FINEPRINTCO represented artist Kathrin Longhurst was a finalist for another year in the prestigious Archibald Prize 2022.
Kathrin Longhurst’s visual language collides with the starting point of her own journey, as a child of the cold-war era, who has been to both sides of the iron-curtain. The contrast between war-propaganda imagery and glamorous promises of the other side of the wall, have been the inspirations of her early works. Longhurst reconsidered war propaganda aesthetics with ‘flying’ female warriors, in place of fearsome male figures of power. Her early works aim to bend the visual paradigm of men and women at war, imposed by the patriarchal power structures of the past.
Longhurst’s initial approach is self-observational, rewriting the recent history to empower the idea of a gender-equal future. ‘Volatility’ has been given a new meaning with the arrival of the digital age, as the nuclear fear of the past has been suspended. Longhurst’s interest in the ethics of progression has inspired her to track the footsteps of other women’s journeys, to understand the future-challenges of digital natives. Women’s struggles are an important part of the undocumented history of our civilisation, carrying meaningful information to help analyse the mistakes of the recent history and to avoid any fallacy of progression. A well-respected member of the Sydney arts community, Longhurst served as vice president for Portrait Artists Australia and was the founder and director of the innovative Project 504. She completed her 16th solo show in 2019 and has been a finalist in numerous awards including the Archibald Prize, the Doug Moran, the Darling Prize, the Sulman Prize, the Percival Portrait Award, the Mosman Art Prize, the Portia Geach Award, the Shirley Hannan National Portrait Prize and the WA Black Swan Prize. Her work is collected widely in Australia and internationally.
“Born out of my own experience of overcoming suppression and adversity, growing up in Former East Germany, a feeling of displacement and insecurity when moving to the West, I felt the strong desire to turn difficult experiences into something powerful and positive.”
Kathrin Longhurts's Latest Series 'FIGHTING SPIRIT' (2021)
As with most plans over the last two years, Kathrin had to pivot hers for Fighting Spirit, to accommodate an ever-changing and unpredictable world. Due to months of lockdown, the women she wished to paint and embody in this series, were suddenly inaccessible. It was this inability to control her environment and what would usually inform her creative process, that make these works so special.
For Longhurst, control and the constructs of power are not new territory. Her upbringing in East Berlin, counting tanks and wearing military uniform is a powerfully foreign image from iconic Australian allegory. Fighting Spirit reconsiders Longhurst’s themes on power dichotomies and paradigms while continuing the dialogue on themes of control. Post Me Too, women across the world stood in their power, knowing they had a chance to take back control of their bodies and their traumas. Just when it felt like progress was finally being made, we watched on as Afghani women lost the right to an equal life, young women in Egypt are jailed for the way they dress and act, and abortion is criminalised as women are stripped of the right to own their bodies in states of the United States – something that is all too common in countries around the world.
Here, in Australia the collective of women sigh as yet another male with conservative views on women’s rights and equal marriage rises to power, a serial gang rapist walks back into the community and another woman is murdered by her partner. Forced lockdowns and a world enduring the spread of a pandemic only served to highlight the fragility of the human condition. Longhurst asks the viewer; Do we sit like Body and Mind, eyes closed, praying for something to change? Or do we take action, like Make The Days Count – hands strapped, ready to deflect the next punch? No matter the answer, her heroines give hope for what lies around the corner.
Body and Mind. SKU: LE-KL-010-F
Like the pressure that forms coal into diamond, the heaviness of a world in turmoil pushed Longhurst forward into new terrain. Followers of her work will recognise the essence and stoic nature of the feminine portrayed in her heroines, however Fighting Spirit conveys less emphasis on symbols of power. Gone are the militarized uniforms and glorified, made up women – instead, Longhurst plays with the idea of silence and vulnerability as indicators of strength. To the artist, the ability to face hardship and adversity with courage and compassion are what defines a strong woman and these paintings are a greater exploration of this belief. Stylistically inspired by the Film Noir era, a number of these works display somber tones and a darkened palette, reflecting the disenchantment of our times. Not only do Longhurst’s subjects convey a softness and a tender passiveness that draw the viewer into their world; they exude a fragility that only comes with extreme vulnerability. Fighting Spirit holds a mirror to the viewer asking us to surrender to what we can’t control, but to remain hopeful for what we can. For when we lose control, what we value is truly called in to question.
They may connote a softness and docility, but Kathrin’s women are as enduring as they’ve ever been. There is power in silence and Longhurst’s heroines are observing and listening. They whisper, “I’m still here, I won’t give up”.
Each Limited Edition Kathrin Longhurst print is signed and numbered by the artist, with only 20 prints available for each piece.
View all of our Kathrin Longhurst Prints here