This week, we have the pleasure of welcoming artist Kimberly Klauss to the expert judging panel for the Jackson’s Painting Prize 2021. Kimberly, who is a figurative painter based in Munich and London, was a finalist in the Sky Arts’ Portrait Artist 2017 and her work can be found in the collections of Soho House, Villa Lena and the Ruth Borchard Next Generation collection. Here, she describes her own painting process, her studio space and some valuable insight into the importance of art competitions and the positive aspects of the submission process.
Above image: Gegenuber, 2016, Kimberly Klauss, Oil on cradled panel, 61 x 76 cm | 24.01 x 29.9 in.
Clare: Can you tell us about your practice? Where does a work begin for you and can you describe your process?
Kimberly: I paint in oils on very slick surfaces, usually figurative pieces. Often my palette is limited and the paint is applied very thinly and kind of slides around the surface. It’s quite akin to drawing. I start in one or two colours and try to stay with them for as long as possible.
I used to paint wet-in-wet, but it was very unforgiving. So I’ve slowed it down and now let the paint dry in passes, as most oil painters do.
The process itself is a kind of laboured one. I do a lot of lurching forward and shuffling and mulling and then leaping forward. Most of the time I am building up the courage and the ease to paint. And to make sure that I’m ready when I do, I make notes and collect images and mumble to myself a lot. I listen to artist talks and podcasts and tend to the practical bits of art-making. Essentially I try to make sense of my central questions and how the work can address them. And then I lunge.
I tend to think in series, so all that marinating that will start to pool into themes. That’s a starting point. And then during the painting I try to be receptive to new ones.
Clare: I really enjoy your experimental approach to working with oil on a variety of surfaces and sometimes incorporating print processes too. Are you still making your own oil paints? Can you tell us about any recent discoveries or breakthroughs you have had with your materials?
Kimberly: Thank you! Right now I am playing with introducing more visual complexity into the paintings and addressing their non-pictorial subjects. I am also trying to make myself uncomfortable. The print processes came about that way, as did making my own paints.
Printing puts a process barrier between me and the painting and I have to give up some control. It does what brushes can’t. Then there’s the fact that printings very business is re-producing, which I find fascinating with regards to portrayal and veracity. It feels like the first domino to tip; it’s really exciting.
I ended up making my own paint because I was on the hunt for fluorescent colours. Neon pink is very pretty, and it’s very shrill. It heightens something that I have previously been wanting to expel from my paintings. And when you make your own paint, you can change its consistency, and make it quite solid even, and that’s a whole other playground.
Clare: Can you describe your studio to us?
Kimberly: It’s a pretty non-descript square actually. It has white walls, a large window front, and a pale grey floor that I laid atop this awful industrial carpeting. It is home to beautiful and hideous older pieces of furniture, items I love but can’t let go of, and useless thrift store finds. And paintings and books. There are two trollies, an easel, a desk and many places for my dachshund Hilde to comfortably nap.
Clare: What is your most important artist tool? Do you have any favourites?
Kimberly: The environmentally unfriendly answer is baby wipes. I’d be truly lost without them. Other items I’d take with me on a desert island are stand oil, solvent, slanted brushes, and Michael Harding Napthol Red. Add canvas, rabbit skin glue, and thixotropic primer and I could paint till the bitter end.
Clare: How important do you think awards and competitions are for artists today?
Kimberly: They’ve certainly been hugely important for me. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
Aside from the pluses and minuses of having your work put before others and building your resume and all that, the whole private process of evaluation that accompanies submitting to open calls is so invaluable. You evaluate your work in the context of the award or competition, you evaluate your work in the context of the rest of your work, and then finally in light of having been accepted or, way more often than not, rejected. That sharpens and focuses your own relationship to what you are making, in the face of varying reception.
Beyond my own personal experience, I’ve always found awards and competitions to be something generous, for the public, for artists, and for art lovers. People who have seen a lot of art and who know a lot about art open their doors just a little, in a domain that has a lot of closed ones.
Clare: What will you be looking for in the entries submitted to the competition this year?
Kimberly: I could give you a list of qualities, but those never seem to hold up in practice. It can be that way with people too. You itemize your likes and dislikes, but then if you are lucky, you meet a person who kind of undoes all your expectations and delights you with who they are, and that list goes out the window doesn’t it? I have that with other people’s artwork as well. Sometimes they seem so self-evident and wholly surprising, and it’s a great feeling.
Clare: Do you have any advice for artists out there thinking about entering Jackson’s Painting Prize this year?
Kimberly: First off definitely enter. You don’t want to decide not to, only then to see your peers be included in the shortlist. So so aggravating. Secondly I would choose to submit what is an honest reflection of you and your practice right now. And if possible, I would avoid making things specifically for the prize, especially if it would end up taking you away from what you are already working on or towards.
Clare: What can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
Kimberly: I have a painting in the ING Discerning Eye show through the end of the year, and there are two ongoing series I am currently producing work for: a collection of small works on paper about self-presentation, and a series of interior portraits.
The turbulences of 2020 have really turbocharged some themes already present in my work, so the upcoming paintings deal with home, interior life, and race in much more explicit terms.
Submissions for Jackson’s Painting Prize 2021 are now open. To enter or find out more visit our competition website and sign up to our competition newsletter to receive the latest updates about Jackson’s Painting Prize.