THE SIX FOOT GALLERY INTERVIEW: Karla Healy (Print Unleashed)

Karla is undertaking a Masters in Fine Art Practice after graduating in Painting and Printmaking from Glasgow School of Art in 2023. Her work considers the impact of humans sleepwalking into their own demise through a process of wilful ignorance and the neoliberal push for individualism. Karla is an unashamed disabled artist who juggles her full-time studies alongside caring for two children and two dogs.

See Karla’s work as part of Print Unleashed, which runs at Six Foot Gallery until July 18th 2024.

How did your artistic journey start?
I turned to art later in life while undertaking a law degree. I realised I couldn’t conform to the expectations of society enough to be a solicitor in a corporate firm, that I hated what the business of law turned the majority of lawyers into, and that I wasn’t wealthy enough to follow the career path within the law that I would have enjoyed the most. So, I decided to try an even more elitist and money-driven field where the working class is considered an outfit you put on while you study and people really don’t understand the meaning of true poverty.  It very much is as Pulp describe it in Common People.

How did you arrive at the theme of your work?
Disillusionment.  Much of my current work considers the wilful ignorance of humans towards fellow humans, the disdain towards other lifeforms and towards the wider environment we were privileged to caretake. We are sleepwalking into our own demise, causing the mass extinction of billions of plants, animals and insects, and we don’t seem to care. We have been convinced that all 8 billion of us are powerless against the systems we live under.  I am so disillusioned with the selfishness that neoliberalism and late capitalism have endorsed among the Western populations and how we embrace the concept of the individual rather than community so readily. We have lost sight of what it means to be human and we refuse to see the damage that is causing to us as a species and to our planet.

Which artists inspire you? Are there non-artistic influences such as music or literature that impact your work?
While I love the work of many artists, I do not generally turn to visual artists for inspiration. Instead, I am inspired by the work of cultural and critical theorists such as Mark Fisher, Frederick Jamieson and Slavoj Zizek. I am interested in how they conflate political ideologies, academic theory and societal behaviours with modern music, film and literature themes. Interestingly they don’t often discuss fine art and I am interested in bridging that gap with both my practical making and written theoretical work.  Other non-artistic influences include politicians that anger me, angry music that relaxes me and trashy dystopian TV series.

What emotions or reactions do you hope viewers experience when they see your artwork?
I don’t really hope for any particular reaction or emotion from viewers. I’d like people to reflect upon what is in front of them and how it may impact or relate to their own lives, in whatever form that may take.  I have been accused of making people extremely anxious when presenting my work, but I have also had far more positive encounters where people have connected to it on an aesthetic level or a more profound existential one.

What challenges did you experience during your creation of your work and how did you overcome them?
I have something called aphantasia which means I have no mind’s eye. I cannot visualise images within my head, so I think in words.  Where most people when prompted will imagine some form of beach with calming waves, I see blackness. This makes creating visual art quite difficult as you’re never quite sure what is going to work or not. Trying to improvise often results in mucking up the work. So much of the preparation and problem-solving has to be completed before starting to make the paintings or prints to prevent that from happening.  It means my reference material has to be quite specific to the final output. I use a lot of photographs and digital drawings or digital collages to generate my source imagery. Where I feel my generated source material cannot be improved upon by painting, I will generate a print. 

How do you know when a piece is complete?
I never feel a painting is complete. I just get so weary working on it that I have to take a break. I often think I’ll return to complete a painting but rarely do and have loads of unfinished large paintings stored away to be completed one day.  Prints are far easier to consider complete. The act of printing for me is a process so the imagery will usually be completed before I undertake the process.  Then it’s just a case of following procedure. I like that about printing. It gives me an endpoint that I feel painting does not.

See more of Karla’s work on her Instagram @LaBoBo

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