Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Katharina Stenbeck grew up with an early interest in experimental theatre. She studied at acting conservatories in Stockholm and New York City, subsequently working as an actress, before a chance encounter plunged her into the world of music. Fronting a Brooklyn-based electronic band for several years, she found a platform where she could marry many of her artistic means of expression into one and the same project. Katharina relocated from New York to Los Angeles in 2015. In LA, she began to actively explore her painting, primarily working in acrylic on canvas.
Congrats on being part of the recent LA Art Show! Can you tell me a little about the experience?
Thank you. Like many creatives, I hardly ever stop to take a second to appreciate progress I’m making on my artistic journey. Accomplishments are often achieved on a smaller scale and they blend together with the day-to-day hustle. Having a piece in the LA Art Show this year was one of those moments when I wanted to make sure to acknowledge that I’d achieved a goal I’d set for myself. I was at the LA Art show 2016 and thought “I’d love to have a piece here…”, and this year, I did.
As a multidisciplinary artist, how do you balance the different types of projects you’re working? Do you like to focus on one medium at a time or do you like to switch things up?
My background is in theatre and that informs my other artforms in many ways. My work in music always incorporates theatricality in some way, whether it’s in my lyrics, my song arrangements or my live performances. My visual art can get woven into my other artforms as well, with my paintings and sculptural works often popping up in selfmade music videos and/or as wearable creations for use on stage. In this sense, I don’t necessarily feel that I have to focus on a single artform at a time, but I do try to focus on a single project at a time. Usually, my projects incorporate many of my artforms all under one umbrella. For example, for a music video, I would have written and recorded the music, most likely made the clothes and props for the shoot and would also be the one performing in it.
What’s new on the horizon for 2017?
I do try to stay busy and always prefer to keep momentum going, especially if I’m working on a particular project and know the steps I need to take to complete it. That sense of “completion” can mean many things, it can come in the form of laying the final brush strokes on a painting, adding the last dabs of glue to a papier-mâché sculpture, mastering a finished song or performing something that’s been in rehearsal for several months. This year, I’ll be launching my first solo project in music after many years in a band, and I’m really looking forward to sharing the songs. I’m aiming to have the first single and accompanying music video out this spring.
I’ve been enjoying your Creamy Humans and Animal Hybrids series. Do you plan to continue any of the series? What new series will you be working on?
Thank you. Their origin stories are interesting to me, I had been painting animals for quite some time and then found myself drawn to the idea of painting animal heads with human bodies. That was my first step toward painting humans. After having painted several animal human hybrid pieces, I felt it was time to explore what a “normal” human might look like, with his/her own head attached to the body. It felt scary at first, I wasn’t sure what my own artistic interpretation of a face would look like. A face can be rather intimidating to take on as an artist. Someone once said “The face is the mirror of the mind”, and there’s a lot of truth in that. I had sketched and doodled so many faces throughout the years, but I found that they were often emulating faces I had seen in comic books, famous paintings or magazine illustrations. I think that’s why I chose to make my faces so simple, linear and flat when I finally started painting “real” humans. My painting style in general has lately been exploring the folk art aspect of linearity and flatness, so it was a good fit. In some ways, I think my Creamy Humans series are all self portraits, too.
Regarding my next series, I’ve found myself drawn to trying out some more abstract motifs, with paintings incorporating only aspects of the human body such as hands and feet and ears, letting the body parts interact with each other as well as with shapes and colors across the canvas.
In 2017, Katharina will be launching her first solo project in music. Find more about her and her work at www.katharinastenbeck.com.