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17 oktober 2023 | Nieuws

Katarina Head: ‘Organic forms come naturally to me.’

Katarina Head, one of this year’s nominees in the Painting category, is busy making work for an upcoming exhibition at artist-run space Trixie on the Scheldestraat. She’ll be sharing the space with two other former Royal Academy of Art (KABK) artists who, like her, are inspired by nature and natural materials. Natural processes, the merging and morphing of natural forms, are a common thread in her work.

Katarina has been switching between studio spaces within The Hague since graduation. “I’m working in my room at the moment. I twice had anti-squat studio space on good locations in the centre, but you always know it’s only temporary. I have a large room in the Zeeheldenkwartier where I can work well, but I’ll have to leave that too shortly. I might be going back to the UK then.” Katarina would be sorry to leave. She came to The Hague after a year at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. “A few people from my Art & Design class at Canterbury University for the Creative Arts applied for Rietveld after we got our diplomas. But Rietveld was more conceptual based; the KABK in The Hague was more practical, more focused in direction.” The focus Katarina was looking for was painting. She is fascinated by the possibilities of paint.


However, her works usually also contain pieces of collage – photographs, cut-outs. Why the combination? “The collage acts as a seed within my work,” Katarina explains. “Things expand from there. The painting is a collecting point of all this imagery.” Katarina describes her amorphic landscapes where all kinds of life forms meet and merge as ‘semi-phantasy’. “Because of the collage material it’s also reality, a play between phantasy and reality.” She has found much inspiration in the work of early surrealist artists, but also in that of the Dutch artist Co Westerik who, incidentally, was also a student at the KABK. She admires the tactile element in Westerik’s work: “Westerik is fleshy.”


Another inspiration is the nineteenth-century French symbolist Odilon Redon, who was, in his turn, inspired by imagery resulting from microscopic techniques. “Redon works with the mind’s eye,” says Katarina, and it’s not difficult to see a link with her own explorations of organic forms. “Organic forms come naturally to me. I would like my compositions to make people think about how natural we are, to question their understanding of our natural world. We ourselves are also organic material and we’re going to die one day. I find that a comforting thought, that we’re material things.” Despite these sources of inspiration, labels such as ‘surrealist’ or ‘symbolist’ are not at all essential to Katarina. “You can put meaning into it and categorize, but I want things to be open. By giving your work a certain title, you can already influence someone else’s narrative. It’s not a spoken language, it’s a visual language.” She would very much like to work with other artists. “I already collaborated with a fashion designer, who used my work for her organic fabrics. It was interesting to see it worn. But I would also be open to tech design or working with theatrical people, paint backdrops, create environments. I’m still very new to this, but I would be truly interested to put the painting vision somewhere else.”


What if she won a Piket Art Prize? Katarina laughs. “I would panic to be on stage! But it would be life-changing … get space to work, not to have to do a side job, spend more time on my artistic practice. With a side job it’s always a struggle to find a balance between the two. If you have that tension taken off, your focus can be more on being creative.”

Photo: Hessel Waalewijn, text: Anna Beerens
Read the article in Dutch.