30 Under 35 2020

 Katja Farin Reimagines Figuration

Dean Kissick

Photography by Aubrey Mayer

 Katja Farin

How do we interact with space, and other bodies, as artists, as subjects and as viewers? This is what Los Angeles-born artist Katja Farin explores through figurative painting and the staging of exhibitions. She works on a shifting scale, from nearly life-size to miniature, and likes how that changes the way an audience interacts with her work; moving closer to some works and stepping back from others, we become more physically aware of our bodies in space. For her most recent show at in lieu, in Los Angeles’s Lincoln Heights neighborhood, Farin built a stage set in her studio and had her friends carry each other around while she filmed them. But usually she prefers to draw people more spontaneously. Her compositions begin as rough drawings that she collages together and draws over, often many times, gradually working up to finished pieces. “I see the paintings as vignettes of an abstract, ongoing performance, revealing a set of experiences through composition, gesture, an attempt at humor—even though no one thinks they’re funny—expression, stages, façades,” she says: “a screenshot of the millennial’s current moment.”

Her figures are left rather ambiguous. Genders, races, ages and faces are hard to make out. Farin’s world is rendered in a muted palette made up of subtle tonal shifts, blurred outlines and fluid forms. There’s no bright Southern Californian sunlight or HD clarity here—rather everybody looks quite magical and unreal. “Ambiguity, or perhaps anonymity,” she says, “is meant not only to allow viewers a way to see themselves within the figures, but also to be an expression of contemporary interactions: those that are distant, voyeuristic and fueled by anxiety surrounding social media. Many of them are based on the people around me, but I rarely render them recognizable. I’d like to think that I inject the figures with anxiety, loss, relationship, care, void, purgatory and precarity.”