German artist Catrin Welz-Stein is based in Malaysia, where she works as a painter and graphic designer. We journeyed into her eerie fairytale worlds with a conversation on femininity, art history and coconuts. Read on to discover the secrets behind her surreal and sensuous work.
Hi Catrin, what's your favourite drink for Happy Hour?
Here in Malaysia I like drinking ‘tea tarik‘ - a black tea mixed with sweetened condensed milk.
As child, what did you want to be when you grow up?
An author or an artist.
What do you get the inspiration for your paintings from? Where do you begin, when starting a new piece?
I feel extremely lucky to be living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with my family. One step out of the house and I find inspiration every direction I look. From the brightly-coloured Indian district, to the exotic smells at markets. From Chinatown, to the lush jungle surrounding Kuala Lumpur. Everyday I get to chose what type of surrounding I feel like diving into. This constantly brings new inspiration and enjoyment to my creative work.
But inspiration also comes to me in other forms. Good conversations with interesting people, for example. Books can be inspiring. As an avid reader I love diving into unfamiliar worlds. Galleries, exhibitions and Instagram are also great sources for inspiration. My dreams can be inspiring.
When starting a new painting, I let myself be surprised by the direction the painting takes itself. I always put together new pieces and then take them apart again. I don't start off having a vision of what the final painting is going to look like or what topic it is going to examine. It just comes from inside of me and like a mirror, reflects what my subconscious is experiencing.
Women, flora and fauna have a strong presence in your work. Do you believe in a special bond between femininity and nature. If yes, what does this look like?
The connection to nature is expressed in almost all of my paintings. Birds and butterflies symbolize freedom, ease and independence. Plants and trees allegorise life-energy. In my paintings the woman, with all of her facets, is part of nature. She is a giver of life, diversity and security. She emits strength and fertility. I show femininity in all its shapes and forms.
Are there other artists who are inspire you? Why?
I am inspired by art and artists from different eras. The Renaissance impresses me with its portraits and the attention to detail in the painting technique. In Surrealism I am fascinated by the ambiguity and change in perspective in the composition. In Art Nouveau and Art Deco I love the illustrative designs as well as the playful, ornate lines.
On Instagram I follow numerous contemporary artists, all of whom have different styles and are extremely inspiring. Illustrators, abstract painters, photographers, ceramicists, furniture designers; these are all examples of further sources of inspiration.
What music are you listening to on high rotation at the moment?
Pretty much everything; not one specific style. Lately I’ve been listening to Chicago quite a lot as I just recently went to one of their concerts here in Kuala Lumpur. I've also been pretty into Adele’s newest album.
Which three things could you never live without?
My two children and my husband, creative work and the green coconut I enjoy every evening in front of the TV.
City or countryside?