dépendance is pleased to present ‘The Softest Pain is the Pain au Chocolat’, Katja Seib’s second solo exhibition at the gallery.
Employing common systems of semiotics and symbolism, Seib’s work is loaded with various kinds of symbols and signs. Over the years, Seib’s narrative approach to painting has become increasingly autobiographical focused. Her strong affinity for classical portraiture is activated by particular interpretations of her daily surroundings. The artist desires to convey intimate experiences without being too revealing and, at the same time, allowing the audience to know her feelings.
Her focused painterly technique of contrasting pictorial elements echoes this lively gracefulness. Central subjects are meticulously painted with nearly invisible softened brushstrokes. This is combined with surroundings composed of a rapid flow and prompt wet technique. In addition, she wants to go beyond the painting itself by adding different materials, such as the woven spider’s web, made in collaboration with her mother, that emphasizes how everything she does is made by hand.
She depicts interpersonal relations, seeking common grounds with the viewer, and most of all, shared experiences of women specifically. While we see many paintings of women and mothers, Seib paints a more private story in Postpartum and presents a scene we rarely see. This narrative is intertwined with metaphoric elements, including the parent walking with the child in the background.
In her paintings, the artist interweaves art historical and mythological references. The self-portrait Athena presents Seib against the background of not only the Greek goddess Athena as her alter-ego but also Edgar Degas’s depictions of female bathers produced from the late 1870s to the 1890s. An image of a pantless girl as a modern-day bather appears in Athena and other works. It goes back to a scandalous American Apparel advertisement that was all over Los Angeles in the early 2000s. It got covered up as it went against American standards regarding nudity. With its inclusion, Seib is commenting on the double standards of a society that covers up nakedness, one of the purest humanistic things.
Motifs such as Eve, the snake, and the apple appear in her work. Seib looks at how history has shaped female representation within a misogynistic world. Eve is seemingly made out of the rib of Adam, depriving women of their own real identity. As a counterweight, she uses the witch as a symbol of female empowerment, represented by her attribute: the cat. Next to this, little gleaming gemstones reappear throughout her oeuvre as colorful teardrops, sparks, or just decorative elements. They bestow the depicted scenes, portraits, or still lives with a particular delicacy.
The ceramic portraits link to the European history of wall plates. They served as a decorative object but more importantly as a symbol of prosperity and wealth. The characters in her new series of glazed porcelain are undeniably personal depictions of familiar faces.
Katja Seib (1989, Germany) studied at the Fine Art Academy of Düsseldorf. She currently lives and works in Los Angeles. Her work was part of Made in L.A. 2020 at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. For its 2023–24 season, The Metropolitan Opera commissioned her to make the banner for the opera Dead Man Walking.