creative chit-chat

Kati Heck


At the age of 19 she came in Antwerp to study fashion. The atmosphere wasn’t all that so Kati Heck choose to become a painter instead. She translated the cartoonish and absurd atmosphere of her work into her house, which she refers to as her playground. Besides an atelier, Kati has a wild roof garden, a clubhouse and a music studio. “I don’t like to idea to head for work. So now I wake up, go to my atelier, where my whole world meets. I work, take a nap and go back to work. Everything I need is right here” says Kati.


You used to live in a caravan. Wasn’t that a bit unusual?

For two years I shared a caravan with my husband, which was located on the premises of this arts workspace called Scheld’apen. There was even a giant tree house, made by artist Benjamin Verdonck, right on top of us. I used to have an atelier a bit further down. It was cool, until we suddenly had to leave. My dad was actually happy because I was forced to look for a real house. He’s an architect and he just couldn’t bare the thought of his daughter living in a caravan. When I first visited this place, I was impressed by the back house where I have my atelier.


Are light and space important elements when you are at work?

So many painters are concerned with space and light in their workspace, but I don’t really care about that. For me it’s important to feel at ease and to be able to take a nap. (Laughs and points out to the bed) I wake up really early and go to bed quite late. So taking nap is part of my daily routine. I share my atelier with my two cats and birds, whom I often paint.


If you could change one thing about your atelier, what would it be?

I would make the space bigger, higher. I can work up to 3.80 m, which I consider as a limitation. My works are monumental, but I’d like to make them bigger! But it’s ok, it’s got potential, which is really cool. I still have so many plans. I would love to re-create a bar and a baby detective club. The manifest for that is written, all I need is a clubhouse upstairs. We already have one downstairs which is also my photostudio.


So you’d like to start up a clubhouse for all of your friends and personalities portrayed in your paintings? 

All personas portrayed are people I know personally. I find it difficult to talk to strangers in a bar or on the parking lot. I’m really terrible in asking people to pose for me. That’s why I ask my friends. But sometimes I need fresh faces.


Do you have a specific scene in mind or does it come along naturally as you bring your friends together to pose for you?

It both occurs. Usually I have a specific scene in mind, but sometimes exciting things happens spontaneously. When you get to know people better, you get used to their bodies. I’d love to zoom in on certain features and magnify them.


Next to people, cats and birds, sausages, pickles and potatoes play an important role in your work. What are you into now? 

Beer and liquor! Certain food and beverages have connotations, and I love to build a whole universe around them. The sausages don’t have meaning, they came about spontaneously. The theme of the potatoes occurred when I was feeling bad and I only ate potatoes. And the alcohol? It seems like I have an addiction, right? The storyline in my work is the combination of people and misery. But in comparison to the past, I’m a really happy person now and it shows in my work. Does the world deserve happiness? I really don’t know. But I hope the misery will return, because that’s where I get my inspiration from. (Laughs.)

Inner torment that feeds the creative mind. Are there other clichés you, as an artists, had to put up with? 

I’m a big fan of costumes and like to dress up. A while ago I was in the Middelheim parc to install one of my sausage sculptures. Since the location was only accessible by boat, I decided to put on my sailor suit. At that very moment a group of school children walked by and one of the teachers said : “ The woman who is dressed like a fool, is obviously the artist.” That was a really unpleasant remark. People think artists are crazy or feel superior, but what does the term ‘artist’ really mean? I just do whatever I feel like and there are people who are willing to pay for what I do. (Laughs.) I’m lucky to make a living out of the arts, cause I wouldn’t be able to do anything else. During my final year at art’s school the Belgian artist Guillaume Bijl introduced me to the right people, who picked me up right after that. My success is a combination of hard work, luck and coincidence.


Has your style evolved over the last 13 years?

No, not really. I use more paint now than I used to before. As an artist you want to evolve pretty quickly. Sometimes I try out new stuff, to finally end up where I started. I never quite do something different.


What project are you working on now?

Next year I’m having a solo exhibition at the Centro de Arte Contemporánea in Malaga- Spain. For I’ll have a huge space to fill, I’m making preparations already. I be showing a mix of old and new work. At this very moment I am working on a big sculpture in the garage.


You grew up in Germany. Do you ever plan on going back? 

I don’t know if Belgium is my final destination, but I don’t necessarily have to go back to Germany. My husband always gets sick as soon as we cross the border. (Laughs.) Everyone is crazy about Berlin, but I don’t like it.I studied in Vienna for a year, but that city was just too intense. I often compare Antwerp to a small village, but because I am so occupied in my atelier, it doesn’t really matter where I am. Antwerp is full of love, my work is here and so is my atelier and my friends. And that’s all that matters to me.



Kati Heck

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Coffeeklatch stands for ‘Slow journalism using a fast medium.’ Magali Elali and Bart Kiggen created the blog as a creative chitchat featuring creative entrepreneurs in their homes over coffee, including interesting people telling intriguing stories. It celebrates storytelling and creativity in all its forms, from fashion design to architecture. Read More


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