© 2020 – 2022. 2chairs artspace

A talk with Sabine Kontny

Hi Sabine, nice to see you at 2chairs. Let's start with a brief introduction. Why do you call yourself a 2chairs artist?

Hi Lena, nice to be here! Thank you so much! I am a 2chairs artist because my way into becoming an artist wasn't straight.

After struggling with burnout in 2013 I decided to quit my job as a social worker and came back to what I ever truly wanted in my life. So I got myself a studio, became a member of the Gallery Artclub Cologne and started to have exhibitions and sell some of my paintings and wire sculptures. In the beginning, I was convinced to accept myself as an autodidactic artist. But after a while, I somehow got stuck. So I made a portfolio and applied to study art. I've been accepted directly.

Today, I work as an artist, gardener and lead tantric workshops for women and organise cuddle parties with my partner. I am into shamanism and try to figure out how to combine everything.

Could you please tell us more about your way to the artistic practice? What were the main challenges there?

The main challenge on my way to the artistic practice was and still is to believe in myself and accept and love how I handle things. During my childhood and especially my teenage years art was essential for me. I every inner crisis solved by painting and doing craftwork. But I felt too shy to study art immediately after school. There were only a few people around me who did believe in my talent.

When I started to study art, I was 34 years old. I was able to finance my entire art studies through a retraining program of the Deutsche Rentenversicherung (pension insurance). I am so thankful for the years I could only focus on my artistic practice without any fears about how to manage my income. But to get there I went through a lot of institutional resistance and had to fight for every little step I made. Though I believed in becoming an artist I had to convince the consultant of the Deutsche Rentenversicherung to do
so as well. And I did!

There were personal challenges that I had to go through as well. It was a long way out of depression and anxiety to a confident, free way of life. Today, I am grateful for this darkest point that brought so much light into my life. And I think the way I did everything was the best one for my personal growth and shouldn't have been any different.
You studied in two art schools. Do you find art education a necessary part of the artistic career? What are the most important inputs art schools brought to you?

I studied fine arts in the class of Michael Reisch at the Alanus University of Arts and Social Sciences near Bonn from 2016-2020 and graduated with a B.F.A. with distinction. I am very thankful for the extraordinary time I spent there and the support, that was given to me through my class, my fellow students and friends and all my profs there, especially the razor-sharp, fine and detailed criticism of Michael Reisch. He was a great teacher to me.
For the first time in my life, I have experienced how it feels to be surrounded by like-minded people. Recognising myself in my artistic process while also noticing that my fellow students are going through the same process, simply made me happy. So I understood which elements are all part of the artistic process. I learned, what are times for
productivity, what is considered part of preparation – and this can even be my contact improvisation dance I fell in love with – and what are times for rest. And I realised that I need everything of it to come into my creative power. That is what I appreciated the most at Alanus University.

2021 I continued my studies at the HBK Braunschweig in the photography class of Natalie Czech. I expected to deepen my photographic focus but in the end, it was kind of a repetition for me. Due to Corona, I could barely be there physically. So I decided to exmatriculate myself and devote myself entirely to my artistic practice.

I think art education is not entirely necessary for an artistic career. But in my case, I gained a lot of development and inspiration. I am sure that I would not have made this progress without studying. After my first year of the art academy, there was this turning point where I switched from paintings and collages to making photography. I have never expected to become a photographer before. I see this as a direct result of my studies. Now I am deeply convinced that change and progression in my artistic practice will always be without limits.

What are you doing as an artist? Could you please describe your practice?

I am searching for the feeling of materials and perception, of everything touchable, sensitive and soft. I love to ask questions which aren't answerable. I love to bring new perspectives into stubborn patterns and sights of views. I love to irritate and make people struggle or let's rather put it that way: I like to make people rethink their own points of view.

I do this with my camera. I try to turn a sculptural thing or an object into a photograph that is able to give you information about your feelings. Therefore I find tiny things and catch them with my iPhone. I also work in the studio with high-end photography. I used to be perfect in creating conceptual settings of still lives. At the same time, I like to break my own concept by getting fast and spontaneous artwork to co-create new spaces when I combine both. Besides, I work with installation, my own body, sculptures and texts that I write. I am always interested in combining different artistic media and expanding my options.

Right now, there's something brand new coming upon that I don't even know what it looks like.

You are a mother and an artist. How do you combine these two roles? What is your approach to a life-work balance?

I am a mother of a 19-year-old, wonderful daughter whom I raised as a single parent. So it was kind of normal to me to deal with the situation of being a student and a single mom. This time it was easier because when I started with the art academy she was already 12 years old. During my first studies to become a social worker, she was a baby and it was really hard to combine being a mom and getting into a profession, always struggling between self-realisation and bad conscience. That was in both cases the hardest point to deal with for me. I had to commute one hour each way to the art academy. I spent less time at home. When I had events on top, it got even more. The positive result was that my daughter was already quite independent at a very early age.

We have a very good relationship and can talk about everything. She still lives with me, but it feels more like living in a shared flat. We share household work and tasks, cook together and love to play cards. My daughter grew up with all kinds of artistic media and handicrafts. In the last years, she started with oil painting and playing the piano. She usually is among the first whom I ask for an artistic opinion. And I do listen to her critics.

My approach to a life-work balance is to have a good connection to my intuition and be aware of myself. The moment I believe in what I'm doing, I radiate something different than when I have a bad conscience all the time. I teach my child that it's important to go for the things you burn for. At the same time, I think it's super important to listen to my Mother's heart and spend as much quality time with my daughter as possible. There's actually nothing more important than to be with the people you love the most.

You present show "be yourself (20 versions)". What is the idea behind your installation?

"be yourself" (20 versions) is a work I did in 2019. I chose it because it felt the closest to me at the moment. I loved the reinstallation for the shooting with you, Lena. There was this absolutely easy and genuine moment we got through that reminded me of being authentic.

For the work "be yourself (20 versions)" I cast a canning rubber with a diameter of about 70 cm from coloured latex. With the tape, I performed movement studies and photographed them by self-timer. Inspired by the sentence of Marina Abramović: "Art must be beautiful. Artist must be beautiful" (1975), I deal in my work "be yourself (20 versions)" with common patterns of ideals of beauty in the representation of the female body in fashion and society. In doing so, I use the canning rubber like a piece of clothing that needs to be presented, testing its possibilities and limitations and thus surrendering more and more to the rhythm of the object itself.

Sarah Schultz, visual artist and teacher, sitting on 2 chairs
Your artistic practice is focused mostly on gender issues. How have you come to the feministic discourse?

To deal with feministic discourses runs through my life. I believe that the reason for this lies in my life story. Beyond that, I feel a universal call, far beyond the personal, to participate in the healing of the feminine and the masculine. It was less a decision than something coming out of my deepest inside. Just a few years ago I was very politically active and oriented towards feministic discourse, very academic, very cerebral. I read a lot of books. I gendered and was outraged by people who didn't. There was this urge to expose patriarchal power structures and make clear what was suppressed. Now I've "rushed deeper." From the head into the heart, you might say. I practice a very sacred, healing
sexuality, deal with the ancient feminine knowledge that has been so eradicated here in Europe, dance the Moondance (a 1000-year-old ritual to heal the female ancestral lineage) and hold women's circles. Over time, my understanding of female wisdom and what lies behind the feministic discourse has profoundly deepened.

I am thankful for women who can give their power to the feministic discourse. But I learned that my part will be different in the future.

Does feministic optics help you in other spheres of your life? Is it more supportive or challenging?

For me, it's not possible to separate feministic optics from other spheres of my life. I would say, one doesn't work without the other. They fertilise each other. It's like I told you in the answer above. It was like a journey for me, starting from a very theoretical point of view and then sinking deeper and deeper into my mind, my body, and my whole essence. And in doing so I am more aware of what I am doing in my artistic practice.

It's actually the whole discussion of what is life and what is artistic practice or in other words what is private and what is profession. In the past, I used to separate my artistic practice from my further human being. I experienced making art as a kind of effort. Because I tried to solve it with mental strategies, with thinking not feeling. Even if I was often in the flow.
Sarah Schultz, visual artist and teacher, sitting on 2 chairs
But then I realised, that I am a whole person. I cannot consider myself sometimes an artist and sometimes a private person. I can only be one human being because I create out of my inner self, out of my essence, out of my soul.

So when I hold a tantric oil ritual for women, we dive into a timeless space of primal trust and prenatal experience. We learn to let go of all fears that exist between women. We get touchable, openhearted, and soft. Coming back to sisterhood, motherhood, and grandmotherhood instead of being in a competitive situation how it was taught to us. While I am in this deep field with the women I am only body experience, heart, and essence. Absolutely happy, nothing else has to be done. I cannot come back and make mental decisions in my artistic practice, I have to dive deeper. I have to give birth to my artworks out of my womb because I made this experience. But I could not have opened this healing space without doing my feministic artworks before and without spending so much time on gender issues. So, everything I do goes hand in hand.

Could you please share your plans for the nearest future? Where do you see yourself in 2-3 years?

At the moment I am working on a new photographic work for the group show with you at Berlin Art Week 2023. I am very curious and also kind of nervous about it because it is the first time that I make a completely new artwork which I have seen in a vision. And it's also the first time after my blockage, to exhibit again.

For the last three years, after completing my studies at Alanus University, I struggled a lot with my artistic practice. I could not work like I was used to. I had to give up my convictions about art making and the art market, success and where I once wanted to be and start something completely new.

During this time I turned my studio into a healing room for many people. I took shamanic teachings and out of the inner female wisdom I created tantric oil rituals for women and other workshops.

So this is mainly what I am into within the next years. To find out what this new kind of art wants to express through me? What will it look like?

And then I want to travel. To see the world and to meet heart-connected people who are able to teach me about women's wisdom, plants, tantric work, and shamanism. Because I am sure that I will find everything inside myself to make art again and trust in my style.

So, to be honest, I don't want to say where I will be in 2-3 years. Anything can happen, life will change, and I will change. Going with the flow, listening to my heart, following my intuition and living a connected life is what I desire.

Thank you, Sabine, it was a wonderful talk. See you soon at the next 2chairs group show at Berlin Art Week 2023!