The Smell of Hollywood, 2016
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Narratives of desire are central to Katja Seib’s works. Created using a labour intensive method involving the smoothing of hessian cloth with several layers of rabbit glue and chalk, the resultant works display a complex and alluring visual vocabulary.
In ‘The Smell of Hollywood’, a half-naked woman with her back turned to the audience is seen looking out of a window at the famous Hollywood Sign, while a man in a hat grasps her shoulder intimately. He engages in a sensuous yet unusual act, smelling the woman’s armpit, a detail that playfully makes sense of the work’s title. The foreground is overwhelmed with indoor greenery; a tentacle-like plant on the right obscures parts of the pictorial frame while another one on the left echoes the green of the flowery wallpaper. A hand with a tattoo of a bulldog emerges from the side of the screen, announcing a third presence that seems to be watching the couple through the plants; this could even be the hand of the viewer, incorporated into the work as a reminder that by looking at this painting, the audience is complicit in a voyeuristic act.
Colour is an important part of Seib’s practice; by mixing her own pigments to be thick or thin, she controls the emotional intensity of her works. The dank tones of the European-style interior jars with the peaceful lilac hues of LA on view outside the window. A sense of claustrophobia pervades the painting, evoking a longing to escape this almost oneiric world to live a better life outside of the domestic setting depicted.