Swiss artist Nadja Kirschgarten combines a love for art history and experience living in the countryside in her gorgeous paintings, combining a modern figurative sensibility with a consciousness of the female gaze and the feminine role in art history. More at the links following the Q&A!
Can you tell me a little bit about you?
Hi there, I’m from Switzerland, and I studied at the Art University in Bern and Zürich. I’ve been painting since I was nine years old. I’m from the countryside, and when I applied for Art College in Zürich I thought that everyone there that would study with me would be a painter. Actually, I was one of two — all the others did installation and performances – video-art etc. That was a surprise for me, but I stuck with painting.
I mainly paint naked women in a very natural positions – not posing for anyone, just being themselves. At the same time, I study a lot of old painting from previous centuries. There are so many missing paintings, things that haven’t been painted because women were allowed to paint very little. I see myself as kind of a gap-filler. I think we should have a look at history to be able to paint pictures that have a connection that are now relevant for the contemporary.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
When I was nine, I got an art history book from a French couple, friends of my parents. I started copying the paintings that hung in our house.
What do you like most about working where you do?
I’m still living in the countryside, which gives me the opportunities to observe nature, light, and little changes that happen through the day when time goes on. I regularly travel to bigger cities, especially to Munich, and there you have important exhibitions and art all over the in public spaces, from all eras. Culture affects people, and I love to observe people and how the environment influences them.
What is your process like?
I’m working on three to four paintings at the same time, and they are thematically connected. It depends from painting to painting… some are finished within 5 days, and others I have to put away and finish a month or two later. I also need older work of mine around me to start new ones. It helps me to remember the things I discovered lately and want to develop.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for art?
Strange is that, at a certain point, the painting tells you what it wants to be. What you want or what you did want, you have to let go and obey — I think that is something very strange.
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
I got pregnant when I was studying art, I have two kids now and work from time to time for a caterer. It is all a lot, but I paint almost every day for 4 – 5 hours, and do not give that away.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
I love to talk with Dan Schein, a New York painter, about my work. He has got an excellent eye. Then I ask my daughter, and she is great. From time to time a have a curators that come along – that exchange helps me to take a step back and see what I’m doing right or wrong.
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
Try to love what you are doing.
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
A lot, unfortunately – I’m rather alone as an artist here in my village. I’m in contact with others by e-mail and Instagram.
What is your studio like?
White… I painted it white even on the floor. So I have enough light also to paint in the night.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
Yes, I listen to interviews of other artist, writer, musicians etc. or to radio BBC4 just to hear people talking about culture. That makes me feel being a part of something — something I belong to. Then I listen to music or paint in silence.
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
I learned a lot at Art University… not a lot about painting, but about graphic design, art history, and to go one’s own way.
How would you define “success” in art?
When people feel inspired by my work
What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?
I won the IBK AWARD just a few weeks ago. It is an international art prize, and I hope it will help me to get more support.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a still life. I haven’t done that for a long time. The theme of nude women pops up in a picture in the background.
It is about symbolism, and I ask myself as I’m working, if I would choose the same subjects to tell something about life as they did centuries ago.