Interview with Susanna Storch about her artistic work in Figurative Realism and the inspiration she suddenly found to create Facades while she was staying in Paris in a skyscraper near the Eiffel Tower.
What do you see as the strengths of your winning project and what does this award mean to you personally?
To win this award was a great surprise and pleasure for me – I’m feeling honored, indeed, to be selected from a large group of participants in this category. Maybe the unexpected topicality or timeliness of my series Facades in times of the pandemic drew additional attention for it. The private spaces of people have acquired a special meaning through the situation of being locked in – all around the world.
What impact has winning this had for you?
It is for sure a great confirmation of my work and I’m very thankful for the financial support and encouragement. By being featured through LICC as a winner in the category Create, I hope for greater visibility and interest in the art scene.
What was most important for you when planning the project and what were the biggest challenges you faced?
I’m working for many years in the genre ‚Figurative Realism’. Focussed on the human being, I have been consistently developing this big theme in several series of paintings. Portraits, human body and its movements in the series Nude and Menschenbilder / Ballet, man and nature in the Landscapes and man and war in the Against War paintings. The series FACADES focuses on the presentation of randomly observed everyday life in an urban context. Window scenes, first photographically captured in passing, throw a glimpse into the lives of the anonymous inhabitants, on the border between private and public space. Though some of the paintings don’t show any persons, still, the stories behind these scenes are left to the imagination of the viewer.
Where do you get motivation and inspiration from for your work?
Concerning the series Facades: My first motifs for this series I found in Paris, staying in a skyscraper hotel near the Eiffel Tower, where I randomly observed the surrounding buildings and noticed the people in their windows, busy with everday activities like watering flowers, drinking coffee or just looking out of the window. These scenes attracted and inspired me with their ordinariness and simple beauty. For me, it was and it is not a voyeuristic sight at the ‚human drama’, at the everyday life in anonymous cities, it’s more an empathic and sincere one. This was the start of the series, in the following time, I became focussed on facades and window scenes, wherever I was walking through urban surroundings. Some of the paintings do show the solitary and social isolation of inhabitants of modern cities, the colours, kept in grey, bring this aspect out too. But the paintings have also other aspects for me. Just one example: The laundry, Facade X – I was really touched by the scene with the two elderly people kissing passionately in the window. As I said, these scenes attract and inspire me with their simple beauty and prosaicness. I found the next motifs in Santiago de Chile, in London, in my hometown, Mainz. Meanwhile, I realised 32 paintings related to this topic, I choosed some more subjects from Chile, also from Lisbon, Tallin, Prague, Gibraltar and Medellín, places I travelled to in the last years.
Tell us about a project which has been your greatest achievement?
In fact, it had nothing to do with my paintings or the exhibitions I could organize or participate in the past, it was an art project with refugee children. For more than 4 years, I led an educational workshop with kids in a refugee center in my hometown, with different artistic themes and tasks. In 2019, we started the self portrait project, with an exhibition of finally 50 works on canvas. I made a sketch based on a photo in the beginning, and the kids painted themselves or their little sisters or brothers in colour. Last year on the 1st of March, just before the first lockdown, we got the opportunity to show the works in a very well visited show in town – it was great fun and a lovely acknowledgement for the children.
Who in your field do you most admire and why?
There are of course several artists I like and admire, among the contemporary ones, I would name William Kentridge, Banksy and JR.
What’s your creative process and what creative software do you use?
Concerning the series Facades, I always start with searching or finding motifs walking or driving through urban surroundings. I take photos of scenes or stills which attract me, with or without people acting. The paintings are based on these pictures, sometimes I change details or faces. I don’t use a projector, not even for portraits or commissioned works.
What are you working on now, what is in the pipeline for you?
At the moment, I’m working on new Facades and commissioned portraits at the same time, one in the studio, one at home. I’m really glad I got a lot to do and I can always work despite the pandemic and the restrictions. I think soon I’m ready for a new theme, maybe again with a more political focus in these times.