An interview with Charline von Heyl

Carlotta. 2013. Oil, acrylic and charcoal on canvas. 82 × 76 in. Courtesy Petzel, New York.

Actually, was the German Romantic tradition important to you at all when you were younger?

Yeah, my parents had Caspar David Friedrich posters hanging in our house. I love pathos; maybe that’s my German side. I love the way that feeling resonates in silence, the fake silence of a landscape. Pathos is a feeling that has a grip on time. It can expand a moment. That’s what I want to get at with the paintings: to have this expanded moment, and for that I need that kind of feeling.

I can get that through decoration. But decoration of a certain kind, which for me really does have to do with kitsch. There’s an immense satisfaction that I get out of a perfectly curlicued line, for example, or a Disney face. Kitsch is not ironic the way I use it. Kitsch, for me, means a raw emotion that is accessible to everybody, not just somebody who knows about art. That’s where kitsch comes from to begin with: it was basically art for the people.

Your painting Carlotta (2013) seems to testify to that. It has a strong graphical background and a bunch of central shapes, but also a woman’s face that almost recalls a beauty advertisement.

I often paint faces onto the surfaces, and usually then erase them. In that case, it was so perfect as a carrier of longing that I left it. It’s called Carlotta because, as a child, I always thought Carlotta was the coolest name on earth. It’s my fetish object of a name, projected into the painting. The name makes the painting iconic, and I’m interested in that too: how do you create an iconic painting despite itself? Iconic not because it’s recognizable as a soup can, but iconic in itself, because it insists on that power.

The full interview is available in Even no. 7, published in summer 2017.