“I love painting because I can make lots of colour in it.” | Katherine Bernhardt | Louisiana Channel

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“I am a busy body.” Meet the American painter Katherine Bernhardt for a talk about her work, her love for colourful, figurative motives, and why photographs are a great point of departure for starting a painting.

“I love the 80’s aesthetic, which is very colourful. I love painting because I can make lots of colour in it. I like places that have lots of colours. I am attracted to colours. Art is a way where people can go and escape from reality. The bigger, the better.”

Katherine Bernhardt (b. 1975) grew up in Clayton, MO, and received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her MFA from the School of Visual Arts. Over the past two decades, Bernhardt, based in St. Louis, has established herself as one of the most sought-after painters. She first attracted notice in the early 2000s for her paintings of supermodels taken straight from the pages of fashion magazines such as Elle and Vogue. In the decade following, she began making pattern paintings with an ever-expanding list of quotidian motifs. Her vibrant images offer contemplative and multifaceted reflections of various facets of everyday life and pop culture, from childhood sticker books, toilet paper, and coffee makers to E.T., Darth Vader, and the Pink Panther. She cites Henri Matisse, the Pattern and Decoration movement, Peter Doig, and Chris Ofili as artistic influences.

Bernhardt chronicles her life and the broader culture through her index of images, synthesizing her visual material with hard-won ease. She takes pleasure in variety and thoroughly investigates each of her obsessions before moving to another. Bernhardt’s trust in the fundamental underpinnings of painting gives her the freedom to depict anything she wants. The democratizing surfaces of her canvases work without illusion, perspective, logical scale shifts, or atmosphere. She is an artists’ artist, admired by many contemporary peers working today as a singular voice in painting. In a palette that ranges from restrained to vivid Day-Glo, Bernhardt paints the canvases face up on her studio floor, employing spray paint, puddles of thinned-out acrylic, and utilitarian brushwork to emphasize aspects of her motifs. Bernhardt’s process is improvisational and loose, at times inviting accident and chance into the works and asserting an equal relationship between artist and material.

Bernhardt’s work is held in the collections of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Portland Museum of Art, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., among other venues.

Katherine Bernhardt was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner in June 2022 in connection with the opening of her show Why is a mushroom growing in my shower? at David Zwirner Gallery in London.

Camera: Kyle Stevensson
Edited by: Signe Boe Pedersen
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2022

Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet, C.L. Davids Fond og Samling and Fritz Hansen.

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