Gold Earth—Madeleine Hatz’s art exhibition

Swedish artist Madeleine Hatz has been living and working in Brooklyn, New York, for thirty years. “But I go back home to Sweden often to stand on solid ground,” Katz said recently during her exhibition “Gold Earth,” in Stockholm.
Hatz is an artist who expresses herself through painting, sculpture and performance art. She has showed her work at several galleries around the world, including in New York. This exhibition ran March 24 to April 17 at the cultural center FORUM in Stockholm. One of the paintings will now be at Stockholm's Museum of Contemporary Art, and Statens Konstråd bought another painting.
FORUM is a unique cultural meeting ground for all areas of art. Director Jean Claude Arnault has from the start in 1989 created an atmosphere that is removed from the larger institutions. He wants the different areas of art to co-exist and fuse together. Here the different arts can be music, theater, visual art, dance or literature readings—all often with a common theme to create a cross-cultural event. The facility is in a basement which offers the potential for reflection and artistic experience that is beyond time and place. Truly a unique place for cultural meetings, this intimate environment has hosted both Swedish and international artists in the forefront of their own artistic areas.
Hatz’s exhibition at FORUM can be seen as five large paintings that become the source of light in a facility without windows, a world full of light you can enter. They each have different moods and expressions but common colors from the golden earth palette. All five were painted in Brooklyn in 2010.
Arnault wanted this exhibition to reflect the spirit of FORUM and asked Hatz to collaborate with a poet. She invited Lila Zemborain, a professor at the University of New York, to her studio in Brooklyn. Hatz left the studio so Zemborain could write without distraction. The poem was printed in the program and brought another dimension to the exhibition.


Why did you name this collection of paintings Gold Earth?
“For me it is a whole scale of colors that becomes one palette. It has to do with the earth, maybe even the inner source of the earth that is glowing. You can also see it as the crust of the earth, another planet or the sun. It is not specific—you, the viewer can enter the world like it is a poetic world.”
Did you have all those thoughts when you started working on these paintings?
“Yes and no. I always start with one color. The color is an open door that gives me inspiration, it is like an intuition. I do not choose a color because I think it is beautiful. It is more like a vision; something speaks to me. I can feel it, like you can taste something or smell something. It needs to be a clear and strong sensation and then I can follow that lead. That is how the process starts for me.”
What is your routine when you paint?
“I need to come to a neutral inner calm. If I have had a period with a lot of interactions with other people, I sometimes sit quietly by myself for half a day. I have to get rid of the inner clutter. There has to be emptiness between activities and painting. When I start painting I need to have a quiet and still environment with no distractions from the outside world. Usually I meditate while painting. I let go of everything else and no time passes by. I take away my own ego and the painting takes over. It is like the painting paints itself, I am just a medium. These paintings took several months so it is important that I plan my time well.”
Katz often starts with larger strokes of paint and at the end she uses smaller and smaller brushes to add smaller and smaller details. Her paintings can be viewed as a whole world, or you can focus on one small part of the painting and experience something totally different. The paintings come to life in different ways depending on your distance to the painting, the light and the angle from which you stand to view it. It is a constant shift in experience while the paintings come alive.
What do you use as a canvas, and what materials do you use while painting?
“For these large paintings I painted on cotton canvas. First I use watercolor and then oil. To add more texture I use non-orthodox materials like sand, plaster, crushed ceramic, reused car tires and a material that architects use to build landscapes with. These paintings give you a feeling that they will change soon, they are not constant. Like the earth rotates a little and the relation between the sky and the earth is changed. But the paintings are always a situation in the room, a meeting with the person viewing it. The viewer needs to make his own journey while exploring the painting ... I like to see a painting as a never ending world that you enter into.”

Katz often works with different themes, and this one, Gold Earth, is something she has worked with for several years in different variations. She likes creating large paintings because she wants the viewers to feel as if they are entering the painting with their whole bodies.
It all started with a large painting that today is with a collector in Holland. That painting is the source of a dream Katz has to build a house for needy women in Haiti. She already has the architectural drawings and is in communication with several women’s groups there. The building itself will have a dome where Katz will paint the ceiling with inspiration from that first painting of her Gold Earth theme. She knows it is a large and difficult project, but the process has started rolling.

What do you have planned after this exhibition?
“I will come back to Sweden in the fall and participate in an exhibition at the Emigrant Museum in Växjö, Sweden. That exhibition is about double identity, migration and immigration. I said yes to this because I liked the ambition to work for more understanding and openness toward one another in this world. I think it is a very important exhibition.”

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