Daniel Kiss – DE. / 1984
GS: We only met briefly during the group show “A tall dark stranger” Haris Giannouras curated for NEW NOW back in 2019, you were a part of it, so that is how I got to know you. Your work appealed to me from the beginning, how are you doing, how is life?
DK: Thank you for the question. Yes it was a short encounter but still very nice to get to know you a bit. I’m doing really well. At the moment I’m spending some time in a very nice flat in Nuremberg in a residency program. I’m spending time on working on new pieces but also am doing a lot of meditation and running. That makes me feel much more in tune and in touch with myself than I have been for a while. And I can meet old friends here as I lived and studied in Nuremberg till 2014. So a lot is going on at the Moment internal and external.
GS: It seems most of us took a hit with the pandemic, our situation as artists faced a small apocalypse, cancelled shows, postponed residencies, no public display, you name it… Were you able to stay on track, be focused on your work?
DK: In the end when it comes to the core of my work it has been almost beneficial to have this kind of break. I was really intense working in my studio during the last 1,5 years. As there were no shows that I would focus on I was able to take more time and change things more drastically. But of course now I would love to show the results. Now it starts to affect me more in a negative way, that somehow the whole scene is awakening from slumber but still somehow not really awake.
GS: Last time I checked, you were based in Koln, is that still true? And if so, how are things there, does the art scene vibrates to your needs?
DK: Yes, I’m still living and working in Cologne. For me it’s still a place with a great community of contemporary artists in many different disciplines. There are many very interesting people, projects and ideas in this area. Of course not everything is always just nice and positive. But for me it’s still a great place to live when it comes to the art scene.
GS: You are doing mixed media installations, assemblage, working with found objects creating supra- natural environments, one could easily get lost in all this, how does it all come together, conceptually?
DK: Does it have to come together? No, of course there are topics that build the foundation of all my work. At first I really like to discover new things and combine them with things that I already know. The reason for that is a constant research on the question where things change their value. How can I manipulate a material or an image to make it change in another direction? What is happening in our brain when we see something and get the feeling of knowing it but maybe without knowing where this feeling comes from. How can a simple and cheap piece of material start to trigger our imagination. As we build the world around us in our imagination all things can change their appearance just by shifting the context. How does the shift in context affect the feeling of understanding and
Thomas Grünfeld once asked me to tell him what my work was all about. I started to explain all the things that are important to me in my work. I think it tried to be kind of precise in my explanation. Then he said: no, make it shorter, just one word. I said one word and was very unhappy with my answer afterwards. I think his wish for a simple and clear answer to something that wasn’t that simple for me felt righteous in the situation and smart. But in the end I realized that his way of dealing with complexity was a bit different to my approach. I like the idea of a subconscious expression that is analysed afterwards. I think all the topics that are interesting for me form some images in my mind, like if it’s a kind of communication with myself. I think art is something beyond or away from written or spoken language. I hope one day I will stop completely to talk about my work in an explanatory way. I more and more like Daniel Richters quote: “My works (he said paintings) are smarter than me”. I don’t like riddles but somehow I have to leave bigger gaps now in the way I talk about my work as it is not clear when and how they shift. And that’s for sure: I try to make them in a state of tension, balanced, but always with big potential to move and change. If it would be one word now I would say: change!
GS: Where do you find inspiration, besides the internet?
DK: I love to see architecture from different places and eras. I love movies and Sci-fi manga.I think they are all inspirational. Working with other people can be very inspirational too. I love doing collaborative work and getting to know new points of view. But in the end I always feel like there are way more ideas that I can’t even start to work on. So maybe I try to get less inspiration sometimes.
GS: Did you ever consider doing something else, like becoming a cook or a dancer?
DK: Sometimes I get the feeling like I’m just focused on myself and should do more for others. Then I’m thinking of working in politics or as a social worker or even teacher and think they might be more unselfish. But at the moment I just try to change the world by producing some esoteric-prana-chi astral energy and some artworks. I’m sceptical about the benefits of this plan but I guess you never know if you’re not trying.
GS: What do you refer to with your work, is it something from our planet or more like an extraterrestrial place?
DK: Good question. I think I always see and feel our planet as part of a much bigger system. But if I would have to choose one of the two things I would go with terrestrial.
GS: Each of your work seems to be a continuation of another, are they all fragments of the same topic or you adder to different topics?
DK: It’s both. They come from each other, they are very much related but mostly have a spirit of their own. Like some siblings that share the same beliefs and ideas but still try to express themselves in different ways. I can not expect anybody to see all the references and connection between the works but I still like to think of the works more as parts of a bigger story that needs all these different expressions. That would have been a good answer for question number 4 too I guess.
GS: You mention a lot the verb reconstructing on your personal website, in connection to your work, life, world, etc. Are you referring to the fact that your work is in a continuous flux? There are no permanent pieces? Or what do you mean by that?
DK: It’s a bit of a joke as I don’t work on updating my homepage that often. It tells a lie about my big interest in always working on the representation of my works on my own homepage. The internet is so full of this. Everything is always fresh and new and still not ready. In non-digital life I like the idea much more. As I said, change is an important topic in my work and I feel the change in me all the time. So the reconstruction is taking place but maybe less where I proclaimed it.
GS: Are you working on some new projects now, if so, tell us all about it?
DK: At the moment just creating new pieces. There are no shows planned at the moment which feels scary somehow. Maybe a small one in my own studio just to stay in shape. Maybe I should really start to think about the cooking job… For a dancer I’m starting to feel too stiff.
Paul Robas – RO. / 1989
GS: You live and work in Vienna, coming from Romania, how does that feel, are you in the right place now?
PR: At the moment it feels like a good place to be. I don’t know if it’s the right place. I didn’t really know anything about Vienna before i came here, It was more important for me to just leap into the unknown. I think i can adjust easily to any place.
GS: …what about time, do you believe that today is a good time to be an artist?
PR: It might never be a good time to be an artist. But if you decide to be an artist you should make it a good time. Considering all of the available tools that can help you materialize your vision nowadays, it’s definitely an exciting time to be alive.
GS: Is painting still a valid medium these days, or is it more of a commodity then a cultural contemporary manifestation?
PR: I think it’s both and even more: commodity, cultural contemporary manifestation, propaganda tool, money laundering vehicle, speculative asset etc. I think it’s a valid medium as long as it’s playful, timeless and reveals something about the world . And it will continue to be valid as long as new generations of painters will constantly question it and find new meanings for what a painting can be.
GS: Do you find it difficult to paint or it just comes natural?
PR: It was difficult in the beginning because i had no language. My paintings looked too much like the generic idea of what a painting should be. Gradually, i had a clearer vision of how i wanted my works to look like. When you find the tools needed to express your ideas it becomes very pleasurable.
GS: Your work is very advanced in terms of representation and technical approach for your age, where did you learn how to paint?
PR: Like most painters I learned by myself. Through a lot of practice and trying out i was able to develop some methods i like. Maybe the technical approach comes from the fact that i was doing a lot of printmaking and drawing for a few years. I get very absorbed by the process.
GS: Where does the inspiration come from?
PR: Inspiration comes mostly from my everyday experiences. The smallest event can be a great excuse for a work.
GS: How do you choose your subjects, is it an intimate process or is more like logic and observation?
PR: I used to search for sources in magazines, internet or wherever. Now it’s based more on observation. I try to stay aware and as soon as an idea hits me i write it down or take a photo with my phone. Ideas come to me out of nowhere when i am interacting with people or just walking down the street. I would say the process is both observational and intimate.
GS: It seems that the world is coming to an end, does that influence your process, or is just the same? How did you survive professionally during corona?
PR: I was never very outgoing and in this regard i did not suffer during lock-downs. The empty streets and silence definitely inspired some of my works. But overall it was not a big difference to the time before the pandemic. What is your work about is it about you, or just everything?
I think It’s about everything, but of course i am the filter so it’s about me as well. But i try to keep it universal in a way that anyone could relate to the image.
GS: You just took part in a group show at NEW NOW/ Frankfurt, tell us what is next?
PR: Next is my favorite season, autumn, which means good vibes and a lot of work. Also a group exhibition coming up in October in Vienna.
Siggi Sekira – UA. / 1987
GS: We never met in person, you live and work in Vienna, were you always there? If not, are you in the right place now?
SS: I come from Odessa, Ukraine, so I haven’t always lived in Vienna. I’ve built my life here and this is where my support system is, so it’s the right place for now. But I don’t know what the future might hold and where I might end up one day. I’ve always seen myself as a bit of a nomad by nature and quite adaptable to new environments. However, since I’m an immigrant and a ‘third-country’ national, moving to another country wouldn’t be easy. There are many bureaucratic and financial obstacles.
GS: I am under the impression that you are a very young artist, is that true? Yet, you are quite successful in terms of exposure these days. Besides the obvious quality of your work is there something else?
SS: I turn 34 in December, so I wouldn’t call myself a ‘very young’ artist. There’s certain pressure that comes with age, the will to succeed and a wish to outdo oneself artistically, which might not manifest in the same way in a very young artist. Age brings particular qualities and challenges to one’s work and your lifestyle. I definitely feel that I always have to set my priorities straight to achieve what I need. I don’t have time to waste.
GS: What is your work about?
SS: My work is foremost about love, grief, and loss: the loss of a loved one; the loss of the time spent with them; the eagerness to sense and have a dialogue with someone you may never see again. Feelings of grief have played a huge role in my life. That’s why I can never fully escape it in my work. In fact, grief is what brought me to art-making in the first place. My experience of depression adds another layer. I’ve been suffering from depression for many years and am fairly open about it. I think it’s important to give voice to your feelings and life-difficulties in order to process them and seek a resolution.
GS: The reason why I am asking is because, although I don’t fully understand your works, they seem to be very personal and alien in the same time so how does that coexist?
SS: My work addresses Slavic mythology at the same time as being autobiographical. My grandfather was a sailor, so the sea and its inhabitants play a significant role in my work. When I was a small child, he fooled me into thinking that he met real nymphs and snatched a lock of their hair, which I found out later was a piece of bright blonde flax. It stayed in my imagination for many years. It is, perhaps, this blend of fiction and reality that make my work look like what it does, combined with my preoccupation with the ‘female monstrous’ found in pop culture. There’s always the element of threat and beauty that I find quite fascinating. Young women – often positioned as ‘manic pixie dream girls’ – aren’t given enough voice and stories of their own. This is what I’m trying to do.
GS: Are you referring to a pure fictional world, or is it just a filtered version of our reality?
SS: It’s a filtered version of my reality. I don’t necessarily distinguish life from reality when I work.
GS: Where does the inspiration come from?
SS: A lot of inspiration comes from my life. It’s a deep well. Plus, there are my surroundings and pure observation. I’ve been drawing from Wiener Werkstätte, western and Japanese pop culture mixed with Ukrainian folk tales. Basically, everything I grew up with as a child in a post-communist country.
GS: How do you choose your subjects, is it an intimate process or is more like logic and observation, or both?
SS: I think it’s always both. Many fine details of my work come from observation and the internal logic of my work and fictional tales. The choice of the subject is never an easy game for me but it always deals with similar narratives.
GS: I noticed that you use the same character in most of your works, is he/she an avatar of your self?
SS: She is a fictional character drawn from myself and my mother. We blend in. That way, I always feel like I can give life to my mother who died ten years ago. We’re always in dialogue with each other and we share the same features.
GS: It seems that the world is coming to an end, does that influence your process, or is just the same? How did you survive professionally during corona?
SS: I’m not sure how I survived during corona. I think I am probably still trying to survive. I just live one day, one moment at a time. But it’s always other people that make the time more bearable and the life worth living. I think it’s impossible not to be influenced by what’s been going on. I started to draw much more than I have ever done before, producing a great number of drawings in varying formats. There’s also the matter of sheer convenience as ceramics proved to be a great challenge since I don’t have a kiln of my own.
GS: Besides the exhibitions that are opened currently, what are you preparing?
SS: There’s a small group show in Vienna in the making. Plus, a possible solo show outside Austria next year.
Julian Riedel – DE. / 1992
GS: You were one of the first artists to have a show at NEW NOW, back in 2018, it was your debut solo exhibition, right; So what happened in the meantime, I guess a lot has changed but in terms of your approach on art what can you tell us?
JR: Well, of course a lot has changed, or maybe more accurately: Has developed. When I had the exhibition “Wayfarer Collection” with New Now I was showing some figurative works alongside with some works that can be read in a more abstract way. In a way these different approaches in painting reflected on my personal life at that time. I had just moved back to Germany from Cluj-Napoca where I did an Erasmus. Also, I changed my art school in Germany. So I had many impacts from different directions. I had to figure out a way of bringing them together. I still consider these different directions an important part of my works: Bringing different elements together and taking them apart, again. My way of working has become much more serial and through this probably my paintings have become a bit more coherent, consistent and clear.
GS: You always seem to have a side job, (working on something else as they say) how does that go with the studio work? Actually do you have a studio, or even need one?
JR: For the last year I used to have a job where I would drive around in a car a lot. Since I take my motives from what I experience and what is around me, it was almost inevitable for me to do these paintings out of the car. But the work in my studio is always number one priority and what I am most interested in. Sometimes it´s a good reality check for myself to do another kind of work that has nothing to do with my work at the studio, but I also have to be careful not to get sucked in it too much. So I am glad right now that I don’t have to do these jobs as much anymore as I used to.
GS: I know you like to do pleinair painting does the current pandemic situation make things difficult?
JR: Doing pleinair painting is the most uncomplicated thing to do during a pandemic, I would say. Also I see pleinair painting for myself more as a hobby or maybe as an exercise. I don’t really show them. What has been made difficult is doing exhibitions and making the works accessible in real life.
GS: Your manner of working seems to be in the same time figurative and abstract, yet somehow undecided and unintentionally conceived. Is that important for a work to be fresh, joyful or is it just something only I see in your paintings?
JR: I know, I have been talking about my works in these terms earlier. But I don’t really think about them in these categories. Of course there are works that contain more emptiness and space to read something into and there are works that can be read more easily in terms of what is being displayed. Regarding my works, every figuration contains abstraction and vice versa. But I know where these images that I paint come from. The relationship between the inside and the outside is a subject matter I have been working on for a long time. So it only made sense to use reappearing elements that embed the image and to work in a serial way.
For me the best and most productive way of creating a good workflow is having a good mindset and focus on the work. So I am glad when this reflects on my works. Yet, beauty and abyss are always very close to each other.
GS: How do you choose your subjects, is it an intimate process or is more like logic and observation?
JR: It reflects on me as a person, who I am, what I experience and what catches my attention.
GS: Would you say social platforms like instagram and facebook have a major influence on your work?
JR: I don´t care too much about it. I actually deleted my facebook account and use instagram rather to check out what my (artist-)friends are doing. I much more prefer to see works in real life and also take my inspiration from personal experience. But, of course I check out websites of galleries and artists, also watch YouTube Videos of exhibitions, etc.
GS: Are you the protagonist in your work or you just describe situations related to others that you find relevant and wordy to paint?
JR: There is no narrative in the works I am doing right now. Of course the images I paint derive from personal experience. So the spectator is being presented to my point of view. But that is not what really matters. The important thing is that the spectator sees himself in the work. Steering the car, for example. The painting is the medium of interaction, everything you read into it, is because you see yourself inside the work.
GS: Do you think painting should be critical, like a discourse, or more like something one should contemplate?
JR: I don´t think painting has to be anything. And I couldn’t answer this question in either direction. A painting is always an expression in the medium of painting itself. So it should be looked at properly, because that could be the starting point to anything. Pure contemplation would be like just watching a beautiful sunset. Which is nice, but maybe I want something more from an artwork. Probably one thing doesn’t go without the other. But I don‘t want to speak in general terms. I personally find it helpful to be a bit informed about what is happening around me and I guess my paintings show a relationship to the world.
GS: Do you have artists you admire, or is that no longer a thing today, as we are all creative beings… bla, bla!?
JR: I am very interested in other artists works. So there are of course artists I admire in the sense that I think they are doing or have been doing fantastic works. Sometimes my personal preferences or what I am being impressed by changes. One example would be Vermeer. I love how vividly his paintings show the magic of a moment. Looking at them just magically drags me into his world.
GS: What are you working at the moment?
JR: For the past 1,5 years I have been working on paper works in the dimension of 200 x 150 cm. The motives are window pictures or scenes in which a kind of outlook situation is depicted. For the last couple of months I have been working on “hood pictures”, that is, images that show the view from the hood, as well as images from the car. In addition to these I am still working on a series of images of side mirrors in the dimensions 20 x 17cm on MDF panels. These car paintings have been on display in my latest exhibition at theartape in Karlsruhe.
EMC. Collard – DE. / 1981
GS: It feels like we haven’t met for ages, with this whole time in lock-down, due to corona restrictions etc. How are you? What are you working on?
EMC: It’s been too long! I’m good thank you – I’ve been lucky in getting through this time relatively unscathed, I didn’t lose family or friends to Covid. For several people close to me, the period has been quite difficult to navigate in terms of mental health – I think we all need to continue looking out for each other in this respect, too.
I’m currently preparing for two group shows that will open in December and January. Both will be held in the Frankfurt area – in Darmstadt and Seligenstadt – and will be a continuation of the BLOOM exhibition at Ausstellungshalle1A last October. I’ll be showing there with the same 4 artists.
Also, since last autumn I’ve been developing an online picture book alongside my paintings: a story told in watercolour/gouache pieces and text that follows the life of a mosquito. It’s called ‘afine film of fuzz’ and can be found on www.afinefilmoffuzz.com. I’m grateful for getting initial funding for this project through the Hessische Kulturstiftung Projektstipendium and think it’s going to be something I’ll be working on for a while – I realized as I was working that I wanted to give the story more space to unfold than I had originally planned. It’s been a good challenge for me, working at a different rhythm in this format and doing more research than I would for my paintings. I’m pretty sure it’ll influence my work in general – and of course I hope I can tell a good story!
GS: It seems lately there is more and more pressure on the notion of space: personal space, Me time space, workspace, space balance … I know you moved your studio into your home, do you still feel this was a good idea?
EMC: Well, from a financial perspective it was a relief that I didn’t take on a more expensive studio after moving out of Basis right before the pandemic hit. All exhibitions were cancelled initially and work from my side line as a freelance translator of arts and theory texts also dried up. But of course, when I moved my studio home, I wasn’t expecting my partner to also be working from home longer term, or for public life to essentially shut down for a couple months at a time.
The main problem I’ve had with establishing a home studio is really storage: I’ve found a solution for smaller works (I’ve made acid-free cardboard boxes for them so they can be stacked up like pizzas) but I’m making slightly larger work right now so am dreaming of a new storage system. I’ve also been working a bit cleaner at home than in a dedicated studio space: thinner layers of paint are easier for me to handle at home and are making me explore new aspects in my work – this is reflected in my new series of paintings titled “smol plant gods”.
I do enjoy living with my paintings around me! It takes a bit more organization (and clean-up) but, I love to be able to pull a late shift without having to cycle back from the studio in the middle of the night. A friend did just offer me a corner of his large studio that he isn’t currently using, so I might make a couple of bigger pieces there for the shows coming up this winter. I’m not dogmatic about working from home – if I need to make bigger or messier work than I can make in our flat, I’ll find a place to make it.
GS: What about Frankfurt as a city for artists, would you rather be somewhere else, and if so, where would that be?
EMC: I think Frankfurt and the surrounding area have a lot to offer in terms of arts scene. Of course its smaller than the capital cities but there are galleries operating on an international level and we have great museums and institutions, as well as the HfG and Städel schools. I have friends who are organizing music festivals in Offenbach and literature festivals in Frankfurt and there’s some fantastic artists working here. For me, the city feels like quite a good size to work.
For me, the Frankfurt area is home – I grew up in Hanau, which is round the corner from Frankfurt, before living in the UK for 13 years. Being away for a longer period made me appreciate the good things about here more. I moved back in 2010 and it’s worked out pretty well for me so far. My partner and I do also have family in France and the UK, and in Berlin – so sometimes I wish these places were just a little bit closer!
GS: You are a painter, always have been? Or have you had other interests in art?
EMC: I always liked drawing and painting, but they only became a serious focus after I broke a couple of bones at age 13 and had to slow down with sports activities. From then on, I wanted to be either a painter or a graphic novelist. I thought that cartoonists were cooler, but I always got stuck on single images and the physicality of painting. I’ve also done some collaborative performance work, printmaking, collages, and objects. I wouldn’t say I was a straight-forward painter, but painting does influence all my other work.
GS: Most of your works depict plants, flowers, microorganisms, do you have a strong botanical interest, or it is more like a language, a means to communicate something? I guess the reason why I am asking you all this is because I find your works to be very sensitive, ironical and a bit sexual. So is that true or is just my sick imagination…
EMC: Flowers fascinate me because they’re so single-minded, they really pull out all the stops to achieve their goal. That’s kind of impressive. Sometimes they can also seem pathetic and endearing, or slightly creepy. I find the idea of them interesting in many ways.
I’m not a true botanist, but am learning a bit about plants, and find them to be a really rewarding subject matter. What I paint tends to be an idea of a plant rather than a plant though: for the most part, I invent and adapt plant-like shapes to transport moods and create simple narratives rather than aiming to depict something true to life. My compositions have often included rudimentary characters of sorts, allusions to faces that only just about, or not quite work. I don’t think they are just about sex, or always funny, but of course, I do like to amuse myself when I’m making work. I find suggestive vegetation a bit funny.
Through the vocabulary that I’m developing in this body of work I’m thinking about how we relate to the natural world and our own nature. In terms of that sensual aspect, the sensitivity: structures I depict and the surface finishes I use go back to the physicality that keeps me hooked on painting. I like the idea of a painting as a surface that has been touched with a brush all over, the painting as a storage for that touch. I think that brings a very human dimension to the viewing experience.
GS: Where do you find inspiration?
EMC: Each work I make is built on, or you could say inspired by, the other works in my series, which lets me off the hook if I want to work without feeling inspired. In terms of what inspires me to make artwork in the first place, that is a bit of a metaphysical question! I guess I haven’t found anything I’d rather be doing with my time yet.
Of course my work is informed by so many different things and images I look at. But in order to create work I don’t look at those, I just start and trust the process. I might look at other works in the series and think about a progression of shapes. Or about basic human feelings and sentiments and how to show them in a shape that looks like a plant. Or focus more on creating structures and surfaces through movements across the canvas. So it’s less about being inspired than making an image that I find balanced or somehow interesting through a process and within parameters that I’ve developed over time… I do look to nature as my teacher, but usually not directly – nature tends instead to be remembered or imagined in my work.
GS: Are you making a lot of studies/sketches before you start a painting or does the composition come lyrically, from top to bottom of the canvas?
EMC: From top to bottom of the canvas – that sounds like a laser printer. Maybe it would be funny to try that? My process usually tends to be a bit more chaotic and organic; I suppose that fits with the subject matter. I sometimes work with random structures, for example in the piece ‘b/w medley with palm’ in the g.p.t.s.t.s.n./flwrs series or in the works of my splash/strata series. I’ve started making more sketches recently, but a lot of the invention of the compositions still happens on the canvas. Previously, in much of my g.p.t.s.t.s.n. series (g.p.t.s.t.s.n. stands for “a genealogy of plants that stand in the shade at night”) I’ve drawn directly onto the canvas without no pre-sketch or source material and then worked out the composition from there. Currently in smol plant gods, I start from a basic layout sketch, and I’ve started to work in layers more – g.p.t.s.t.s.n. was about thick paint, I often worked wet-in-wet, now I’m working in thinner paint and letting it dry before I apply the next layer. While I love knobbly surfaced impasto, the thinner paint lets me do more with light. Maybe in the future I’ll find a way to combine the two.
GS: Does photography stand at the base of your practice, or do you make a lot of nature studies outside?
EMC: I sometimes work directly from observation or photographs, such as in my monochrome pieces on a solid color background. I see these as sitting slightly apart from my series about invented floral structures. In the latter I look at very little, if any, outside source material, maybe just at the line drawings I make off the top of my head about moods I’m in or thoughts I’m having. In general, I don’t want these paintings to be secondary versions of another image. I might occasionally turn to photography or observation only if I get too stuck on structural details. That said, I did make one or two sketches for smol plant gods on printed photographs I had lying around, so that might show in the final works in some way.
By contrast to my work on canvas, in my comic a fine film of fuzz, which probably belongs to a slightly different universe, I am working from observation and found imagery a lot more. I did a lot of research on how mosquitos fly, what their anatomy is, how they mate, etc. – mostly by looking at videos, photos and diagrams online. I also drew directly from life for a few scenes (for example looking at a piece of overgrown lawn from above), while other characters are a mix of observation and invention, like the dog that comes into play in chapter 2.
GS: If there would be an action that would take place in our works, going on in between the moving, living organic structures, what would that action be?
EMC: Hm. I could think of a few – maybe flying around the shapes like an insect. Or wafting like fog or breath between the shapes.
GS: When I look at some of your works I feel as though I’m in outer space or at the bottom of the ocean and would like to know if that is something you intend, to send people to a certain place trough your works, or it is simple fictional landscape?
EMC: I’m glad that you feel transported by the work! Of course once a piece is finished I’m hoping that it’ll amuse people, give them a slightly different perspective, make them feel things, take them somewhere in their head. As most of the compositions are invented, I would say that they are fictional spaces – but I want them to have a certain amount of realism in how you perceive the tactility of the things depicted in them. I feel that this might be something that could make them relatable.
Goekhan Erdogan – DE. / 1978.
G.S: I really got to know you, over the last couple of years, we worked together on several projects so this conversation feels natural, I guess…? However (we have to consider our readers). I would like to know what is your drive to make art? Do you see it as a job, a calling, something therapeutically beneficial, a need, and a pleasant way to spend time or a burden?
G.E: Hopefully my being as an artist covers most of these aspects, but if I had to choose one favourite for the sake of simplicity I would say therepeutically benificial. Partly my studio practice involves materials that are plenty, more or less the same and disposable – whatever happens to them becomes an actual imprint. This is designed to be some sort of circuit between selfawareness and productivity. Doing so it does not matter how I feel or how wrong I am doing it. Those notions become obsolete and even productive properties. In general I try to envison and design my works as much as I can to be beneficial for others too, but I rather stick to this in a very profoundly formal, pragmatical sense.
G.S: What about your life? You live and work in Frankfurt; do you believe it is a good place to be now as an artist?
G.E: Some say “best thing about Frankfurt am Main is that you can leave quickly”. That would explain commuters, high rents and some other things. Depending on what you expect you kind of feel alienated or comforted by the anonymity. If you are willing to connect the dots as an artist or collective there is plenty of infrastucture, art schools, affordable studios, project funding, jobs to sustain art practice etc. I would say Frankfurt is a place where one can get along fine.
G.S: I know technical aspects play a big role in your discourse as an artist, and we will get to that in a bit but first let’s dive more in the conceptual part of your works. Do you consider yourself a self-taught artist, given that your practice is unique and extremely complex?
G.E: It is a matter of fact that I follow a sculptural approach that is uncommon. I studied at the nearby Bauhaus School HfG Offenbach and partly at the academy Staedelschule, mostly with painters. So that kind of supports that I am somewhat self taught and needed my niche no matter what. It would be very unfair not to mention that the institutions of course shape you. They have art professors from different fields, theory professors, workshops etc. In best cases they emphasize and channel what is there. Which I think worked in my case. I generally prefer to have that “Isle-situation” I can reflect on. The latter goes hand in hand for me with the consequence that I have to take input from very different artists than I am, media sources, genres, art world neccessaties. This keeps my decision making non linear where things get interesting, e.g. producing a very large work, working with others …
G.S: Where does inspiration come from?
G.E: Inspiration for me at last seems to come from discomfort or a need to be “free” within the social fabric or envirnoment one is. If you don’t get whatever input, don’t fit, don’t like how things are done you have a problem right there. To me best point to start with that and find solutions through artistic repertoire.
G.S: The reason why I am asking is because, most of your works, if not exclusively refer to yourself, are all of them self-portraits? Or the meaning of the image does not matter? And you just use it as a measure unit, as a way to navigate in your personal space?
G.E: Surely I dont intend to be revolving solely around myself as some might suggest. As I am the one greating me every morning as a voice in my head, it seemd a logic starting point to evolve a work. The very often used ID-card image I literally got out of my pocket. Following my first choices I liked that you have something super simple and than complex enough to dig into it if intented. Self-portrait seemed a good choice, which aged well so far. Personally I still think a good artwork is by design connected to an individuum. This is treated very differently in “documentary style” approaches where the maker seems to put the audience behind a glass wall and seems not to be there at all. To me the artist or a notion of indiviuality should be somewhere in the work and possibly deal with other things too. In the end art is being done for people eyes so why should it not update concepts of contemporary individuality through artistic means. From a point of discourse I think I want that connection or dichotomy of figurative art and formal art and put it to use. Not to introspect, but start there and generalize this as good possible to make it useful for any purpose that deals with art.
G.S: What is your work about? Is it self-referential, purely decorative and stripped of any meaning or a bit of both?
G.E: I cannot deny I want it to be implicit and self referential. Hopefully I earned the right to say “in a wider context”: Me looking at the artists role, representation trying to empathize with the art viewer, art production partly using art supportsystem and its circumstances as a formal reference point. So to get there I chose to strip it of symbolic or narrative meaning (besides things that are clearly there). I don’t aim for it, but after putting shapes together I can enjoy when you could say “this could mean that” through what is being actually done. I am a fan of necessarily well designed things. This does not mean I don’t follow decorative properties in my work where they occur. At the moment I am experimenting with moiré patterns for example. I like how they look and my works have had them already due to how they are build. This is an aesthetic option which is legit to me, so I try how far I can go with it till I find another more interesting at some point.
G.S: . I believe that there is a lot of transformation in your work, making such a fragile material as paper into a stone structure must be tempting to resume to, as a complex art discourse, but is that enough for you?
G.E: These rather dense structures that I follow behave basically like wood with a few more quirks and perks. To me the lifeline of repetetive work is to take something simple and singular and get as many as diffrent things out of it. Like wood or paper my works can have modular qualities to allow putting together diffrent forms. These I try to exhaust in as many ways as possible for example for a group of works in my upcoming solo show in 2022. I think it is profoundly different to make one work after another and put them in a white room than to reflect on how they neccessarily belong together from a point of form. I will see the results hopefully soon enough and may be move on to something else from there.
G.S: It was always about paper or you have/had other relevant interests towards different mediums, materials, disciplines, etc.?
G.E: As for many others my first unprofessional interest in art took place mainly on paper. The most common practice is usually drawing, because it is available and cheap. I did Graffiti and airbrush as a teenager. Graffiti in it its legal form is mostly in sketchbooks which are being shared. Before art school there was a shift from Graffiti to Street Art. There working on paper for stencils, wheatpasting and of course foto copying is commonground. I liked that you just needed a cutter, glue and few cents to get what you wanted. No computers, just going out, observe, take fotos, fotocopy go home and do collages, stencils etc. It was not much, but it felt very satisfying that everything had its place. Later arrived among painters I came back to this practice and moved on with it. It turned from two dimensional into three dimensional different variations and mediums. At some point, probably to proof I could do different, I worked with (non-figurative) conceptual art installation and abstract painting for two short, but intensive projects. Eventhough the formal results were satisfying it felt they were not connectiong well with what I did else.
G.S: I know it takes a lot of time to finish a work; there is this exhaustive process of putting layers after layers of paper together… Therefore you always have a clear idea about the work or you just follow the process and see where it leads?
G.E: Before I start buying materials I need to convince myself why it would be worth to dive into several weeks and months of sculpting and what purpose it serves. My works have therefor a conceptual touch which was there from the very beginning. The difference in repetetion already produces its own patterns and characteristics. So experiment is somewhat anticipated and of course any sorts of unexpected things do occur. I do think that this is where things are somewhat really happening, where you make the next step developing a new formal joint. In general I know that the anticpated properties can be achieved with certain techniques, like to cut a form in half in a 45 degree angle, but than it adds up becoming more from itself. May be because of the edges of the material or holes I had to make into the middle of each layer to prevent them from moving and so on. Further I try to do ten or eight pieces each time to dimnish subjective choice making and let things happen out of old and newly learned routines, let physique and machines come into play. The works should look as unintended as possible eventhough they take quite a bit of time to do. It is satisfying mostly when it felt like a new experience doing the work. I think that is good reason to assume that it could be the same impression for the audience.
G.S: A final question that I ask everybody lately, regarding their practice; how did things go by during the whole Corona situation?
G.E: Me being a more lone wolf kind of personality it makes me rather immune to the isolation aspect that came with Corona. The wider social implications are of course very complex, but for me practically two things changed these years. I received more funding that was raised as Corona help. Secondly I received more general noise complaints working at my studio which made me move on and restructure my workflow.
G.S: Thank you!
Anca Branzas – Ro / 1986.
G.S.: You travel a lot, especially in France from what I can tell (maybe I am wrong?) However you seem to enjoy life apart from the studio; but also to work a lot, so tell us how does that go?
A.B.: I divide my time between the south of France and Switzerland, I manage to reach my parents in Romania as well; I am an enthusiast of life and my painting draws its sap from what I live; it is valid and vice versa, when I go through too calm periods of life, the feelings expressed in the workshop manage to balance me by giving me the necessary dose of adrenaline. I consider myself very lucky for that.
G.S.: I don’t know you that well, we just exchanged texts so far and as I recall we were barely introduced at some point during an opening in Cluj; your works are daring and spontaneous they contain certain playful atmosphere is that a reflexion of yourself?
A.B.: I am often so instinctive that I marvel at what I lay on my canvases. In everyday life the more I try to plan stuff, to be more calculated, the more unpredictable I act; so I can say yes, and my art is a reflection of myself.
G.S.: You seem to mix exotic and folklore (Romanian traditions) in your paintings how did that happen?
A.B.: Romanian folklore is part of my ancestral heritage, there are my grandparents, the fairy tales I read, the village, there are many feelings; if I were to compare it all with a tree, the folklore would be the roots of this tree, that go deep, as for the exotic in my art, is the “longing for the road,” the initiation, the search, the branches that extend everywhere, the flowers that open to the sun. I have always dreamed of those distant horizons where you can find your peace.
G.S.: Are you part of a large family, with lots of sisters and brothers that spent their summer vacations at the country side?
A.B.: I spent many summer vacations as a child at my grandparents’ village with my two younger brothers and many cousins; grandparents’ village was full of life at the time, we had a pond where we went at the end of the day, we had to sneak through the neighbor’s garden to get there)) We lived magical moments, time seemed to “stand still”. I am grateful and I pray that the Romanian village does not disappear, a source of purity, of spiritual fulfillment and human-nature balance.
G.S.: Do you dream your paintings before you paint them or you have a big archive of images that you use, or how does inspiration happen? Do you refer to the past, present or future in general, or time does not matter in your work?
A.B.: Even if I draw a lot, I make sketches, photos, I always stalk people around me and turn them into pictorial scenes, etc … and the future is always a surprise in terms of my artistic endeavor. Because I try to live as long as possible in the present, I don’t like to know in advance exactly what I’m going to do. I always leave a door open to imagination, to the constructive imagination that steps in when I paint, it’s still much intuitive, I guess. Everything is transient and eternal at the same time. Even if in terms of matter, physically, my works will disappear, I believe that in the metaphysical, spiritual dimension, they will last through what their immaterial presence has emanated.
G.S.: When I look at your work it seems antagonistic to the current times, so optimistic, despite current trend in art, were everything is so deceptive, do you find yourself in the current art scene or it simply does not matter?
A.B.: The current art scene inspires me; I think we are all ultimately “children of our time.” Whether I am antagonistic or not with the art of now I do not realize it, I think that I am still like the ostrich who has his head stuck in his own art; I am aware of what’s around me, and still can also put everything aside, just to find myself. I would say that my art has a simulated optimism with the help of ironic scenes and symbols. I am an optimist aware of our passing condition.
G.S.: You have a lot of masked self-portraits, posing as fantastic beings, why?
A.B.: Regarding the mask self-portraits, I developed some photographic projects that I hold close with various masks and I use these photos in my paintings as well. There are projects that I have been working on in parallel for several years. They often appear as you said because I always hunt for that “exoticism” I am attracted to, exactly what I lack in a world so uniformed, industrialized, and materialistic.
G.S.: There is a lot of erotic energy in your canvases, or is just my sick mind seeing it?
A.B.: I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have a sick imagination :))) While painting, I can feel that I am merging with the whole world … There is only one energy, sexual or material, spiritual, artistic … it depends on what level we are as conscious beings and how we want to use it. However, I avoid representing things explicitly; I prefer to let everyone’s erotic imagination work; that’s what art is for.
G.S.: Would you like to do something else besides painting and drawing?
A.B.: In addition to painting and working in the studio, I would like to work on creating a community of artists with opened workshops, boutiques where they can sell what they produce, with organic farming, with a few animals to cheer up our lives.
G.S.: Thank you!
Marius Bodea – Ro / 1986.
GS. : You live and work in Cluj-Napoca Romania how does that work for you?
MB. : I live longer in the studio than everywhere else, everything happens here. If I had lived in Hong Kong, I would be living in the studio. The studio is with me, I have it in my head, even when I am not physically present. The disadvantage in Cluj, compared to other cities or cultural centers, is that you don’t have much to see – I mean exhibitions, that would be one of the disadvantages. I’d like to see a Baselitz, but I have nowhere to go.
GS. : Is painting still a valid medium these days, do you find it difficult to paint or it just comes natural?
MB. : I don’t think painting takes time into account. Even if new technologies are increasingly interfering with the artistic field, I believe that the death of oil painting announced almost a century ago is far from happening. Every work you start comes with new challenges, I’m always at the beginning. I rely more on intuition, on what I feel when I paint, than on a definitive template beforehand.
GS. : Where does the inspiration come from?
MB. : It is enough for a colleague or friend to enter the studio to activate me. I already see myself painting them, of course, if they have that something I’m looking for in a character. Recently, I visited a friend in Psychiatry, he was sitting on a bench in the park in front of the building, crossed legs, lost in the branches of the trees: it was exactly what I was looking for, and he – I am convinced – was looking for the same thing. The inspiration is just work and nothing else, I don’t expect miracles.
GS. : How do you choose your subjects, is it an intimate process or is more like logic and observation?
MB. : I see loads of people on the streets. I would paint some of them, others I wouldn’t, as they aren’t telling me anything – and it’s about choice or a kind of distant communication. I have a friend that I have painted dozens of times and I still haven’t exhausted the theme. The characters are like the light, they change all the time. I would draw a parallel with the static natures of Morandi – they are always the same objects, but the result is never the same. Something always changes: the light, an object is more deformed, a curved line.
GS. : It seems that the world is coming to an end, does that influence your process, or is just the same?
MB. : Of course I’m influenced about what is happening around me, and my characters convey this: an insecurity, a kind of stillness, which culminates in alienation, loss of meaning and identity. I am especially interested in how these characters feel and live, who in one way or another are me. This can be seen best in moments of silence, when you are actually forced to stop everything you do. Only when you stop you notice.
GS. : Your work seems as a premonition for the present, isolation, loneliness and lack of any clear intentions towards social interaction… does that validate your perspective over the world or am I being too pessimistic?
MB. : I don’t know, I’ve been told this before, I just paint what I see. This is how I see people – fallen in thought, lost in a labyrinth full of nightmares and anxieties. My most recent exhibition took place in Cluj, at White Cuib, a very intimate space, just before the pandemic, and it folded exactly on what was to come. Now I don’t know if it was a premonition or not. Flammarion would have said yes.
GS. : How much time do you spend in the studio, do you go there every day?
MB. : Almost every day, I go in the morning and stay until the evening. I can’t stay away from the studio for too long, it’s like any addiction, this is where I find myself and I lose myself. The studio is not my second home, but my first.
GS. : Do you listen to music when you work ore you prefer silence?
MB. : My studio is in a former communist factory, I am on the top floor and cars are always heard in the yard, due to the car services. To reduce the noise, I listen to music or radio theater. Sometimes I can’t stand to hear anything, but silence has become a luxury nowadays.
GS. : You paint a lot of figures, people standing on a sofa or on chair is that a real place and are these real people, like friends maybe, visiting you in your studio?
MB. : All the characters are real, as well as the place where they sit. I start by making a quick drawing in pencil, on which I write down some things, after the actual process begins, which is much slower.
GS. : Thank you!
Eugen Rosca – Ro. / 1988.
G.S. : I don’t really know you, except from your works, so how do you go by these days? I would assume you are a solitary person, but maybe am wrong.
E.R. : I could generally pass as an introvert but I also like networking and love spending time with people. Depending on the case, I either listen or talk more, whatever fits best.
G.S. : You started your career early 2014 with a show called “Knifes Seller„ at an important gallery, Plan B (Berlin), how did that happen?
E.R. : Yes I’ve got some pretty memories out of this short chapter. I was still a student when, trough a friend, I ended up visiting the Paintbrush Factory which was an art hub in its early inception. There were a few galleries a few artists gathered there so I had the chance to blend in. From there on I tied up some connections and started to work in art production for a couple artists and galleries. I would help them with making of the artworks per se and assisted with installing the shows.
One of the galleries I worked with was Plan B. I don’t know for how long we did this, 2-3 years maybe? After this period I took a brake and tried oil painting (for the first time). In about 4 to 6 months I got a visit from Mihai Pop (the gallery director). He liked what he saw and invited me to show the works in Berlin. And we did…with a positive outcome.
It’s not only Plan B that should be mentioned. I did two solo shows at Suprainfinit. I think it was 2015 when I got a studio visit by Suzana Vasilescu (gallery director at Suprainfinit), we instantly clicked and kept a tight connection since then. Needless to say that the patience and financial investment this gallery made in order to present these two solo shows is remarkable. The very few people that are closely involved in my production can confirm: I have a subtle tendency of frying their brain.
G.S. : It was always about painting or you have/had other relevant interests towards different mediums, like music or poetry etc.?
E.R. : I have an interest for programming, computers and technology in general.
G.S. : I like your work, not sure I fully understand it…you seem to refer a lot to different moments in the same time in art history and also to your personal history, so what is actually your work about?
E.R. : I don’t get bothered by uncertainty in art. I’ll call it a typical situation of combining information you have at hand with what resurfaces from the subconscious (trained on your biography).
G.S. : Do you find inspiration in other painters?
E.R. : I’m agnostic.
G.S. : Are you making a lot of studies/sketches before you start a painting or the composition comes fluently from one corner to another?
E.R. : I did things in various ways in the beginning. Now I only make one digital rendition of the painting (so digital painting) as a prototype and then I paint it physically (usually oil on wood). I don’t find trial and error to be an appealing practice (in painting).
G.S. : There is certain stillness in your work, in contrast with today’s rhythm, does time stand still when you make a work?
E.R. : The technique in its self it’s quite surgical, precision oriented. I don’t like the happy accidents approach. I can’t say it’s a rule but some works have a pretty vague description of the temporal space. You can’t pinpoint when the image (not the actual painting but the image seen as time) first formed, it’s open for interpretation. Altogether in relation with time, the idea of being a very busy man that does nothing brings me satisfaction.
G.S. You refer also to beauty in your paintings, even indirectly, is that important for a work to be beautiful or not?
E.R. : No idea…I guess the amplitude of your perception is directly proportional with your capacity and enthusiasm of analyzing what you have in front of you. I would use the above ratio under this circumstance. It’s not that abstract after all, you can link it to a quite well known concept when it comes to aesthetics: the golden ratio. Let’s call our ratio the platinum one. In the end the full aesthetic spectrum should be up for consideration. Although it becomes debatable what relevance painting would have in a scenario like that? Otherwise I believe its common sense that painting has its reason, function, and intrinsic value relative to our civilization.
G.S. : Would you prefer to have lived sometime in the past as a painter, when painting was more of a slow process?
E.R. : I would rather time-travel but if that’s not an option I would choose the future. Last man on Earth or whatever we’ll become if we consider an alternative where technology advances us to a realm of existance that we can’t currently grasp. Although it becomes debatable what relevance painting would have in a scenario like that? Otherwise I believe its common sense that painting has its reason, function, and intrinsic value relative to our civilization.
G.S. : Thank you!