“The idea that one may somehow freeze time and stay in the present moment is as pervasive as it is illusory. In reality, nobody is forever young,” says Katharina Arndt, the German artist who is in charge of the current solo show we can currently find at Trafalgar 36 of Barcelona, at the Uxval Gochez Gallery. An exhibition that is on view until this Saturday, October 30 and is titled Forever Young, in reference to the human dream of eternal youth that has brought us to live in a world of superficiality and filters.
After a conversation with the gallerist Uxval Gochez, who guided me through a tour, I immersed myself into ironic details that portrayed the harsh reality of our lives. The beaches in La Barceloneta, which are seen as paradise, are actually filled with cigars and beer cans, logos in every single clothing item, visible shaved hair… That’s the truth we live in and try to hide with Instagram filters.

The stark contrast between reality and fantasy makes sense once you realise that Katharina Arndt was born in the East side of Germany, back when there wasn't any food in supermarkets. Maybe that's why she's deeply perplexed by the absurdity of our modern day-to-day activities and behaviours, and why she has adopted a seemingly childish way of painting as an attempt to step back and look at things as they genuinely are.
Katharina Arndt  Metalmagazine 2.jpg
First of all, could you introduce yourself, who is Katharina Arndt and what do you do?
Katharina Arndt is a contemporary artist from Germany who lives and works between Berlin and Barcelona. She studied Fine Arts at Braunschweig School of Art and later on obtained her Master of Fine Arts by John Armleder. Her fast and colourful paintings ironise the contemporary mass consumerist aesthetic of a decadent, abundant society in picturing her everyday life in the digital age.
You have now a solo show in Uxval Gochez Gallery, in Barcelona, a city where you lived for a time. If I am not wrong you are back in Berlin now, right? Do you live between both cities? Do you still have your studio in Barcelona?
Yes, I live in both cities. Usually, I prefer to spend the winter here in Barcelona, with more light and sun, close to the sea. I like the combination of both cities – Barcelona has good food and the beach and the wonderful people of Spain, while Berlin has its vibrant art scene and fantastic clubs. It is a perfect match. That’s why I home two homes and two studios.
I really like the message behind the title of Forever Young. At first sight, it seems to be an overused sentence but you use it as a metaphor for the absurdity of human desires. What came first, the idea of what you wanted to portray in this collection or the title itself?
The idea for the title of the show came first, but I already had some paintings done, so I could suggest a nice concept to the gallerist and the Barcelona Gallery Weekend team. Afterwards, I started to do tones of sketches on paper. From these sketches, I selected my favourites for the show and painted them.
Katharina Arndt  Metalmagazine 4.jpg
In past interviews, you’ve said what motivates you the most to start creating is having a specific event or exhibit date to prepare for. This makes me want to ask you about how you coped with the lack of inspiration during the pandemic.
You are right, I work perfectly when I have a room to fill and a deadline! Actually, there were maybe 3 or 4 months without deadlines in 2020. I worked on my online shop, entertained my newsletter audience and organised an exhibition. Even during the lockdown, I took my ‘locked’ shows as experience in digital marketing. Since that, I make a video about every show and focus on good documentation. I noticed, for example, that I am not into Instagram live at all, and I don’t do virtual tours.
I tested everything, this year was crazy packed with shows. I counted it, I had four solo shows and participated in twelve group shows. No time for lack of inspiration.
I can see how living in Barcelona has influenced some of your work. You have many paintings with beach references, sunburns, and even Spanish brands of drinks like beer cans or juices. Could you tell us what habits of our culture shocked you the most?
(Laughs). I am not shocked, I love you! I am so fucking German, that’s why I am so happy you are on time as well, trustworthy and always in the mood for a beer in the sun! The only thing that’s hard for me to adopt is eating so late in the evening, I am hungry at 6 pm and want to eat.
I think Barcelona is still so inspiring to me because I am still a stranger, which makes it easier to reflect on it. In Berlin, I am almost blind to motifs, maybe because I am too close.
Instagram is a clear example of the concept of Forever Young. The obsession with letting our followers know about our 'perfect lives' and the fake positivity everyone tries to post about is just as ridiculous as toxic. How do you manage to find a healthy balance in the way you use social media?
I have a good quote I read from Andy Kassier's Instagram: “Success and money is ego, not happiness,” it's so true. I see the platform as a business tool with a global reach, but my account and the number of my followers is not ‘me.’ When you're aware of the aspects of constructing and pretending to live in fake worlds you can use them creatively and play with them.
Katharina Arndt  Metalmagazine 3.jpg
In your portfolio, we can also appreciate different canvas representing the action of shaving. Does this also have to do with the idea of nonsense behaviours?
When civilisation is defined as ‘nonsense,’ then yes! For me, the shaved body belongs to the topic of a smooth surface, without any resistance, like a conformist mind. In the hyperreal and at the same time immaterial online world, only the visual appearance dominates – of ourselves and the products we are supposed to buy.
We stroke the glossy screen of our smartphone countless times a day, the bodies are hairless, the corners round, the sunglasses mirrored. The smooth appears as a metaphor for resistance, eternal youth, as artificial, uncritical, superficial and conformist.
You have mentioned that you try to “tell in very simple ways the stories about our everyday life.” Have you always found painting in a fast and childish style a way of stepping back on all this superficiality?
To paint like a child is part of a process of reduction, and this process is not finished yet. The aspects of this style are like simple stories, colourful ‘unprofessional’ looking.
If I say superficiality is something that is ‘grown-up,’ my answer to your question is yes, because children don't think about the impression they give; they are direct, pure and honest. And, hopefully, my paintings are the same!
Almost every single one of your lightwork pieces shows a quote or simply a word. Could you tell us more about the one titled Never Not pretending?
It is a neon work of mine. It is inspired by the sentence “never not working.” It is a high moral value of protestant society to work a lot, otherwise, you don’t deserve your success or your vacations when you are almost burned out. For me “never not pretending” is an ironic enhancement related to social media, saying that you are always pretending. Nothing is true, everything is surface, and please add a filter.
Katharina Arndt  Metalmagazine 7.jpg
There is a constant contrast in your creations between illusions and reality or duality between being socially active and isolated all at the same time. How do you symbolise such abstract ideas?
You can see in my paintings a lot of smartphones, sunglasses, separated people may be staring at their smartphones, smoking, smiling too much and trying to look cool. I transfer these topics material-wise into my paintings and light objects. I work on artificial media such as PVC film, lacquer paper and Plexiglas with glossy acrylic paint and lacquer markers. Fast, reduced, childlike motifs and mediums function as an artistic mirror of the quantity and speed of perceived scenes.
In pieces like Will Be Hot Today, I Don’t Smoke or Trashy Beach I can find a resemblance to Basquiat paintings. Has he influenced your work in any way?
Ah, thank you! Basquiat is so impressive and wonderful! My current stars that influence me are, for example, Rose Wylie or Katherine Bradford.
The colour pink is the main focus of most of your work. Is there a particular intention in this tendency for pink?
No, I just wanted the eighties Miami Beach mood in the exhibition.
To get to know you more… Who are your biggest inspirations and which artists do you think deserve to get more recognition?
I can list you some of my favourites: Bel Fullana, Gabrielle GraessleJenny Brosinski, Sune Christiansen, Andi Fischer or Lukas Glinkowski.
Do you have any scheduled projects we should look forward to seeing?
There are two nice solo shows coming up next year, but for now, that’s quite it.
Katharina Arndt  Metalmagazine 8.jpg
Katharina Arndt  Metalmagazine 15.jpg
Katharina Arndt  Metalmagazine 16.jpg
Katharina Arndt  Metalmagazine 14.jpg
Katharina Arndt  Metalmagazine 20.jpg
Katharina Arndt  Metalmagazine 21.jpg
Katharina Arndt  Metalmagazine 11.jpg
Katharina Arndt  Metalmagazine 17.jpg
Katharina Arndt  Metalmagazine 18.jpg
Katharina Arndt  Metalmagazine 10.jpg
Katharina Arndt  Metalmagazine 22.jpg
Katharina Arndt  Metalmagazine 23.jpg
Katharina Arndt  Metalmagazine 12.jpg
Katharina Arndt  Metalmagazine 24.jpg
Katharina Arndt  Metalmagazine 25.jpg