Rapp in the Studio

By: Katharina Rapp, 20 September 2013

Rapp in the Studio

What do you see when you look at the above painting?  A portrait of a woman sitting on a horse?  That’s correct, of course, but it’s only the quick answer.

The slow answer, like slow food, is much more complex—because thrown into the mix are cultural references, symbols, and philosophical views on life.

As the title suggests, this is a portrait of myself.  I painted it when I was young and beautiful—now I’m only beautiful, ha ha.  My German name Rapp, a shorter version of the word Rappe, means black horse, so it’s not altogether surprising that a dark steed keeps turning up in my paintings.

And since I’m banging on about things German—the national colours are black, red and gold.  It seemed a natural progression of thought to pull these three main colours together into one composition, as a self-portrait has to make reference to the country where one comes from.

Look at the trees.  They are autumnal, providing the golden colour I needed.  But are they real trees?  No, they are trees painted on a canvas, which is leaning against a wall.  Visual deception within visual deception.  Remember the famous pipe by Magritte?  It has the caption, ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’ – this is not a pipe.  How could it be a real pipe?  It’s a bit of cloth with some oily stuff on it.  The rest is no more than optical illusion.  That’s what I was playing with when I painted these trees on a leaning canvas.  It also helped to create a studio atmosphere, where half-finished canvases are stacked against the wall most of the time.

Look at the horse.  Is it a real horse?  No.  It’s a horse made up of many individual canvases, like a house of cards.  The rider on top, so confident looking, might come crashing down any moment.  The house of cards, or the puzzle pieces of the horse underneath her, could simply collapse one day.   Life is never certain.  One could crash in one’s career, or one could succumb to ill-health.  But while we’re on top, we might as well look splendid.

There is another bit of symbolism in this painting, and this one is pure ‘Rappland’.  My first name Katharina is a bit of a mouthful, and too long for a signature in oil paint.  Signing with K. Rapp was not the answer, either—a  friend of mine once called me Miss Krapp, in jest.  Who would want to be painter and critic at the same time?

That’s why I placed that palette with the droppings underneath the backside of the horse.  It’s symbolic for my full signature, if you like.

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