conversations – Interview by Nora Partl – 24.04.2023
JOSEFINE SCHULZ: THE INTIMACY OF SISTERHOOD
THE BEAUTY OF EVERYDAY'S LIFE
Looking at Josefine Schulz's paintings, one can sense a certain calmness and equilibrium, almost wrapping up the viewer in comfort. The artist explores the different realities of life and focuses on depicting friendships, mostly female ones. Her paintings celebrate the unexcited, everyday moments of friendly togetherness in familiar situations.
In conversation with Nora Partl, Head of Content & Communication, Josefine Schulz speaks about her influences and her development as a young female artist, friendships as her biggest inspiration, and embracing womanhood.
Nora Partl: Josefine, you studied fine arts in Paris and Dresden. Have you always known you wanted to be an artist?
Josefine Schulz: I was more interested in film and music as a teenager, but I felt like I wanted to do something else every month. The decision to study art came relatively spontaneously in my senior year. I was suddenly quite sure that I wanted to study art, so I applied, and a year later I started at the university in Dresden.
NP: Can you give us some insight into your development as an artist?
JS: In my student days, I initially felt somewhat misunderstood with my work because I had the impression that I painted too naively. This depressed me a bit at the beginning, but over time I learned that this was actually my strength, and I deliberately painted objects and perspectives "wrong" to represent what was criticized before and to strengthen my work even more. How much form and colour does it actually need to recognize an object like this?
Thematically, I have always remained true to myself. I am particularly interested in capturing a certain vulnerability in people. And this vulnerability shows itself mostly when we're exposed to changes.
NP: Painting is the most traditional and still the predominant medium in the art market. Why did you choose painting as your preferred medium of expression?
JS: I simply like the process. Making art is sometimes an exhausting and depressing process, which makes me question why I'm even doing it. But then there are those moments in the studio when I start a painting, and it feels so right and makes sense that any doubts vanish into thin air. It's also the most direct way for me to express myself artistically. I also work with performance and ceramics, but everything emerges from painting.
NP: Pastel colours and a harmonious palette are recurring in your work. What can you tell us about the recurring colour scheme you use?
JS: My pictures often depict scenes that are at the intersection between comfort and restlessness. The figures strive for the ultimate fantastic, which is often not achievable in reality but remains wishful thinking. This resistant moment of hope is supported precisely by the colourful surfaces that stand in contrast to the depicted, often bordering on motionlessness in everyday life.
NP: Your works celebrate and explore the intimacy of friendships, especially female ones. What inspires you about friendships?
JS: It might be a bit cheesy, but I just have really great girlfriends, and they inspire me because they are tough, great women. At the same time, I find it fascinating how different every single connection is and what different forms of communication and appreciation there are.
Besides, I used to love any TV series that focused on groups of friends. There are often the same stereotypes. In every clique, there is the "cool one", a "nerd", someone who is particularly funny, etc. I always found it interesting to deal with such stereotypes and dynamics within a group and then think up constellations for my paintings and thus create a narrative.
NP: Your paintings celebrate the everyday, unexcited moments of friendly togetherness in familiar situations. What makes these everyday moments interesting for you?
JS: I like the idea of picking up feelings and moments that are omnipresent. I'm sure everyone is sometimes unhappy in love or longs for belonging and closeness. I try to translate these moods into my paintings.
NP: Dogs are a motif regularly appearing in your works. Can you tell us the idea behind?
JS: At some point, the dog crept into my work as if by itself. My protagonists are often in search of something and sometimes a bit lonely. I use dogs as a symbol for a faithful companion and a little support. I also find it super exciting how the dog has developed from a house and farm animal to a cult and status symbol.
In 2019, I started to meet dog owners through a sharing portal and to take care of dogs on a regular basis. This has given me insights into lifestyles that I would not otherwise have access to. I am interested in the way people lead their lives. What are their dreams, disappointments, and expectations? What role does the dog play in these realities of life? It becomes particularly exciting for me when my love for the dog becomes an exaggerated passion.
NP: A certain calmness and equilibrium come from your art and wrap the viewer in comfort. Do you see it as your goal to provide viewers with a certain comfort through your paintings?
JS: I find that very beautiful! I'm happy when you, as a viewer, feel immersed in my image world or find yourself in my paintings.
NP: Girls using their phones are depicted regularly in your images. Do you use this motif as a reflection on our use of social media?
JS: For me, when my protagonists stare at their cell phones, it's primarily an image of something they do every day but also a symbol of longing for something.
NP: As a young female artist painting women and embracing womanhood, do you consider yourself a feminist artist?
JS: I certainly hold feminist values, but that's not what drives me to make art. I want to depict moments to which one can feel related. But one doesn't have to.
NP: What inspires you about painting women?
JS: I like to paint things to which I have access or with which I can identify myself, so it is of course obvious that I paint as a woman. But what definitely inspires me are my incredibly great girlfriends and their generally intimate exchanges with each other.
NP: What future goals do you have?
JS: Adopting a dog for sure! Professionally, I would like to travel more in the US. I recently organized an exhibition project in the Mojave Desert with other artists and have been to California several times now. I really liked the vibe and could imagine moving my studio there for a while.
Josefine Schulz lives and works in Leipzig, Germany. She deals with the different realities of life in her generation and the visual influences on them. The motif of friendship is omnipresent in her work. Schulz completed her MFA at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Dresden and has shown her work in Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig, Los Angeles, Osnabrück, Paris, and Milan, among others.