Based up in Aberdeen, fine artist Kate Steenhauer depicts freeze framed moments of action be it an industrial scene on the docks or a conductor of an orchestra in full flow. Her work can be found in London, Edinburgh and Aberdeen and we thought we’d have a quick catch up with her.
You have a background in semi-pro tennis, which takes creativity and analysis, engineering, which obviously takes a lot of structure and now you’re pursuing art, which is more free flowing, how have your previous experiences helped with what you do now?
I apply the same attitude and attributes, discipline, hard work, and as with anything the key is, of course, practice. Engineering certainly does not lack the need for creative input and I apply a degree of engineering to my art. In my opinion, good art is to a degree engineered, yet appears simple, is fluid and spontaneous. In history, many artists approached their technique or subject matter scientifically, to name but a few, Turner to colour, Constable to weather and Da Vinci to anatomy. There are a lot of technical components to art that need to work together, such as composition, mark-making, materials and medium. Without thinking and a bit of engineering beforehand I would not be able to create the art I do today. Within this rational framework however, I work free.
You’re based up in Aberdeen, which can have some pretty bleak weather. Does that inspire you or do you just lock the doors ’til it’s all over and you can get back to work?
That seems to be the general view, however the north-east has blue skies a lot more than you think. But in any case, I like moody weather, it has atmosphere, and in the same spirit I deliberately go and find grubby places for my art, such as a cooperage, shipyards and heliport. I see beauty in the natural grit of everyday life.
One of the unique things about your work is that you draw from life amidst the hustle and bustle, with production in full swing. What has been the best place you’ve worked in so far?
Standing on top of a helicopter in a gigantic hangar is pretty exciting. Days spent drawing in the barns when ‘the butts’ – barrels nearly as tall as the coopers themselves – were being charred were great too, as well as meddling with farmers at one of the biggest livestock auctions in Europe. However, I cannot forget this summer at Opera Holland Park where I followed the conductor Matthew Kofi Waldren; a rising star in the opera industry, alongside the City of London Sinfonia, and the cast of Puccini’s late masterpiece, ‘La Rondine’.