Since completing her MFA at the Royal College of Art in 2015, Danish artist Katja Angeli has built a busy practice. She is represented by F2 in Madrid and Cob Gallery in London. She also works with independent curators on exhibitions both in the UK and abroad.
What inspires you?
Referencing the human body, fluid forms and play, my practice is rooted in drawing, collage and appropriation. I’m interested in the slippage between figuration and abstraction. My works are to varying degrees informed by pop culture, art history, comics, politics and language, architecture and animation.
My approach to my work is dependent on a sense of connection with its making. I’m often guided by materials when thinking about new work. Paper is a favourite of mine because it’s porous and fragile and alive. It’s punk. So is collage and, as a form, it is central to the way I think about my work. Collage implies movement and change. It’s a radical approach that inhabits chaos and rupture. I keep returning to it, I guess, because it reflects how I think and sample and relate to the world around me.
Does Copenhagen as a place have influence over the organic and the digital themes that are present throughout your work?
My relationship with nature lies behind my love of materiality and comes through in my engagement with materials and my connection with the process of making. I’m interested in the dialogue between the organic and the digital which I explore in the process of making, combining traditional materials, methods and techniques with digital applications.
How do you find London compared to Copenhagen?
Copenhagen has changed a great deal over the last 10-15 years. It’s a small place compared to London but it has a strong international outlook. It’s a beautiful city with a small but vibrant community of creatives. London has a different creative energy that is hard to match. The city is chaotic and restless and a magnet for creative people of all kinds with big, bold ideas. It’s a very inspiring place even on a grey day.
Does having a clear idea on the context in which your work will be placed in (galleries, shows, domestic environments) influence the way you make work?
It depends on the project. My art practice is independent of where my work will be placed. When I make art I do not generally consider where it may end up. However if I take on a commission there is usually a brief to think of and this will play a part. I don’t see this as a problem. In fact it can be very refreshing to work to a brief sometimes. It focuses your thinking in a different way. For example, I’m preparing a series of children’s fairy tale illustrations right now and the placing of these works has influenced my work.
During Mount Street Curates and London Craft Week, did placing your work amongst high fashion change the meaning of your work?
Art is open to interpretation and if visitors to my show at 5 Carlos Place felt that the meaning of my work changed displayed next to high fashion, then that’s for them to decide. The works were created independently of the space and they can stand alone regardless of their context. When collectors buy my work, I don’t know where or how they will display my work. It’s for them to decide how they want to live with my art. It’s not for me to interfere with. Having said that, I think, for me at least, there is an interesting conversation to be had between the theatricality of high fashion and the performativity of my collage shapes. The space provided an interesting framework for that conversation, I guess.
Above: our documentation from London Craft Week, where we first discovered Katja’s work.
Tell us about your work with Holly Wood
Holly first came to me with an idea for a group show but we put that on hold and instead she invited me to stage a solo show at 5 Carlos Place in the spring of 2019. The show opened in conjunction with the London Craft Week and the initiative MountStreetCurates, celebrating exquisite craftmanship in fashion design. The venue 5 Carlos Place in Mayfair is owned by Matches Fashion in the form of a concept store with the vision to redefine what a retail experience means today through conversations with other creative fields like art. The show provided an opportunity for me to exhibit outside a traditional gallery context and explore the cross fertilisation of art and design in a very real way. The show was a huge success and, interestingly, my work was bought by a group of serious art collectors that would normally connect with your work in a gallery setting. Clearly these people also like high fashion!
Tell us about Clubbers
The tapestry Clubbers forms part of a small edition of wall hangings I recently made in collaboration with an amazing group of craftspeople. I was shortlisted for an important tapestry commission in 2017. The judges encouraged me to look into translating my imagery into tapestries which set the journey in motion and prompted me to engage with the language of fiber. It also enabled me to explore the making of art as a social act working with a group of skilled craftsmen, exchanging ideas and thoughts in the process. Clubbers was the first tapestry of mine to go on show in the UK when Cob Gallery exhibited the work earlier this year in a brilliantly curated show alongside Alba Hodsoll’s tactile sculptures. The esteemed interior designer/curator Laura Fulmine went on to select the tapestry for an exclusive exhibit in May this year titled The Art Apartment. Alongside this, a large diptych tapestry was selected by the curator Fran Ramello for a show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Andalusia which took place over the summer.
How do you work?
I work on several projects at once. It frees my thinking. For example, a current project is my Pinup project. I’m interested in the idea of the ‘pinup’ especially in relation to the definition of the female Pinup; but also the term’s allusion to something informal that is pinned up on the wall for easy consumption. I’m interested in what defines this and at what point we consider something precious enough to no longer call it a pinup. Another current project is my tapestry work. I did a commission for a collector last year, translating my work on paper into a large-scale tapestry. The way I work with paper is similar to the way a tapestry is ‘built’. It’s a sculptural process of assembling parts. This exciting project also made me explore the rich dialogue between paper and thread and I’m now in the process of developing a new series of textile works.
Do you see art / design as related? If so, how?
Design has a function. Art has no function as such. Design is understood, art is interpreted. Design provides solutions, art triggers questions or emotions. That said the two can be influenced by each other. For example a lot of fashion designers are influenced by art which makes their work all the more exciting.
I define myself as an artist. However I also work on design projects at times. I think the most interesting and exciting creatives working today internationally are influenced and inspired by many different sources. The most creative people I know are madly curious about the world and all that it can offer. Purity becomes really dull and insular if it sacrifices curiosity. I think the legendary Memphis designer Ettore Sottsass was so right when he insisted that function in design is not enough, but that design should also aim to be sensual and exciting.
Why is Lovers called Lovers?
The title came about from my work with the collage shapes. It riffs on playfulness and the fluidity of identity and how we engage with this whether we pay attention to it or not. Besides we are all lovers in some sense or other.
Tell us about Lover 3
This work is from the series Lovers exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London in 2017. The series consists of 15 collage works on paper. It engages with the idea of transformation and play in relation to identity and the fluidity of forms. It’s suggestive with a strong performative aspect. The title alludes to a universal idea that people can relate to in their own way. Art is a relief from language so people can make of it what they want.
The Lovers series was selected for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries in 2016/17. The show is an important platform for new contemporary artists. I was rewarded for a highly experimental body of work that was also awarded the Clifford Chance Prize in the same year. The selected works explored the appropriation and collage of hand drawings that had been processed digitally on porous Japanese paper.