“I believe that art is a human need”: Tatjana Gerhard’s re-invention of the world

Zürich native and Ghent-based artist Tatjana Gerhard (1974) has a long artistic career tributing the human figure, digging deep while not necessarily trying to provide answers to the fundamental questions in life. Largely inspired by the likes of Emile Nolde, James Ensor, or George Condo, her solo-exhibition Rag Doll Act is on display at Waregem’s Be-Part starting this Saturday 17th.

At its core, what is your work about? How would you describe it?

My artistic practice basically revolves around painting: that means searching for the possibilities of the medium, exploring them and in the meantime finding out what interests me. I think it’s also important to be aware of the history of painting, and its many possibilities today. The human figure has always been present in my paintings, going back and forth between abstraction and figuration. I like to reflect on existential themes of human nature without trying to give an answer.

What is its starting point and statement?

I work very organically. My works influence each other – but the starting point can be very different, depending on what’s most interesting to me at the moment. I believe that art is a human need: it feeds the soul and has the ability to soothe the diffuse uncertainties of today. I seek to talk through my paintings; to communicate through the colours, lines, dots and placements.

What characterises your work?

The figurative world that I evoking in my paintings is alien, yet still recognisable at the same time. They are also both attractive and repulsive.I’m not interested in a perfect, pleasant surface, but rather what lies behind. As such, oil painting seems to be the ideal medium for me, because it’s a matter of building the piece up with many different layers. I’m interested in the visualiation of the invisible.

How do you actually work on a piece, from start to finish?

Painting is a constant act of taking control and letting go. It’s about painting without ncessarily knowing what I’m doing, and taking some distance and reflecting on its meaning afterwards.

What series and / or project are you currently working on?

At the moment I’m building up my first institutional solo show Rag Doll Act at Waregem’s Be-Part, in preperation of its opening this Saturday 17th of March. The title of the show s derived from a circus act, where a contortionist is dressed up as a clown. He’s being directed and moved around by two other people, as he’s an immobile rag doll. I found this title very fitting because of the aspect of manipulation and domination of people – the aspect of  the body and the psychological features interest me. I’m also reflecting on my manner of painting, where it can sometimes feel like somebody else is moving me.

Who would you say was instrumental in shaping your artistic practice?

As I’m very open-minded, I think there’ve been a lot of different influences, though I can’t remember all of them. Some crucial artists to whom I feel connected are Francis Bacon, Georg Baselitz, Pablo Picasso, Chaim Soutine, Vincent van Gogh, Cindy Sherman, and Francesca Woodman.

What does success look like to you?

Being able to continue my work. Being able to make a living through my work, and getting some recognition.