Skip to content

Gretta Louw

Personal Biography

Gretta Louw is a South African-born Australian artist, writer, and curator. Her practice investigates the tensions between sensuality and efficiency; craft and automation: in short, the technosphere and the biosphere. Louw graduated from the University of Western Australia in 2002, subsequently living in Japan and New Zealand, before moving to Germany in 2007. Her work has been exhibited widely in public institutions and galleries such as the Wro Media Art Biennale 2021 (PL), Tang Contemporary (HK), Honor Fraser Gallery (US), Plus One Gallery (BE), Kunstmuseum Solothurn (CH), Münchner Stadtmuseum (DE), National Portrait Gallery (AUS), Furtherfield (UK), and LABoral (ESP). She has been the recipient of awards including the Curt Wills Prize (2022), a Kulturstiftung des Bundes Grant (2022), an Australia Council Career Development Grant (2019), a Visual Art Prize from the Cultural Department of the City of Munich (2019), the Bahnwärter Stipendium from the City of Esslingen am Neckar (2017), and the Heinrich Vetter Preis of the City of Mannheim (2014), amongst others.

Louw has curated thematic exhibitions at museums including the Villa Merkel (DE), Furtherfield Gallery (UK), and Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery (US) and contributed essays to numerous catalogues and publications. Her artwork and curatorial projects have been covered by press outlets including Artlink Magazine, Tatler Magazine, Vogue Hong Kong, Hyperallergic, Kunstforum, Motherboard, AQNB Magazine, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and others. She currently lives and works in Germany.

Gretta Louw – image provided by Gretta Louw


Perceptions of beauty or aesthetic pleasure are highly culturally and temporally specific. Advancing digital technologies – everything from social media filters to the ubiquity of digital cameras and AI-generated images – have radically changed the contemporary definition of beauty. In some cases this leads down a more manipulated or artificial path, but on the other hand it leads to a longing for, and greater appreciation of, ‘natural’ beauty. Our appreciation of ‘nature’ itself is not timeless – the cultivation of specific genres of gardens, or widespread obsessions with particular plants and flowers (such as the so-called ‘tulipmania’ during the Dutch Golden Age), have followed marked trend patterns and been used throughout history to signify, for example, wealth, taste, or social status. A unifying thread throughout my work — which merges digital and algorithmic tools with traditional art production methodologies such as embroidery and oil painting, contrasting heritage and cutting edge technologies — is an examination of the inextricable intertwining of culture, nature, and technology.

In Artificial Organisms and Animate Machines as part of the EACVA collaboration, I will realise a series of small format oil paintings that integrate AI and robotic creative expression and perceptions of beauty with human authorship and subjective aesthetic preferences. Starting with photographs of physical orchids (a flower that uniquely embodies the human quest for beauty through technical interventions in seemingly ‘natural’ subjects — embodying the interactions of aesthetics and artifice, culture, economic interests, and science), I will take turns with the AI and robotic collaborators to morph and recreate the images both digitally and as a series of physical oil paintings so as to create a body of work that delves ever deeper into a new, co-created technoaesthetic or technoromanticism. In working with the scientists and researchers at Goldsmiths College and Konstanz University, I am especially interested in discussing the aesthetic, philosophical, and technical aspects of how an algorithm can be trained for maximising ‘beauty’, how this can be translated into software governing robotic painting systems, and how this will impact the viewer experience of the works.

AI-generated image of orchids