Katarina Sylvan

Artist Interview

March 17, 2017
Katarina Sylvan, b.1989, is a Stockholm based artist working in the fields of sculpture and installation. She received a BA in Fine Art from Konstfack University in Stockholm in 2014 and will continue her studies at the master’s programme in sculpture at the Royal College of Art in London in 2017.

Where do you find inspiration?

Watching stuff and reading stuff and listening to stuff and looking at stuff.

In your work, there are many objects that you utilize perpetually, such as bricks, patterns of squares, fabric and fan. What do they mean and represent?

They’ve all ended up in my repertoire for different reasons and shift positions and function in new works, like building bricks in my universe with it’s own laws of logic.

The fans originally came from the South Korean phenomenon ”fan death”. Being into animism at the time I found the fans to look like very serious, very silly little priests. I imagined filling up a room with fans and daring people to hang out there. But I soon realized that I haven’t even been to South Korea and therefore didn’t know what the hell I was talking about so I dropped the idea. I have many rules for what I can and can’t talk about. But the fans stayed.  

About the bricks and grids, the short version; apart from trying to focus on my art, I work as a painter in a theatre. Fake bricks are a classic go-to stock scenery so awkward bricks equal an awkward set. Bricks and grids are empty and never-ending, even I get frustrated and want to tag something on them! But emptiness is scary, so I let the emptiness stay too.

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We learned that you also write, what is the relationship between written and visual language to you?

I guess art is often ascribed rebus-like qualities. You try to solve the puzzle and figure out the one meaning behind it or the artist’s message. I’m very jealous of music and cinema for having the privilege of creating modes rather than sums of symbols and try to mimic how they ”work”. The same with literary forms. Something is documentary, something is poetic, something else is a hard boiled crime novel. But I try to make use of that visual obstacle, make rebuses without answers!

Text in art has certain connotations, which is weird, a text can contain anything. I was shying away from written language for a long time since I didn’t want to be ”that guy who works with text”. As I started to look at things in a scenographic way text seeped back in again, often taking the form of a script. So, if a text works best as a text, I won’t try and turn it in to something else for the sake of it. It’d just become an illustration of the text and I’m no illustrator. It’s also easier to hide in a text since it works on other levels. Text is sneaky.

What is the one thing you can’t live without in your studio, and why?

My Lady Di coffee mug, because it’s my Lady Di coffee mug.

Are you working on any new projects these days?

Yes! I’ve gotten the chance to invite whoever I want to put together a group exhibition in Frankfurt. ”How to Disappear Completely and Never be Found” is the framework, also the title of a very dated survival guide on how to disappear. I’m also working towards a solo show where I will try to reverse the process, starting with visual elements from film noir and hard boiled crime fiction and letting them set the rules for a story, hopefully creating an abstract erotic thriller in the end. I’m always trying to be more brave and honest. For example, I have this gig where I really need to play all the instruments myself and another one where I just have to put on a silly hat and hold a speech for the crowd. I thought performance artist was the least likely profession for me but here we go, come watch me make a fool out of myself in the near future!

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Can you tell us your art making process?

I get obsessed, I think think think, then BOOM - a vision of a scenery arises. I don’t have to force anything, it just comes. The original idea stays pretty solid throughout the process but the work always adjusts to the exhibition space. I’m no perfectionist or the kind of artist who can sit and doodle in the studio and let the stuff develop itself. I go there to perform a task and work fast while I’m there. It does have the downside of producing a lot of crap, but I want my works to have a certain temperature and energy and I think slowing down would just ruin my vibe. Being slow stresses me out.

Do you have any bad habits, and do they affect your work?

I’m a perfect human being and everything I touch turns to gold. NOT.

For more of Sylvan: katarinasylvan.com