently, she has been exploring working together with musicians and performers in a new format in which she attempts to capture the artists’ movements and gestures in real-time during live concerts or dance theater performances. The gallerist and artist Anna-Maria Nordiek, who hosted her drawings in September 2020, called her work: “Images full of humanity”.
Luca Curci – What is your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
Katrin Schöß – I use drawing to take a closer look at a space or a situation, or to express myself and my ideas. I first started life drawing when I studied architecture in the Nineties. Not so long ago I experimented working with moving models and dancers for the first time. It was a completely new and unexpected experience. If you try to capture movements, the figures turn into something abstract.
LC – What are your thoughts while you paint? Do you have any habits or rituals while you work?
KS – I always ask the models I work with to choose the position or gestures themselves, so there is no preconception or expectation from my side, and I have to react immediately and decide on the spot how to translate what I see into lines and colors on my paper. I think in terms like composition, perspective, light. When I start sketching it is like doing sports: I push myself for a good result I don’t know yet. And it’s always a surprise for me and for the model to look at the finished drawing as we both have only our own imagination of what the outcome could be.
LC – Did your style change over the years? In which way?
KS – It definitely changed, or perhaps better put: it evolved. It has been quite a process to learn to trust my own eyes and my experiences to express the uniqueness and the soul of a particular moment. I even started to work with wax for figure and portrait sculpting for a deeper understanding of proportions and movements. I was always afraid of drawing portraits, so during the first lockdown in the spring of 2020, I forced myself to practice portrait sketching every evening after dinner with my daughter at the kitchen table. Now I’m not afraid of drawing faces anymore!
LC – Which themes do you pursue? What is your preferred subject, if there is any?
KS – It clearly is the human body, but I also love to draw landscapes. In fact, the human body is like a landscape, and portraits are landscapes of our souls. Performing dancers or musicians create shapes and forms that I try to capture as some sort of narrative of a particular moment. It is all about opening myself to that briefest of moments and then reporting quickly what I see and feel. Every drawing is like a very personal entry in a diary, something that cannot be repeated.
LC – How do you choose your subjects? Is it a reasoned or an instinctive process?
KS – I’d say it’s both. There are infinite possibilities. I always look for the ‘plot’, for the story behind a movement, a pose, whether it is the intimacy of a gesture, the haunting expressiveness of dark eyes, the arch of a bent leg or back. Once I have made the decision what the focal point and with it the starting point will be, it’s all about composition, proportions, shadow, light, etc.
LC – Can you explain something about the artworks you have in our exhibition?
KS – The two life-size drawings show a new take on the “Moor of Venice”, the Person of Color at the center of Shakespeare’s “Othello”: a young Indian man who transforms into the Greek god Dionysos in one drawing and into a warrior with a hijab in the other – in both cases with almost no accessories, with no props. For me, “Dionysos” is like a commentary on today’s discussion on gender, while the young, dark-skinned man with the hijab provokes thoughts about racial and religious conflicts that are sadly part of our daily reality.
LC – What do you think about the concept of this festival? How did it inspire you?
KS – The body and body language are what have been fascinating me ever since I first started drawing, and to get the opportunity to show two of my drawings at “The Body Language” exhibition seemed like the perfect fit! Moreover, the fact that your festival’s concept made the link to the Venetian Carnival and how costumes can influence and change our bodies and consequently our behavior connected the show directly to my recent work with Hemant, the young Indian model. In fact, Dionysos was created with the Venetian Carnival in mind – and here it is!
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
KS – Immensely! I feel like being a part of a big family passionate about art. For me it was such a wonderful experience to join the openings and get to know you personally, to have the live interview with Luca in front of my drawings and to be at the extraordinary locations of THE ROOM in San Marco and Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello in Cannaregio. It’s very international and beautifully diverse and made me feel like being at a little Biennale d’Arte in times of the pandemic.
LC – What are your suggestions about our services? Is there something more we can provide to artists?
KS – For me, it was great to talk to Luca and the team and to learn more about the other gallery spaces, for example in London, as well as about the next events like the art fair Barcelona Contemporary 2021. So maybe there are more opportunities to collaborate with you. I already decided that I want to take part in the Venice International Art Fair 2021!
LC – What is your idea about ITSLIQUID GROUP?
KS – I like the open-minded and international approach to art. The name ITSLIQUID is truly programmatic. Instead of a detached art world, you offer a flowing system of events, and instead of just waiting for the virus to disappear, you find new ways to keep everything moving, developing, growing! I think that’s absolutely fabulous! It sets a great example of how the current crisis that has stopped the art world in its tracks can be dealt with in a very creative and inspiring way!