Katherine Mann

Katherine Mann is a DC-based two-dimensional artist who creates vast, dense landscapes using a layered process.  Starting with a simple ink wash or marks, she creates overwhelmingly detailed layers accentuating her simple base marks using complex patterns and decorative elements.  She uses both additive and subtractive methods in order to invent a depth in the fields of elaborate line work and colors.  After seeing her work at the 2011 (e)merge art fair in DC, I was thrilled to get the chance to interview her for our Artist Interviews segment on the Stamp Gallery Blog.

[Samantha Roppelt]: Do you feel there are any artists or artistic movements in particular that have influenced your work, historical and/or contemporary?

[Katherine Mann]: There are so many artists who have influenced me it would be impossible to name them all.  I’m the kind of person who likes most of the art she sees because when I look at other people’s work, I search for what applies to me and my own practice.

Recently I’ve been researching a lot of Beijing Opera costuming, as well as the symbols and rebuses that happen in Beijing Opera embroidery and headdresses.  I was originally trained as a traditional Chinese Sumi ink painter, so that way of thinking about painting (ink and water, flat space, non-linear narrative) has stayed with me, as well as my appreciation for old masters like Wang Hui.

Contemporary artists:  Petah Coyne and Judy Pfaff are two of my favorite sculptors, and they way they sculpt has informed the way I paint.  They both explore the idea of accrual in 3 dimensions, and I do so in 2.  I’ve also begun to make 3D still life models that inform my paintings.  I also love Jacob Hashimoto, Nick Cave and Fiona Rae.

[SR]: Maw is what caught our attention at the emerge art fair.  We understand it consists of layers of different applications using acrylic, sumi ink, and woodcut.  How do you think the materials affect the content of your work?

[KM]: The piece at (e)merge was Weft, which had a similar color scheme to Maw, but was much larger (25 feet long instead of 10)  But all of my work incorporates different layers, speeds, and materials for working.  I want the pieces to undulate, to never stay in one place.  To this end, I’m interested in incongruous vocabularies layered into the same space–the naturalism and softness of water and ink, the graphic, matte quality of my acrylic work, and the neurotic, repetitive detailing of nibbed pen draughtsmanship and printmaking.

[SR]: In general, the size scale of your work is very large. How do you think this affects the experience for the viewers versus a smaller size scale?

[KM]: A large size makes the piece feel immersive and cinematic for the viewer, and makes it more fun for me.  Larger pieces lend themselves more to process oriented painting–there’s plenty of room for me to explore, erase, layer and crop, and there’s less of a need to plan the piece out beforehand.  I’m interested in creating a space that can take over a viewer’s peripheral vision, and that the viewer can travel through slowly, from detail to related detail.  You can get that immersive experience from a large piece–although I’m also interested in how I can translate my work into a smaller, less egomaniacal scale.

[SR]: After looking at more of your work on your website, we have noticed how it has changed since 2009.  For instance, some of the work you completed in 2010 started including a reductive process by cutting patterns into the actual paper.  In addition, your two more recent pieces shown online include woodcut. Do you think your work has evolved significantly since you were an undergraduate or graduate student? If so, how?

[KM]: It’s interesting to me to look back at the body of work and see how some of it has changed, yet the underlying interests remain the same as when I was 18 years old.  I’m still interested in maximalism, detail work, and a textured, heterogeneous visual landscape.  The biggest difference I see between my older work and what I do now is editing.  The works may look like I threw the kitchen sink in there (and that was exactly what I did as an undergraduate student), but I’ve learned to spend more time researching, erasing, and articulating what goes into the paintings and why.  I’m also constantly tweaking my process–recently I’ve gotten more interested in collage and printmaking, for example, and yes, I do have phases of paper cutting.  The work changes incrementally, but I’m not interested in a new painting unless I’m approaching it from a slightly new angle.

[SR]:  Finally, do you have any advice that you believe would be valuable for artists who are entering the contemporary scene?

[KM]: Get used to, and comfortable with, rejection.  Rejection is not failure.  I had an old professor of mine recently tell me that I should aim to get more rejection letters (to exhibitions, to residencies, to grants, etc.) with each passing year.  It’s absolutely true.  If you got more rejections this year than you did last year, it means you tried harder and put yourself out there more this year than you did last year.

Posted by Samantha Roppelt, Class of 2012, Art Studio Major


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