Aris Kalaizis

Actually, I paint to bring myself in crises

Dirk Dobiéy and Thomas Koep­lin from Age of Artists dis­cuss in a detailed inter­view Aris Kala­izis in his stu­dio about wel­come crises, ancient art of liv­ing and the striv­ing for empti­ness as an ini­tial position

Aris Kalaizis in his Studio (Photo: Thomas Hankel/Torpedo Leipzig)
Aris Kalaizis in his Studio (Photo: Thomas Hankel/Torpedo Leipzig)

Aris Kala­izis – paint­er of New Leipzig School – lives and works in loft-like rooms loc­ated in an early 20th cen­tury build­ing, once used by the print­ing industry. Hav­ing wel­comed us warmly in his apart­ment, he asks us to wait a few minutes in his adjoin­ing atelier, while he fin­ishes writ­ing an email. We use this time to famil­i­ar­ize ourselves with his work­ing envir­on­ment. We enter a large room with high ceil­ings and a row of win­dows spread­ing across the entire breath of the room that flood the atelier with light, while keep­ing people's views out. The lower sec­tion of the win­dows is coated with film for pri­vacy pur­poses. The right side of the room houses the actu­al work­ing area. 

This is where his easel is set up with a large Per­sian rug sprawl­ing out in front of it. 

There is enough space to take a few giant steps back­wards, away from any paint­ing. Oth­er­wise empty, a can­vas pre­pared with green primer is propped up on the easel. Before we offi­cially begin our inter­view, Aris Kala­izis tells us about one of his new pro­jects, a paint­ing con­cerned with St. Bartho­lomew. It will be one of the largest paint­ings he has made thus far. In order for it to leave his atelier, the can­vass will need to be taken from its frame. He also doesn’t plan using a mod­el of the scene. On the left hand side of the room, the artist stores can­vass and props behind a free-stand­ing wall covered in Baroque-style wall­pa­per, dec­or­ated with a ram skull that had also served as a prop in a pre­vi­ous paint­ing. A hos­pit­able suite is set up in front of the wall, includ­ing a cof­fee table, a sofa, and two armchairs.

AoA: We are inter­ested in dis­cov­er­ing how and what humans or indi­vidu­als may learn from art, in order to bring about change in soci­ety. Change that, in our view, is urgently needed. The fin­an­cial crisis, the eco­nom­ic crisis, eco­nom­ic growth at any cost, digit­al­iz­a­tion, auto­ma­tion, the end of pri­vacy, and many oth­er issues have brought about a feel­ing that some­thing needs to hap­pen. We believe that one ought to start on the level of indi­vidu­als and that a large frac­tion of that, which it will take to cause change, might be found in artist­ic atti­tudes and artist­ic actions.

K: Those are cer­tainly import­ant ques­tions and good obser­va­tions. I actu­ally agree with what you are say­ing. Aris­toteles opens his Nicomachean Eth­ics with the idea that every human being strives for know­ledge or illu­min­a­tion. Today we ought to note that this idea is sub­ject to revi­sion, as human beings, who are actu­ally free to strive for that good, are instead actu­ally striv­ing to avoid great­er know­ledge. Or the exper­i­ence that goes along with attain­ing it. What happened? 

My guess is that since the dawn of mod­ern­ity – as nice as mod­ern­ity maybe – three areas of human dex­ter­ity have come to dom­in­ate everything else: tech­no­logy, sci­ence, and eco­nom­ics. Among these three areas, there is, of course, plenty of over­lap. With oth­er areas bey­ond those three, just men­tioned, there is less over­lap. In addi­tion to that, we may observe that the dual­it­ies of human inner-life have not been included into the reflec­tion pro­cess. While the Enlight­en­ment unfol­ded and estab­lished its way of think­ing, we lost sight of the fact that we, humans, not only have a nat­ur­al propensity towards love, but that part of our being may also be com­prised of hatred; or that we are not only think­ing, but also feel­ing entit­ies; that we not only strive for free­dom, but also have a desire for edu­ca­tion and cul­tiv­a­tion. The neg­at­ive aspects of us are being factored out of the equa­tion. This is where clas­sic­al eth­ics, the art of lead­ing a good life, comes in. We have for­got­ten that. I think there is a chance, how­ever, that we may enter into such a rela­tion­ship with art – art being an activ­ity that is an end in itself – that may help us. Maybe this is where we ought to begin.

AoA: The art of lead­ing a good life is a lovely cue. Do we want to see more of it again today?

…are actu­ally quite noth­ing at all. We are not even human beings

K: If we want change, we need to bring about a dif­fer­ent concept of what a human being is. Or we at least need to think about doing so. Maybe we are all too much con­cerned with the Enlight­en­ment itself. Mod­ern­ity, when looked at crit­ic­ally, was after all made by philo­soph­ers. It was per­haps the first time philo­soph­ers caused such fate­ful change. But maybe we need to depart from the notion that there is such a thing as an illu­min­a­tion. And that if we only engaged long enough with that illu­min­a­tion, human beings will be illu­min­ated, too. Quite the oppos­ite is the case. We ought to assume that we are noth­ing. We, human beings, are actu­ally quite noth­ing at all. We are not even human beings. We are the out­line of a human being. If we are to emerge as human beings in the course of our life, then by way of actions. More or less good actions. This is how we incre­ment­ally emerge as human beings or devel­op towards being human. Tied to this, is the real­iz­a­tion that we aren’t really in pos­ses­sion of a wealth of under­stand­ing, but a wealth of stupidity. 

We com­mand a wealth of stu­pid­ity and need to spend it fully in the course of our lives as though it were excess weight. Because we exper­i­ence a num­ber of things, because we make mis­takes – and everything that goes along with it. If we did so, I think, we'd come a step closer towards indi­vidu­al­ity, which is a bur­den to most people. It isn’t just pleas­ant the whole way. Artists, or in my case paint­ers, lust for this chal­lenge. I lust for this chal­lenge. But many people view the chal­lenge of becom­ing an indi­vidu­al as bur­den­some or are afraid of under­tak­ing it.

AoA: Inde­p­dence, sef-asser­ta­tion is an import­ant found­a­tion in this con­text. Look­ing back, how did you devel­op such an atti­tude? How did you become an artist?

…wanted to be a rock star

K: I've been social­ized in the GDR. It was clear to me – when I was about four­teen or fif­teen – that I ought to think about what I wanted or what I actu­ally desired. Becom­ing an artist was already in the cards at that age. But, like most teen­agers of my gen­er­a­tion, I wanted to be a rock star. Or a pro­fes­sion­al soc­cer play­er. But without being able to play the gui­tar, becom­ing a rock star isn’t really an even­ing filling pro­ject, and soc­cer didn’t turn out that well either. To make things worse, I was really bad in school, too, espe­cially in art class. I wasn’t that great in the nat­ur­al sci­ences either. Awful would over­state it, but with respect to art class I was def­in­itely awful. 

I began draw­ing rel­at­ively late at the age of six­teen, but already had a couple of paint­er friends whom I admired. I remem­ber tak­ing the train to the neigh­bor­ing town called Halle, in order to vis­it a Greek paint­er, upon my mother's recom­mend­a­tion. After the Greek civil war, that paint­er had been brought to the Soviet con­trolled zone, just like my moth­er. He ori­gin­ally came from the same vil­lage in north­ern Greece. The exper­i­ence was indes­crib­able. The odor of tur­pen­tine. The atelier. The space. I was prob­ably fas­cin­ated by the inde­pend­ence and self-suf­fi­ciency that this career offers, per­haps par­alleled only with that of the writer. They have things in common. 

I prob­ably wanted little depend­ency. Greatest pos­sible inde­pend­ence. Although, how­ever, our job isn’t as free as it may seem to many watch­ing from the out­side. Art his­tory as well as the art mar­ket are cer­tainly con­strain­ing forces. Nev­er­the­less, I was determ­ined to enter this career early on, because I’m a creature of the eye, because I get more out of things that I can appre­hend with my bare eyes. What I see, pos­sesses a great­er vera­city, as far as I’m con­cerned. If some­body tell is me this or that, but what he is say­ing doesn’t coin­cide with what I’m see­ing, then I will reject what he is say­ing. I think I star­ted doing that ever since my school days ended. In those days, the ques­tion of being became rel­ev­ant to me. 

I prob­ably evolved into that pictori­al domain by way of play­ing with its pos­sib­il­it­ies and a pre-exist­ing interest in music, by design­ing simple record cov­ers and t‑shirts. Until friends came along who had sim­il­ar lean­ings towards sur­real­ism or who wrote poetry or painted or pro­duced illus­tra­tions. Thus this love for art gained momentum, became the most import­ant thing and my life, and con­tin­ues on until today. If, today, I'd dis­cov­er some­thing in it that I didn’t like, I'd stop. But there are few decisions I made that I wouldn’t repeat. Like, say, soc­cer. It was the greatest love of my life.

AoA: You've been quoted say­ing that once your work hung upon the walls like led, but now your paint­ings sell pretty well. Today, you are con­sidered estab­lished. Have there been any doubts along the way?

K: Sure, there are always doubts. Espe­cially, when you start being suc­cess­ful. That's when you are par­tic­u­larly asked to revise and check our approach. Because suc­cess is inveigling. It keeps people from recon­sid­er­ing and reflect­ing on things. Suc­cess actu­ally sets the tracks, it sep­ar­ates the wheat from the chaff. Suc­cess is the time in which you need to set the course for the future. It isn’t a time to let go of the reigns. With respect to a paint­er, this mean that one makes sure not to repeat one­self, but that one tries to paint even bet­ter pic­tures that one ever thought pos­sible. I prefer the path of the seeker over the cer­tainty of one who believes to have found some­thing and goes on to repro­duce it.

AoA: There is doubt, on the one hand. And there is the sense of a crisis, on the oth­er hand. Did you ever exper­i­ence any­thing close to a cre­at­ive crisis?

The more you are away from your work, the more you feel that you are not one with the universe

K: Cer­tainly. It was in times of crisis that I actu­ally went for­ward. Essen­tially, I paint in order to bring about crisis, because crisis is what pro­pels me for­ward. I think those phases of unin­ter­rup­ted work cer­tainly have been nice, but they didn’t push me for­ward as much as those oth­er phases did. It's like a body that has con­trac­ted some sort of infec­tion. That's uncom­fort­able, the tem­per­at­ure rises, the body struggles with the vir­us and even­tu­ally shakes it off. In the after­math, the body is stronger with respect to such con­ta­gion. When you inter­rupt your work and let the crisis run its full course, then you exper­i­ence some­thing sim­il­ar to an infec­tion. In my case, whenev­er I believe to have accom­plished some­thing, it’s import­ant for me to dis­tance myself from that accom­plish­ment, to take a step back, and to take a break, in order to put things into per­spect­ive. It’s with­in that inter­val, in which the crisis hap­pens. The crisis doesn’t just come along without reas­on. The more you are away from your work, the more you feel that you are not one with the uni­verse. And even the things that you had painted pre­vi­ously, are revised, are looked at in a dif­fer­ent light, and have been injured. And after your earli­est work has become sub­ject to this desire for revi­sion, then you will go on to revise everything you have ever done and look at it again crit­ic­ally. This doesn’t hap­pen after every paint­ing, oth­er­wise I couldn’t ever paint any­thing new. It takes place in lar­ger cycles, I would say prob­ably once a year.

AoA: You've also men­tioned that you need a sense of empti­ness, after you com­pleted one paint­ing and before you begin a new one. Is there any connection?

K: Yes, it indir­ectly has to do with it. Because you are still under the influ­ence of the paint­ing that you just fin­ished. Everything is still ever so present. And I'd be lying, if I'd now con­tin­ue seam­lessly on into the next paint­ing and thereby neg­ate the feel­ings that I had with the one that I just fin­ished. They exist, even though uncon­scious, with­in me. In that sense, the pro­cess of dis­tan­cing myself from the old paint­ing, is a sort of sep­ar­a­tion. I then don’t want to see that paint­ing any­more. If it isn’t imme­di­ately sold, then it’s in fact still present, but I don’t want to look at it. Not because I don’t like it. But because the goal of empti­ness con­sists in being as recept­ive as pos­sible and as unaf­fected by any­thing that had been hitherto. I don’t want to tread on paths that I already have walked on.

And it’s always dif­fi­cult to dis­cov­er ration­al argu­ments for our own work in the realm of the irrational

AoA: Empti­ness and filling up again. How does that hap­pen? How should I ima­gine that?

K: One must first impose upon one­self a ban on pro­ductiv­ity. Don’t pro­duce any­thing. That doesn’t mean that I’m not work­ing. It just means that I’m not work­ing pro­duct­ively. I usu­ally do pretty com­mon, every­day stuff, dur­ing those peri­ods. I don’t sit down in a lib­rary and wait. That would be stu­pid. But in the final ana­lys­is it’s indeed a kind of wait­ing, even though I carry on with my life in the course of it. I do not only feel the urgency to paint some­thing that will per­haps sur­vive me. I also feel the urgency to put a nail into the wall or to build some­thing else or to des­troy some­thing. That's pos­sible, too. And that's a way of cre­at­ing dis­tance. You mull over a couple of things in your mind and the new already is dawn­ing, though far upon the hori­zon, it’s gradu­ally dawn­ing upon you. Or maybe not in your mind, but in your sub­con­scious. That's where a lot of things come from. And it’s always dif­fi­cult to dis­cov­er ration­al argu­ments for our own work in the realm of the irrational.

AoA: We've now learned vari­ous things related to your cre­at­ive pro­cess. Could you per­haps describe how it exactly works? What role for instance does the mod­el play?

Noth­ing to do with copy­ing the mod­el to the can­vass, one-to-one

K: Basic­ally, build­ing a mod­el stems from my need to see some­thing. I’m not, nev­er have been, par­tic­u­larly great at sketch­ing things. I’m not the kind of guy who will quickly, by way of a few lines, will give you the ana­tomy of a dog or a cat. What that means is that I always need some­thing to look at. And by look­ing at it, I may study it and by doing so I’m able to act. By acknow­ledging that, I real­ized that I’m not a seri­al paint­er – even though I did have a brief post­mod­ern phase between 1997 and 2001/2002. A paint­ing that is planned long in advance is some­thing that I’m more com­fort­able with. In doing so, I have always worked with pho­to­graphy. I also pre­ferred pho­tos over human mod­els that simply are a source of anxi­ety and nervous­ness for me, too. If someone is present or not, may be irrel­ev­ant to many people. But even if only my wife is stand­ing behind me, that would be ter­rible for me. I couldn’t do a single brush stroke. That's also why I have screened these win­dows here. I don’t like to be observed while I work, and I don’t want to look out­side while I’m painting.

I want to be alone with the paint­ing that I have in front of me, so that I may enter into that cos­mos, so that I may work at the greatest height pos­sible for me. But let me return to your ques­tion. Build­ing a mod­el was just some­thing that worked best over the years. The more accur­ately I was able to work out the mod­el, the more I was able to intro­duce cor­rec­tions in order to make changes or to bring about the pos­sib­il­ity of change. And we are talk­ing about mod­els that are built today, but may remain assembled for a few days or some­times even weeks. This is, of course, a very com­fort­able situ­ation, in order to review every pos­sib­il­ity that you have and to cor­rect any mis­take that may have snuck into my design. But this has noth­ing to do with copy­ing the mod­el to the can­vass, one-to-one. The mod­el is the basis for a paint­ing, noth­ing else. It’s a kind of back­drop, upon which each paint­ing is based on. It’s about the power of forms that may work this or that way with­in any giv­en painting. 

And I attempt at paint­ing the pic­ture, so that it cre­ates – in my opin­ion – the highest degree of ten­sion pos­sible. So, on the one hand, you've got the mod­el and then you have the con­stel­la­tion, in which the fig­ures are intro­duced. But the frame­work must already be as clear and as abstract as pos­sible, when it’s built. In the win­ter­time, I usu­ally build mod­els indoors; and dur­ing the sum­mer, I go out­side. I own a little piece of forest where many pic­tures have ori­gin­ated. In my opin­ion, indoors clear, abstract struc­tures dom­in­ate, and out­doors nat­ur­al things may gain prom­in­ence. Out­doors, I take the oppos­ite approach. I take the wil­der­ness of the back­ground and con­struct clar­ity in front of it, per­haps less com­plic­ated entan­gle­ments. But there are not only paint­ings that are cre­ated in response to a mod­el. There are paint­ings that are informed by all kinds of influ­ences. In the end, none of these mod­els, the con­struc­ted real­it­ies of mod­els, are suf­fi­cient in order to deduce a paint­ing from them. They are simply a means to an end, in order to get closer and in order to do things with this mod­el that ulti­mately need to be decided at the easel. Oth­er­wise, I would need to paint at all.

AoA: Is build­ing a mod­el a sort of pro­to­typ­ic­al approach?

K: For me, it’s a way of approach­ing some­thing, that's all. The mod­el, as soon as the gen­er­al situ­ation is clear, usu­ally is pretty quickly dis­carded. I then no longer need it and do not want it any more, this oth­er truth, and begin real­iz­ing the paint­ing. I can build as many lovely mod­els as I wish, but if I’m not able to real­ize it con­vin­cingly on the can­vass, then all the fuss is good for noth­ing. I'm primar­ily con­cerned with paint­ing, with col­or and form, with real­iz­ing my vis­ion in a con­vin­cing way. That's what mat­ters. That is way I dis­pose of the mod­el as quickly as possible.

AoA: How much time do the indi­vidu­al steps con­sume, begin­ning with empti­ness to con­cep­tu­al­iz­ing, to build­ing the mod­el, to real­iz­ing the actu­al painting?

K: This, of course, var­ies fre­quently, but gen­er­ally I'd say that I spend the same amount of time paint­ing as I do pre­par­ing. With regard to my cur­rent pro­ject, this will cer­tainly be the case. I will need about two to three months of pre­par­a­tion and the same amount of time real­iz­ing the paint­ing. Hope­fully. And whenev­er I com­plete a paint­ing, I reenter the phase of dis­tan­cing myself from it by doing pretty com­mon tasks and oth­er things. I read each day, for instance, but I don’t vis­it exhib­i­tions, while I’m paint­ing. That's some­thing I save for the time between projects.

AoA: Pre­par­a­tion occu­pies a lot of your time. We've learned quite a bit about the mod­el as well as search­ing out appro­pri­ate loc­a­tions. How import­ant is sup­port you get from friends and acquaint­ances in this con­text and which influ­ence does that have on your work?

K: They are help­ers. When, for instance, I was work­ing on the paint­ing »Mak­ing Sky«, I only had a vague idea of the spa­tial situ­ation. I knew it needed to be a room with a broken-in ceil­ing, through which an angel may enter. The room needed to be large enough to house beau­ti­ful, large forms. You may con­sider your­self for­tu­nate if you know some­body who is famil­i­ar with such loc­a­tions in Leipzig and who could take a couple of pic­tures and make sug­ges­tions. Then you review those sug­ges­tions and hope to find some­thing that works with regard to loc­a­tion, open­ing, the gen­er­al lay­out of the place, and so on. So, if there is some­thing that works well with what I've got in mind, I go and take a pic­ture of the place myself, print it out, and hang it up above my bed. Everything else then fol­lows from there. I occa­sion­ally stare at it apathet­ic­ally – in the even­ings before I go to bed. I don’t know what you could call it. I’m a bit hes­it­ant to call it »cog­ni­tion«. It’s a dif­fi­cult pro­cess, and it’s dif­fi­cult to find words for it. 

Some­thing like a rela­tion­ship devel­ops gradu­ally, and I attempt at shap­ing that which is in front of me. And then I fall asleep and when I wake up the next morn­ing, think­ing »exactly, the angel needs to stand on top of the table«, then this real­iz­a­tion is bind­ing, imper­at­ive. I then fol­low that ini­tial notion. It all needs to be in my head. I used to makes notes. Today, I don’t make any notes, because I believe that I will not for­get the import­ant ele­ments. If in the fol­low­ing morn­ing, I need to search for the solu­tion I had come up with the night before, then the solu­tion wasn’t that great after all.

AoA: You men­tioned help­ers that influ­ence your work to a cer­tain degree. Are there any oth­er influ­ences? What about your fore­bears in the his­tory of art?

K: It would be fool­ish to say, des­pite your bet­ter judg­ment, that you haven’t been influ­ence by any­thing. It's import­ant, espe­cially if you're at the begin­ning. You must be allowed to raise your­self with the aid of those who already accom­plished great things. You usu­ally don’t notice until later on that the influ­ence of those, who you tried to rise your­self up on, was too massive after all, so you needed to dis­tance your­self from them again or took them down or whatever. But com­par­is­ons are abso­lutely pro­duct­ive and import­ant. But it's import­ant not to let that close­ness to oth­er paint­ers to become too over­bear­ing. When you're young, you per­haps have a vague pre­mon­i­tion that you are some­thing spe­cial, some­thing more beau­ti­ful than oth­ers. At one point, you real­ize that it was an illu­sion. But by work­ing con­tinu­ally, by hanging on, you gain exper­i­ence. Only in doing so, you may be able to bring down a titan, if you're lucky. But exper­i­ence doesn’t come from con­ver­sa­tions. It only comes from doing things.

AoA: So it's all about exper­i­en­tial know­ledge, not about fac­tu­al knowledge?

K: Exactly. You grow from the paint­ings that you cre­ate. Each paint­ing rests upon its pre­de­cessor. That's the prim­al con­cat­en­a­tion that ulti­mately rep­res­ents every paint­ing you ever made. It would be non­sense to pick out an indi­vidu­al paint­ing and to say, »that's how I did it«. Because you need to look at the broad pic­ture, in order to be able to eval­u­ate indi­vidu­al elements.

AoA: How does that blend with dis­tan­cing your­self from your work after you've com­pleted a picture?

K: Exper­i­ence, from my per­spect­ive at least, always needs to be based on pre­ced­ing events. I’m not say­ing that I'd like to leap from one ice floe to anoth­er. What I’m say­ing is that if it’s sup­posed to be a pro­duct­ive exper­i­ence, it would be stu­pid to neg­ate that which was, even if I'd maybe like to sup­press it. It’s after all with­in me, uncon­sciously. And I, of course, con­sider them as a point of depar­ture, as a basis, and I don’t ignore them, as some artists do these days. They paint like this one day and dif­fer­ently anoth­er day. That's not what I got in mind.

AoA: What role does cri­ti­cism take in your work? Do you admit cri­ti­cism, even while the pic­ture is just slowly emerging?

K: It depends some­what on how the paint­ing comes along. In the early stage of paint­ing, I actu­ally dis­like people com­ment­ing on it. Con­sequently, I wait until about half of the paint­ing is com­pleted, when one may already anti­cip­ate which route the whole pro­ject is tak­ing. But it’s often the case that I can’t sep­ar­ate those things. It's in the nature of my occu­pa­tion that it's sol­it­ary work. It requires cor­rect­ive action. For that reas­on, I fre­quently have vis­it­ors in my atelier. We then, of course, also take a look at the unfold­ing pro­gress of what I'm cur­rently work­ing on. The vis­it­or then will sense if I want to talk about it or not. I like intim­ate con­ver­sa­tions. I greatly profit from the oppor­tun­ity of dis­cuss­ing my work in private with one or two people. For me it’s import­ant to have a daily routine. When I step in front of the easel and begin paint­ing, I’m dis­cip­lined and do not allow being dis­turbed. I need the time, the hours, in order to get into the paint­ing. In the even­ings, I enjoy com­pany. For me, it doesn’t mat­ter if that's a pro­fess­or or a cab­in­et­maker. I have indeed received cri­ti­cism from sim­pler minds that was worth con­sid­er­ing and brought about action, too. Say, I have an elec­tri­cian work­ing in my atelier. He may take a look at what I’m paint­ing and give me his remarks. Some­thing baff­ling then occa­sion­ally hap­pens, and that per­son sees some­thing that I have over­looked, because I’m too close with the painting.

AoA: What do think about the role of art, today and in the future?

…want to learn about things that I haven’t con­sidered with respect to my work

K: Let's dis­tin­guish between look­ing at art and cre­at­ing art. When you watch people pur­su­ing an artist­ic activ­ity – it doesn’t need to be paint­ing, it could be pot­tery, – you'll notice that they are totally immersed in what they are doing. The activ­ity may lead to some­thing that you will nev­er achieve by just look­ing at things. But I fear there is also a neg­at­ive devel­op­ment tak­ing place cur­rently with respect to that. People are not left to them­selves any­more. They are some­times even pat­ron­ized. I often get agit­ated, when I vis­it exhib­i­tions and I’m told what I’m sup­posed to think what some cur­at­or has come up with. When I’m coerced in using the audi­oguide that offers pre­fab­ric­ated inter­pret­a­tions, while explor­ing the exhibition. 

To cut it short, here, too, free­dom is being con­strained, instead of let­ting con­scious­ness expand by itself and on its own accord. In doing things, people tend to make exper­i­ences that they wouldn’t have made oth­er­wise. It would be, how­ever, quite pos­sible to make such exper­i­ences in a museum or in a gal­lery set­ting, if only there wouldn’t be this extern­al mind­set that obvi­ously doesn’t trust people with think­ing for them­selves. This may have vari­ous reas­ons. I’m only noti­cing that people read less and less. Thus people are not exper­i­en­cing dream­s­capes. They don’t make con­nec­tions, don’t con­struct things in their mind. They don’t under­go that cre­at­ive pro­cess that weaves everything togeth­er. I’m con­stantly asked, »What is your view on this? What do you think about that?« But then I need to be res­ol­ute and say noth­ing, even though I might have the most inspir­ing inter­pret­a­tions or maybe in fact do. But I don’t want to impart them upon the world, because I don’t want any­body to think about my work in the same way as I do. That would be a dead thing. I want to learn about things that I haven’t con­sidered with respect to my work.

AoA: This is why you do not give any inter­pret­ive com­ment­ary on your own work, right?

K: Yes. I act upon the premise that I do not have any­thing to say. My truth is that of the paint­ings and of cre­at­ing paint­ings. That's my sense of vera­city and if some­thing hap­pens bey­ond that, then it makes me happy. But I will not step next to my paint­ings or even step in front of my paint­ings and give addi­tion­al com­ment­ary. I van­ish behind them. Because I've already opened the door a bit by cre­at­ing the paint­ing. Now, the ball is in the court of the behold­er. It’s up to him or her to push open the door or to close it. That's his or her respons­ib­il­ity. My respons­ib­il­ity extin­guishes as soon as the paint­ing is com­pleted. And I prefer to van­ish behind my paint­ings and not to give any fur­ther com­ment. And that's what counts in art his­tory. We don’t admire El Greco and Rib­era and Velázquez, because they had great ideas, but because they pro­duced great paint­ings. Their motifs and themes are derived from the bible – there's noth­ing new about that. The intel­lec­tu­al­ity of their paint­ings con­sists in the way they have real­ized their sub­ject – what kind of col­or and form and what sort of composition.

AoA: How do you per­ceive the busi­ness world or people from the busi­ness world, as an artist? 

K: There are all kinds of people, of course. I’m invited by McKin­sey once a year to Kitzbühel and meet Busi­ness-Lead­er­ship folks there on the board level, while they engage in all sorts of activ­it­ies for three or four days. Nat­ur­ally, I con­duct sem­inars focused on paint­ing. In the course of the vis­it, you exchange ideas and talk with each oth­er. Like in every­day life, people vary greatly. You con­nect bet­ter some people than with oth­ers. One per­son responds well to art, anoth­er per­son doesn’t. Nev­er­the­less, for the most part, exchan­ging ideas with those people was pro­duct­ive. But I think there should be much more exchange between art and busi­ness. Per­haps, some sort of deep­er cor­res­pond­ence may help to avoid fur­ther dam­age of com­pan­ies that got into trouble. Because you can’t solve prob­lems without creativity.

Dirk Dobiéy and Thomas Koeplin 2014
Dirk Dobiéy and Thomas Koeplin 2014

©2014 Dirk Dobiéy | Thomas Köplin | Aris Kalaizis

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