"In my work I am exploring the role of technology in relation to the human body and the reciprocal influence in point of form and function they exert on one another."
Could you tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been a practising artist and where did you study?
I am originally from Hamburg, Germany, where I lived until I moved to the UK to study. I studied Fine Art at the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford, from 2009 to 2012, and Architecture at the Bartlett, UCL from 2012 to 2015.
I have to admit that I only recently started referring to myself as an artist, although I have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. There is a trend among painting artists when they talk about themselves to differentiate between ‘artists’ and ‘painters’; perhaps it goes back to painting having been rejected and declared ‘finished’ by the art community for so many years that ‘painters’ now seek to separate themselves from those who have rejected them before. Nonetheless, I think of myself as an artist and my medium is painting.
Your paintings focus on the human body. Could you tell us a bit about your work?
In my work I am exploring the role of technology in relation to the human body and the reciprocal influence in point of form and function they exert on one another. When medical imaging technologies evolve and generate new images, these novel images then also have a transformative effect on the perception of the ‘genuine’ human body.
What I find so fascinating is that these imaging technologies render visible and comprehensible things that are otherwise hidden from the human eye, and thereby in effect create entirely new pictures of the human form. Painting has traditionally been only concerned with the ‘skin’ of things; capturing, interpreting and depicting only the short spectrum of ‘visible light’ that is perceivable to our eyes.
The figures and bodies in my paintings are set in abstract ‘non-spaces’ that recall early computer animation based on three-dimensional coordinate systems. These bodies being complete neither in their form nor in their exterior, show themselves as mutations and fragments in the cross-sections and phantom views that originate from imaging technologies such as MRI, CT or X-ray scans.
You often paint on paper, what is your process? Is a lot of your resource material from medical books?
There are two main sources of influence that I draw from. The first is other paintings and the second is ‘medical imaging’. I do have some medical and anatomy books which I also use but more for the sake of understanding the body’s mechanical make up rather then for the illustration’s aesthetic appeal.
I usually start with drawing. I sketch a lot before I start the actual painting, I find it the best way to work out compositions and test ideas. My sketchbook is like a diary that documents every step of the way. When I struggle to make decisions later on it can be helpful to step back and remember the thinking process from way earlier. The images created by medical imaging I generally find on the Internet. After collecting specific images that I find aesthetically exciting I proceed by generating intricate stencils from these images. For a while I did this by hand, but I am now using a vinyl cutter, which is much more accurate and true to the original image. At this point I have a wide collection of stencils of most things that are in the human body, such as bones, skulls veins or brains etc. That is also part of the reason as to why my figures appear life sized as this allows me to reuse specific stencils and reapply them to other figures. I choose paper as the medium on which I paint as it reminds me of analogue/digital prints which is also why the paintings always have crisp borders and never extend to the edge of the paper.
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day/studio routine? What is your studio like?
Since having relocated to Berlin my studio has been in the flat I currently live in. Given that I don’t have to commute to my studio, I pretty much start painting straight after I get up, and work until the evening when I often go out and try to see an opening – one of the great things about Berlin is the many gallery openings that happen throughout the year.
When painting I always have something on in the background be that music, podcasts or radio. I find that it helps me make intuitive decisions and get into a zone. In my studio I like to surround myself with many half finished paintings so as to be able to work on them all at the same time. My paintings are always created in batches and often the older ones that may have been started earlier tend to influence or mock me just by being around. It also means that when you get to the point when you hesitate as to what to do next, which is usually for me the signal that the painting is coming to an end, I can move on and work on another piece and don’t run the risk of accidently overworking something.
What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?
A few months ago, in the Scharf-Gerstenberg surrealist collection, I stumbled across the amazing photographs of Hans Bellmer’s ‘La poupée‘. The exhibit also included some of the paintings of Yves Tanguy. I liked his use of space and the way the figures often repose in these desert-like or under-water spaces. Even though it has been a while since I saw the exhibit I still think about some of the works every now and then.
Recently the show that I found most interesting however, was probably the Daniel Richter exhibit ‘LE FREAK’ at Thaddaeus Ropac gallery. It had been a while since I’ve seen some Daniel Richter paintings and thought it was brave and really interesting that he decided he wanted to break away stylistically from his previous work. In his new work the figures appear a lot less clearly defined. However, the biggest change is his treatment of the space the figures occupy. Whereas before in his work there was often a sense of ‘theatre stage’ in these new works he placed the abstracted pornographic figures against a background of horizontal lines. The horizontal lines of the background have a subtle gradation of colour that seem to suggest a horizon line as well as referring to an abstract virtual space. The new paintings are very effective in their attempt to confront and disturb.
How do you go about naming your work?
In my work the bodies and their compositions are inspired by and reference a more traditional notion of the ‘figure’. Among others, I am particularly interested in the paintings that have been created between the 14-16th century in the southern part of Europe, unsurprisingly perhaps most of the paintings created, were done so in service of the church.
What draws me to these works, other then their often brilliant composition of the figure and execution is their thematic nature. Ideas, tales and promises of salvation, resurrection and the like were popular then as they are today. The only difference is, as Mark O’Connell put it in his book “To Be a Machine”, that science or the belief in scientific progress, is replacing religion as the vector of deep cultural desires and delusions.
I am often inspired not only by the aesthetic nature of the original paintings but also by their narratives. I then attempt to translate the figure as well as the theme, creating titles using a vernacular from the field of science. The titles are meant to serve as clues and atmospheric pointers that steer the attention of the observer in a specific direction, without being too revealing or literal.
Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
I have only last month de-installed my first solo exhibition, so in regards as to what might happen next I am currently weighing up some potential options. I am talking to two friends at the moment to do a group show with them each respectively; one is planned to be in London and the other in Vienna. Both are scheduled to happen in within the first half of 2018, but this is all very early days and we have only started planning for it a few weeks back. I have however started producing a new body of work that I am really excited to see progress.
All images courtesy of the artist
Publish Date: 23/11/17