Kate Gottgens was born in 1965 in Durban, South Africa, and currently lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa. Gottgens graduated from the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town, in 1987. Gottgens is the most recent recipient of the Ampersand Fellowship Award, resulting in a residency in New York City, USA.


In 2020, Gottgens had a solo exhibition Skyglow On Mars Black with SMAC Gallery, Cape Town.  Earlier in 2020, she participated in a group exhibition, African Characters with Osart Gallery, in Milan, Italy. Her work was included in SMAC Gallery’s group presentation at the 2020 Investec Cape Town Art Fair, in Cape Town as well as A Show of Solidarity, a group exhibition at SMAC Gallery in Cape Town.  In 2019 her work was included in the Ampersand Foundation Award 21 years celebration exhibition curated by Gordon Froud at the University of Johannesburg Art Gallery in Johannesburg,  as well as SMAC Gallery’s presentation at FNB Art Joburg Art Fair in Johannesburg, South Africa. In 2019 Gottgens presented a solo booth show of new works for SMAC Gallery’s presentation at Untitled, Art Miami Beach, in Miami, USA.


What is one of your first memories of painting?

My first memories of painting is finger painting: sliding my fingers through a coloured flour and water mix on card at nursery school. 

What are the major themes or questions you explore in your art?

I'm interested in interrogating contemporary culture and particularly leisure, with its accompanying attitude of ennui, boredom, hedonism and recklessness. Many of my paintings depict swimming pool scenes and holiday resorts or people in domestic interiors. 

Kate Gottgens_Luminous Doom_2019_Oil on

Kate Gottgens, Luminous Doom, 2019, oil on canvas 135 x 195 cm 

Tell us about your studio, or do you work more en plein air? 

I have a studio in my garden at home in Cape Town. It's a large wooden shed clad in corrugated iron with great natural light and no network reception which is good for total focus. 

What is your process when starting a new painting, and how do you know when a work is finished?

I work largely from found photographs, and when I'm not painting I spend many hours researching and archiving images. A painting starts with laying down a ground of flat colours and then beginning with an image that excited me. Painting can be a process of problem solving and responding to one thing after another until one arrives at something complex and interesting enough to feel resolved and hold your attention. It's finished when I have a feeling close to that of surprise. 

Kate Gottgens_Fantastic Grow the Evening

Kate Gottgens, Fantastic Grow the Evening Gowns, 2020, oil on canvas, 187 x 213 cm

Figures play a large part in your paintings, could you tell us their significance or who they are?

Figures in my paintings are ciphers. They are of no one or anybody. I try to paint them in a generalised fashion, it is the pose or attitude I'm most concerned with depicting, and the atmosphere in the painting to which they contribute something.

Kate Gottgens_A Dog's Lament_2019_Oil on

If you were to pass on any advice to an artist just starting out what would it be? 

I would encourage a young artist to try to be part of an artistic community by actively collaborating or exhibiting with their peer group. Whilst also being prepared for many hours, days, months of solitude pursuing your own work. 

Kate Gottgens, A Dog's Lament, 2019, oil on canvas, 135 x 195 cm 

How do you feel your style has developed?

think by using photographs from the past particularly the 60s and 70s as reference, my paintings have a somewhat retro feel. Its a deliberate and self conscious use of camp, irony and humour. I find I can comment on the present by using references from the past. 

Who have been your greatest influences?

Goya for the sense of drama he creates with black paint. RB Kitaj, David Hockney and Francis Bacon, for their Pop 70s style. Neo Rauch, John Waters and David Lynch for their use of the surreal, camp and ironic. Louise Bourgeois for the psychological depth, exploration of subconscious impulses and feminist content of her work. 

Kate Gottgens_There Is No Ice (for my dr

Kate Gottgens, There Is No Ice (for my drink), 2020, oil on canvas, 200 x 300 cm

Whats next for you in 2021 and what are you looking forward to?

I am looking forward to a solo booth show with Smac Gallery at MIART in Milan, in September.

Finally, If you were able to interview any artist past or present who would it be?

Louise Bourgeois 

Kate Gottgens_Private Rites of Magic_202

Kate Gottgens, Private Rites of Magic, 2020, oil on canvas, 100 x 100cm