Gretta Louw: Networks, embroidery and new narratives

Gretta Louw next to her work. The arrtist Gretta Louw next to her work. Photo credit: Katrin Petroschkat

Munich – Interview and Studiovisit with the artist Gretta Louw.

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What are you working on right now?
I’m finalizing work for two shows opening at the end of April. The first is Digital Combines at bitforms gallery in San Francisco, the piece is a large embroidered painting paired with a sound piece as an NFT. The second is called Hope on the Edge, curated by Anabel Roque Rodriguez at Yvonne Hohner Contemporary in Karlsruhe and I’m excited to be showing several new works from the last two years there.

How would you describe your work?
My work is concerned with networks – from the digital to ecosystems, networks of kinship and mycelium. I am interested in how things are connected, and the overlapping impacts of advancing technologies on society, culture, and environments. My work is inherently hybrid and I work back and forth between digital and algorithmic methodologies and traditional ones such as embroidery.

What guides your artistic research?
Curiosity, of course, but also, on a much deeper level, a sense of genuine connectedness with human and more-than-human webs of being. There is a chasm between this and the destructive forces of exploitation, extraction, and domination that seem to govern so much of what we see happening in the news today. We need new narratives.

What could these new narratives look like?
Ursula Le Guin has criticised what she calls “prick stories”; narratives in which a ‘hero’ goes out into the world and acts upon it, creating change and resolution while their surroundings remain passive. We need anti-heroic stories, we need tales of interconnectedness and small (inter)actions, we need narratives of messy hope within ongoingness rather than artificially finite ones. We need future-stories that evolve consciousness and contentedness rather than predicting ever more detailed dystopias that limit our imagination to create anything different.

What trait do you most admire in a work of art?
A sense of the sublime.

What kind of atmosphere do you like when you work?
I appreciate peace in my working environment, though it isn’t always possible. I like hearing the birds and seeing greenery, lots of tea, few distractions. Sometimes I listen to music or podcasts when I’m embroidering but I need silence if I’m writing.

What are your favorite items in your studio?
All my embroidery threads, my tea thermos (a gift from a loved one), comfy armchairs, plants, light.

When you feel stuck, how do you get un-stuck?
I go for a walk. Write it down. Stretch. Read something inspiring. And I find that taking some time to consciously breathe almost always shifts something.

What are you curious about? What would you like to explore further?
Lately I’ve been reading more about fungi and their incredibly diverse roles in terraforming, connecting forests, shaping animal behaviours and environments – it’s absolutely fascinating. That’s definitely an ongoing research interest. And I’ve been curious to learn more about birds lately, though I’m not sure how or if that will connect up with my practice. I’d like to be better at identifying plants and foraging too.

But also, my next research project is concerned with ways to inject ecological justice modes of thinking into blockchain, so I’ll be diving into research for that too.

What do you like about the Munich art scene?
I love the museums in Munich, they are amongst the best in the world.

Which artists, curators or other art world people should the readers check out?
I am a huge admirer of Claudia Hart’s work – as both an artist and curator she’s doing groundbreaking work. I love LoVid’s recent tapestry works and Sara Ludy and Martina Menegon’s digital works. 

I love Jakkai Siributr’s work and Sophie Kahn’s achingly beautiful sculptures, Dennis Rudolph’s hybrid worlds, Florian Kuhlmann’s wit, Alina Birkner’s illuminated canvases, Emma Stern’s colour palette, Antwan Horfee’s layering. I could go on and on and on!

I worked with an amazing curator last year, Julia Katharina Thiemann, that was a fantastic experience. And I’m working on a project with my friend the curator Anabel Roque Rodriguez, it’s amazing when someone totally gets your work. And I’ve had a long relationship with Ruth Catlow and Marc Garrett from Furtherfield, who I love dearly. I also really admire Chus Martinez and Stephanie Hessler’s curatorial work. There’s too many to name.

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Johanna Strobel: Research and time

New York City/Munich – Interview and Studiovisit with the artist Johanna Strobel about research, clocks and the simultaneous small- and vastness of the artworld.