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Room with a View:  Ana Karkar

Art in a Covid Climate June 2020

Body Language

Paris-based painter Ana Karkar sets an example of such externalized force, her work typically enacting a visual narrative of female body and their encompassing circumstances. It’s especially her portraitures of women that sometimes seem overwhelming to spend time with as Karkar is an artist who possesses the fundamental means to present matter in its fullest form; occurrences that are genuine and invadable, terrible and reconciliatory. All at the same time.

Having grown up in a home where gender didn’t adhere to a fixed set of definitions, Karkar has gained access to a rare sensibility that allows for her paintings to exhibit female body neutral enough and, above all, empathetic to its opposite sex. It’s her female gaze—intuitive and sort of unraveled—that authorizes everyone to observe the work without feeling the pressure of time or the often-returning discourse of objectification. It’s impossible to not succumb to the autonomous beauty that’s right there, visually as well as conceptually. Perhaps it’s almost a matter of giving in. When we’re amongst her paintings, we get to live and die through and with them. In the end, Karkar lets us experience what we were always supposed to experience when gazing upon art—we denounce, temporarily, everything else. 


Written by Lara Konrad for Coeval magazine

Ana Karkar was born in 1986 in San Francisco and currently lives and works in Paris, France. She has exhibited internationally: in Germany, France, Portugal, Norway, USA and Australia.  Karkar studied at TURPS Art School, London, UK, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne, Arts et Sciences de l'Art, Paris, France, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris and San Francisco Art Institute, USA


For many of us this is a time of reflection. What helps you stay positive in isolation?

Music ! Its calming frequencies have helped me drown out a lot of the panic and fear I had been feeling on social media and online. I’ve also been listening to a lot of albums from my teenage years which have reminded of what I used to dream about and brought back some optimism.


Worst thing about living through the pandemic?

I don’t know when I will be able to see my family. I’m in France and they live in the United States.


Where are you spending your days during the lockdown?

I moved into the warehouse my art studio is in. I had to choose between the comforts of home or the space and ability to work during lockdown.


If you could have any anything delivered to your door what would it be?

A stack of books - on egyptology, astrology, science fiction and SETI (communication with extra terrestrial intelligence) and some spicy food.


What have you rediscovered at home?

An interest in outer space.


Which exhibition plans this year have now been postponed?

I had a solo show planned in April at Marc Straus gallery in New York.  We are currently waiting to see when to reschedule. I have another solo show that will now take place in Paris this December.


What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on how to integrate hieroglyphics in my paintings. I’m also working on a large scale painting referencing the film “Mad Max : Fury Road”, which I began in 2019.


Tell us about one of the projects you most enjoyed doing?

I would say my more recent solo show “Where there’s smoke” which took place at Le Consulat de la Gaité in Paris 2018.  The exhibition was provocative and I encountered many challenges putting it together and dealing with how it was received, at one point the lights were turned off limiting its visibility, at another graffiti was drawn all over the walls which I chose to integrate with my work. It was pivotal in my growth and managing criticism as an artist. It’s the project I enjoy most looking back on and I’m thankful for the experience.


What was it like where you grew up and who within your immediate family has had the greatest influence on you?

I grew up in San Francisco in the 80s; it was still the mecca for counterculture and alternative lifestyles at the time. My mother raised my younger brother and I as a single parent, and was supported by my grandmother and a community of friends who became family. It was multicultural.


My mother is an incredible force field. I remember she would be dressed to the nines for work, nails painted red, but also operated renovated parts of the house with those same hands. I think of her especially when I’m using tools in the studio. She was progressive even by today’s standards and hot tempered. 


Which artists have inspired you the most?

When I was going through a process of individuating I researched a lot of videos and interviews with Kurt Cobain.  In terms of painting Francis Bacon, Egon Schiele, Edvard Munch, Daniel Richter, Peter Doig, Sanya Kantarovsky…


What would you say is one of the most spiritual works of art for you?

The pyramids in Egypt and the Great Sphinx of Ghiza


What do you think the world will be like post COVID 19?

My artist brain thinks COVID 19 is pushing our abilities to communicate with each other the way dolphins do. Some humans will develop extra-sensory perception and be more connected than before, despite the distancing. 


In physical reality, I think a lot of people will try to “operate as normal” but viruses may return to force changes in our behavior, such as climate change and redistribution of power. It will be violent for people stuck in outdated mentalities and structures. Globally it may get worse before it gets better, but the planet has more of a chance. Quoting Blaise Pascal, 'All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.' 


How do you think it will impact the art world?

Different cities and countries are synchronizing exponentially, I think because of the shared lockdown experience. We will see more gender and racial inclusivity in the art world sooner thanks to COVID 19. I noticed lockdown has encouraged more people to repurpose images of artworks to express themselves. Protests on social media such as Black Lives Matter have been accelerating change for society at large and the art world, and many people now have the time to pay attention and be more vocal. Some art institutions and galleries have made a public pledge for greater diversity. I really hope galleries and curators who were already working in this direction will be rewarded for their efforts and gain continual support post COVID.


I feel there is still demand for works from collectors (maybe from the long time spent in their homes) especially for emerging /mid-career artists. Online viewing rooms are still not the same as seeing works in person, I just imagine people will be more selective with what shows and fairs they will mobilize for.


What is the best online exhibition you’ve seen, podcast you’ve heard or webinar you’ve participated in?

To be honest I stayed off the radar during most of lockdown as I was producing work for upcoming shows. 


If you could have lunch with someone you admire who and where would it be?

Vanessa Beecroft, in her art studio in Los Angeles


Where in the world would you live?

New York City


Which is your favourite museum in the world?

So many favorites and much still to see... I would really like to see the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark.


If you weren’t an artist what else would you do?

I would be a pop star or a lawyer.


Which 3 books and music tracks you’d take if you were marooned on a desert island?

An autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, Contact by Carl Sagan, a monograph of erotic photography 

Enjoy the Silence remixed by Sasha and Digweed, Mass in C Minor, K. 427: Kyrie by Amadeus Mozart, The Greatest View by Silverchair


What would you describe as your luxury at the moment?

Time and space to paint !


What’s the first thing you will do when lockdown is lifted?

Go home and take a hot bath


Thank you Ana! 

AK_Ode to Camille_2018.jpg

What would you say is one of the most spiritual works of art for you?

"The pyramids in Egypt and the Great Sphinx of Giza"

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