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Artist Spotlight: Kaja Stumpf

Our next Artist Spotlight features Norwegian artist Kaja Stumpf, who uses a diverse blend of painting and technology to investigate the nuances of memory, emotion and action.

Artist Kaja Stumpf
Artist Kaja Stumpf

Born in Norway, Kaja is a London-based artist, and MA Fine Art graduate from Central Saint Martins. She is the recipient of Tom Wilhelmsen Foundation grant in 2020 and 2022, as well as the Gerd & Fredrik Johan Grahl’s Foundation grant and Ingrid Lindback Langaard’s Foundation grant in 2020. She has exhibited in several group shows, including the Shortlist Exhibition for the Hari Art Prize 2022, and a solo presentation in the Cass Art Space, Islington in March 2023.


When asked about her creative motivation, she explains that in her most recent work she examines memory, self-representation, and the mind-body connection. "I explore the idea of selective memory as a means of self-preservation, and through painting, I revisit past experiences to discover unconscious and hidden motifs that control behaviour. I am interested in the coping mechanisms that develop in response to our emotional needs and why our bodies become currency to communicate what we value and how we feel." Her background in fashion design impacts her understanding of the body as a tool for self-expression and fuels the need to dig deeper into the ideas behind the exterior. "Utilising staged images and the photographic family archive, I alter the colours to create a sense of delayed familiarity, and by applying a digitally inverted filter, a parallel scene is revealed."


A demonstration of the inverted filter on the iPhone altering the colours in Kaja's painting
A demonstration of the inverted filter on the iPhone altering the colours in Kaja's painting

This process uses technology as a filter that is also a gateway- revealing the often overlooked or wholly inaccessible state of our consciousness. In a way one artwork becomes two, but more specifically shows two dimensions of one complicated scenario that digs much deeper and poses crucial questions about memory, trauma and confrontation.


Kaja Stumpf, 'Amalgamation', 2022
Kaja Stumpf, 'Amalgamation', 2022

Kaja Stumpf, 'Amalgamation', 2022 (inverted through iPhone)
Kaja Stumpf, 'Amalgamation', 2022 (inverted through iPhone)

When it comes to memory, Kaja is interested in what we choose to remember, and how certain memories become vital in the rendition of our lives, in particular those that support self-destructive behaviour. "Painting in inverted and altered colours is a reminder of how there is always an alternative way to see the world, and that our perception often relies on recognising what we already know and expect," she explains. "By questioning acquired beliefs, we allow ourselves to be more than a reductive version of ourselves. We can’t change the past, but we can change our perception by questioning the subconscious goals behind every action. In doing so we can reframe the narrative of those memories and create new goals that serve healthier and more compassionate relationships.


Reflecting back to the start of her artistic journey, Kaja describes an experience that would provide the foundation for her creative purpose. "One of my earliest memories is sitting at my grandmother’s desk where we would make anything from drawings to dolls. I didn’t think of it as art, but it made me confident I wanted to do something creative. For my BA I studied fashion, and I worked as a womenswear designer for 8 years before deciding to do my MA in Fine Art. In a way I’ve been art adjacent my whole life, but only recently did I have the courage to pursue art for a living."


The artist at work
The artist at work

Kaja found that imagery helped her negotiate personal emotions and aspects of behaviour. "I’m inspired by feelings and their actions, I want to explore and understand where it's coming from. This investigation then becomes the starting point for the images I collect." She uses photographic references, both from her childhood as well as from the present day, in an effort to connect the past and the present. "I often alter these photos in Photoshop, using different colours and inverted colours, that are not necessarily associated with the subject, to try to be more open-minded and less judgemental, as well as to let the memory be more open-ended; a reminder that there is always another side to the story, and an alternative way to see the world. It becomes a way to understand my own behaviour, coping mechanisms and shadow parts of myself that I have kept hidden, especially relating to issues with body image, and this is why the physicality of the body is very important in my work."

Kaja Stumpf, "Water Under the Bridge," 2022
Kaja Stumpf, "Water Under the Bridge," 2022

Drawing and mark-making have always been her go-to tool and form of expression. "Discovering the magical properties of oil paint has been such a joy – it always surprises me," she reflects. "I have a rough plan of the brush strokes but something completely different might happen. I always have an idea of what I’m painting before I start, but I try to be open to as many surprises along the way as possible. They are what makes it interesting, and oil paint really helps this process, as it is inherently beautiful; the depth of colour, the diverse texture, the shine – I’m obsessed with all of it."

Kaja's motivation to support Artscope: Aid Ukraine 2023 comes from a belief in the power of art to make significant change."I am honoured to be involved with Artscope Aid, as it is a great way to help in a way that I know will benefit the people of Ukraine. To be able to extend compassion in a time of need and show solidarity."


To view all of Kaja's donated works to the initiative, available now for bidding, please click here to browse the portfolio. Be sure to visit our exhibition to see Kaja's work in person from the 9th-16th June at Mandy Zhang Art.


For more information on our artists and how to support our initiative, please visit our webpage here, or contact kate@artscopeintl.com.

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