Interviews

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!

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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!

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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!

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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!