About Karen

Born Australia

Lives & works Basel, Switzerland

A painter by training (CoFA UNSW, Sydney) and habit, I cross over into printmaking, sculpture, digital, and design according to the needs of the work.

After nearly 20 years working in the gallery and museums sector as a director and curator, I recently decided to return to my own artmaking practice. While my great strength in the gallery sector was my ability to understand the art from a practioner’s point of view and to communicate that to clients and gallery visitors, I had a creeping realisation that I was good-naturedly envying their extraordinary artistic labours and wishing that I, too, was in the studio. With the closure of Galerie Zadra, I decided there is no better time to return to my easel.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve experienced the world visually. My mind’s eye is constantly full of images which arise from my daily encounters with the concrete and the conceptual. Some vaporise almost immediately, others hang around for a bit, while others have been nagging me for decades to be outed.

To the outsider, my artistic ideas can appear like a jumble of unrelated, random themes but driving it all is a fascination with the human experience and knowledge across time and space, and obviously interpretted through my eyes.

My school reports often said: “Karen is easily distracted” but to me, I’m not distracted, I’m fascinated by the complex of connections between people, things and time even if these connections are not initally, but eventually the connections materialise and my wonder at this thing called life intensifies.

Art is my way of finding and making visual sense of this complexity. It charts my crisscrossing journey across the churning sea that is my mind.

If there is one defining element that ties my multifarious practice together, it’s colour. I have always been drawn to colour, its power, subtleties and ambiguities, its truth, its lies.

I was once told by a lecturer that we all have our own unique colour biases that influence us. I told her I didn’t have any fixed colour preferences and she insisted that that was not possible. But I honestly don’t. Every colour to me can be equally beautiful and ugly, depending on how and where it occurs. Going into an art supply store and seeing a wall of pigments is torture for me, like a junkie in a drug den: I want them all. I see endless potential in every colour. I get excited by the tiniest nuances and interactions. To favour certain colours above others is simply impossible for me. Besides, why would I limit myself in that way? It’s the artistic equivalent of a labotomy.

So here I stand at the resumption of my life as an artist. As I add more work to this site, some will be presented in series, others will stand alone. At any point in the future I may continue to add new works to existing series if I have more to say.

Above all, I will be working to my own rhythm, not to an exhibition schedule (freedom, hooray!), unless a gallery wants to pay me obsence amounts of money to control my time.

What sense you draw from my peripatetic and disparate works is yours and yours alone.

Perhaps you see no sense at all, and I’m completely fine with that.

Karen Zadra. Portrait by Robert McFarlane. Copyright 2012. R. McFarlane.
Karen Zadra. Portrait by Robert McFarlane. Copyright 2012. R. McFarlane.