Karin Schuh studied visual communication specialising in illustration in Lucerne. She then gained experience creating stage sets, illustrations and working with children and young people. She worked in various locations including Mar del Plata, Argentina, where she conducted design workshops for the organization Ceremap. In 2008, she began working independently as a visual artist in the studio and applying for exhibitions and grants. She completed her Masters in Contemporary Art Practice with distinction. Since then, she has received various grants and won competitions as an artist. Since 2015 she has been teaching at the Kunstschule Liechtenstein. She is currently working in her studio at the Rote Fabrik in Zurich on two series of paintings for upcoming exhibitions and preparing her teaching sessions for September. Karin Schuh is 41 years old. She lives in Zurich and is the mother of two small children.
Where and how did you grow up?
In the city of Zurich in different places with my single mother. Later I also lived at times with my father. I had no siblings but many pets. I spent a lot of time with my dog I in the forest climbing, reading and writing stories. I have memories of these as happy days full of freedom.
Could you describe your professional background?
I’ve had no professional career in that sense. Looking back and also currently there is a great ambiguity and uncertainty; a pulling and pushing in different directions. The constant is my urge to draw and paint. Apart from my creative activities I have always worked in the hospitality sector or in the art gallery.
Were there certain events or stations that were formative for your career?
Impulses were certainly always artworks that I have seen, which attract and accompany you through life. The inner restlessness, the search and the joy of creating are also part of it.
Have there been certain people who have been formative for your career?
I found the teachers in the Masters program were great. Here I was allowed to and had to develop.
Has your environment supported you in your career?
My paternal grandfather supported me financially during my Masters studies. My father always encouraged me to pursue my interests. My parents have a very different, more extrovert image of artists, but they support me or let me get on.
What are your current activities?
I paint and I teach. I spend a lot of time with my two children.
Does what you are currently doing fulfil you?
I think it’s nice that I can earn my money by teaching today. That way different circles of life come together. I value working with people a lot. In addition each age group requires a very different approach and guidance; the energy of children, a professional approach with young people, more process based work with adults.
I am so grateful that I still have the opportunity to paint. This fills me with great wonder.
Do you think that you yourself have an influence on whether your activities are fulfilling?
Check again and again. Start again and again. A certain consistency in change and an endurance are part of it.
What or who inspires you in everyday life?
Much of what I see. Watching. Experiences. Thoughts.
What or who gives you strength and energy in everyday life?
There are ‘magic moments’ when everything seems to fit. Moments that fulfil, inspire and give strength. Moments that confirm that the effort is worthwhile and that what you do is meaningful and valuable. Have you already experienced such moments in relation to your own activities?
When an image succeeds or surprises. When a vague idea can be implemented and formulated. The processes from initial hunch to implementation to translation to selection still fascinate me.
Do you actively do something so that such ‘magic’ moments can happen?
Allow for time and space. In my current situation, this is rather difficult.
Are there moments when you doubt what you are doing?
Doubts are a constant: the financial aspects, my fears for the future, stress. I block out financial worries and fears about the future. I can deal with stress if I limit my actions and thoughts to my field of action.
In retrospect, can you find something positive in difficult moments?
Looking back, I think it’s nice when lean times turn into fuller ones.
Is there anything you would do differently in retrospect?
Probably many things.
No longer wasting so much time on questions of legitimacy, unimportant things, hidden expectations, a conformist existence, brooding.
Do you want to contribute to society with your activities?
That would be reaching too high. But there are sillier things I could be doing, when you paint at least you don’t do anything corrupt. Perhaps any quiet occupation that doesn’t yield any direct economic benefit is also a kind of resistance? I think it’s beautiful when the power of pictures is able to touch people. Images can go where words cannot.
When I work with children and young people, I try to accompany them so that they can listen to their inner voice and feel their own power. Inventing things and putting them into practice makes you feel alive and strong.
Is the recognition of other people or the public important to you?
Every person needs recognition. But whether this needs to come ‘from the public’ is not something I can judge. I think interaction is important.
How well can you live from what you do professionally?
At the moment our family is financially dependent on my husband’s income. He is also self-employed as an exhibition scenographer and he teaches. We put everything together. Fortunately we live in a cheap cooperative apartment in the middle of Zurich. A lot of organization and flexibility is required in everyday family life. I hope that our financial situation will change.
Is there something that is particularly occupying you at the moment?
I observe world political events more attentively than before. I would like to get more involved in my immediate environment. Supervising children strengthens this need.
Is there something you would like to spend more time on in the future?
On many things from the fields of practical philosophy / painting / visual arts.
I wish my activities to become more intense, more radical, more precise.
What are you most grateful for in life?
That I am alive and healthy. That I had and have the opportunity to develop. For my family I am very grateful. It is a journey of adventure for me and anything but a given.
Laura Hilti, September 2020
FAT ECKE im Buchsalon KOSMOS
FATART, Hallen für neue Kunst Schaffhausen, 11.-13. September 2020
ENERGIE ANIMALE, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, extented until 25.10 2020
All photos: Karin Schuh
This interview is part of the project ‘Magic Moments’ by Kunstverein Schichtwechsel, in which people are interviewed about their careers, activities and their magical as well as difficult moments.
Curated by Stefani Andersen and Laura Hilti, Kunstverein Schichtwechsel.
Supported by Kulturstiftung Liechtenstein and Stiftung Fürstl. Kommerzienrat Guido Feger.
>>> All interviews