@kathrinlonghurst #figurativerealism #contemporaryart #oilpainting #propaganda
Born in East Berlin in 1971, Kathrin Longhurst’s figurative realist painting style is heavily influenced by socialist realism in art of that era. Here she started taking life drawing classes at the age of 14. She later moved to Scandinavia where she completed a business degree and didn’t return to her art until 2003 after having settled in Australia. She is now based in Sydney with her works being collected nationally and internationally. She completed her 14th solo show in 2018, has been a finalist in all major Australian Art Prizes and her work is represented in the Bennett Collection of Women Realist Artists.
Galleries and Online Venues
What concept or narrative is behind your work?
My work deals mainly with issues of gender parity, women’s empowerment and propaganda. In today’s world we are in desperate need to create a different narrative of women as capable, strong and empowered. Most of Western culture and history is told from a man’s perspective and we are frequently exposed to imagery that objectifies women and portrays them as accessories. I want to change that by using the visual language and symbolism of propaganda that I was exposed to growing up in East Berlin. I use military outfits and accessories as attributes of power and agency in my paintings. The pilot girl in particular features in many of my works. She is symbolic for modern day women, who are freedom fighters, daredevils and rebels. The act of flying carries so many associations to humans not only relating to space travel, pioneering and exploration but also to the feeling of being weightless and above earthly problems and concerns.
My recent works feature the pilot girl falling or floating, with a complete sense of abandonment and trust. I can see many parallels to our current times in a highly volatile world that carries so many threats and dangers, all we can do is take a leap of faith and jump. Once you have made that step there is no turning back and you will have to accept the path you have taken wholeheartedly. I want women to feel that we can overcome anything – “we are the storm”.
What is your ultimate goal for your artwork?
I would like us to achieve a greater sense of balance and equality in a world where male vs female representation in all sectors of society are still disproportionate. I believe a first step is awareness and creating a dialogue. Unconscious bias is by far more prevalent than actual conscious prejudice. There are some really damaging believes alive that discriminate against women. What we need now are some very powerful and strong role models and a new and positive brand of female empowerment. My own art practice aims at achieving that. My work portrays women as protagonists, active agents in charge of their destiny. It is important to me to create change and create imagery that modern women can identify with and relate to. Imagery that inspires and empowers. My goal is that we will reach a tipping point when it will feel natural that a women win an art prize or receive the major retrospective in museum or get the major public commission.
Who is your art crush?
I am hugely influences by my peers, especially in the contemporary figurative realm. I look up to artists that use their influence to drive positive change in society and cause us to stop and think. Here I include Shepard Fairey, Angus McDonald and Ai WeiWei. I also admire powerhouse Del Kathryn Barton who is such a positive role model for young female painters, being the first women painter to break into the top 10 bestselling living artists in Australia. I think all of these leave a lasting impact on our planet and contribute to making it a better place.
How do you work?
My choice of color, poses and painting style are all deliberate and symbolic. Referencing the hero images from my youth in Communist East, I wanted the faces of my subjects to tower over the viewer as larger than life heroes and idols—like monuments or sculptures, untouchable and strong. Leaving part of the faces as raw background symbolizes the loss they may have experienced, or the sacrifice they had to make. I deliberately choose to leave out the darkest areas of some faces as it is our darkest memories that we are leaving behind. I often opt for soft, subtle, earthy colours that almost dissolve into the background, to remind us of the people’s fragility and softness.
What artwork in history has inspired you the most?
“Liberty leading the people” by Delacroix must be one of my favourite works and inspirations. It was such a controversial painting at the time that it was kept hidden for many decades in fear it would cause upset – it was too revolutionary! I love the fact that the person leading the people across the barricades in Paris was a women – Marianne – as she was lovingly called. I find it such a powerful painting. I had to paint a homage to it. In my homage Liberty leads us through a city of lipsticks followed by jets that shoot tampons. It is a call to battle and I truly believe it is a battle where everyone will be a winner.