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In the Studio with Karine Wehbé

Karine Wehbé is a visual artist whose multi-disciplinary practice incorporates photography, cinema and archival footage. Her work embeds intimate and public chronicles, drawing on adolescent experiences, music and philosophical influences, and the mechanisms of memory and nostalgia. We met with Karine to discuss her work and the day in the life of an artist.

When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist? 
 
I started my artistic practice in 2000, a few years after graduating my degree in graphic design.
 
What’s your background? Has this impacted your work as an artist?
 
I lived part of my childhood in Lebanon during the war, then my family immigrated to Paris because of the security situation. In 2000, I came back after my graduation. This displacement started to impact my view on the world, my country and its violent history. From the beginning of my practice until today, I have been archiving, drawing, taking images, collecting stories, about my environment and what would become my major inspiration, Lebanon.

Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. Have you gone through the traditional route of art school and what was your experience? 

I went through a graphic design school where the practice of manual drawings was very important. We use to draw more than 20 hours a week. So my daily artistic journey started in general by a coffee, a look on my laptop, then in my atelier I would draw, make installations of elements that inspire me. In general, I will always go for a walk to collect objects, vintage elements and anything that can stimulate my creativity. I like to surround myself by many different things; plant, objects, clothes etc. Another part of my journey was opening an art gallery with my old boyfriend called ‘gallery xxx’. I found the discussion and dialogues around art inspiring and I still work today with many artists in my graphic design practice. 

What’s the message of your work? How would you describe your aesthetic?
 

Through my work I try to connect personal and intimate chronicles or memories to the collective history. Sometimes they are narratives based on research, that can be the starting point of a whole series of work. Or sometimes it’s spontaneous, like answering a very immediate question or to emotions. Films, music and philosophy all play very important roles as well.

How would you describe your aesthetic? 

My aesthetic is minimal but can unfold to more complex representations. 

I’m becoming interested in creating dialogue between contradictory thoughts, elements, objects, materials, and installations.

Who and what are your greatest influences? 

 Women feminist art; Sophie Calle, Louise bourgeois, Marlene Dumas, 

Ghada Amer, Pipilloti Rist, Camille Henrot, Laure Prouvost…

Untitled, no. 3 of 12, from the series, Twelve Works on Paper 2007-8 by Louise Bourgeois

Are your works planned? What do you want people to take from your work when they view it? 

My work is always planned. I want  the viewer to connect to their own personal history so that their perception creates an interior bridge between the work and themselves.

How has your art evolved? Do you experiment? Are there any mediums you avoid?

My work has evolved with me as I focus on different situations in my life, changing alongside my interests and my environment. Through my practice I always find myself on the ground; looking at stories, images, collecting. I experiment with mediums and ideas. I reach out to people for collaborations, even working in their medium. I’ll create works that take on a different perspective than my previously material, or that challenges me in some way.  I use mediums as a vehicle for my vision of the work, so I don’t limit myself.  

What are your ideal conditions for creating a good piece of work?

Quiet and peaceful surroundings.

An item you cannot work without?

A pen.

What are your plans for the future? 

I’m preparing a series of a new works that came directly after the Beirut Blast Explosion of the 4th August 2020 where my whole studio was destroyed.

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