Remember when I first featured Anne Wölk’s art back in ’11 (click here for old post) with her neon-like paintings and drawings that resembled a cosmos of abstraction, details, and colors? Well since then I was very fortunate to get the opportunity to interview her. And as overdue as this post is, I truly thank you Anne Wolk for taking the time out of your busy schedule to bring us a bit closer to you creations. I had initially saw her art on Beautiful/Decay a while back and thought it was wonderful. There was something so captivating and alive about her collages that spoke to me so I was very curious to find out more. Read the full interview detailing Anne’s background, studio practice, sources of inspiration and her curious brainstorming process after the jump.
From all of us at Hi.Lite.Head, we wish you the best of luck!
1. Please give us a brief bio, where you are from and how you started in this field?
I was born and raised in the former East Germany and I grew up obsessively drawing in little black books. For the past 10 years, I have worked as an artist and since 2004 I have been living in Berlin. I studied painting at the University of Fine Arts Berlin-Weissensee and at the Chelsea College of Fine Art and Design, London. Since then, I have focused on making mixed media paintings with bright colors, geometric shapes and formal, street-art references. My work explores the relationship between cultural plurality and a recycling of pop-culture, by layering different motifs from Science Fiction film stills and quotations from an art historical background, like Symbolism, Pre-Raphaelites and color-field paintings. Overall I am constantly studying the possibilities of oil paint as a medium and trying to push my boundaries.
My artwork has been displayed in various solo and group exhibitions around Germany and in international shows for e.g., Turkey, Denmark, Slovenia, the Kyrgyz Republic, the United States, and Japan. Recently, some of my drawings and paintings have appeared in the Finnish art magazine HESA inprint, the Portuguese PARK Art Magazine and in the Canadian art publication Papirmasse. Awards include the national Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes scholarship, a residency at the Kunstverein Werkstatt Plettenberg, and a Grand Prize from Papirmasse Montréal.
2. What themes do you pursue in your paintings? and would you tell us about your creative process – how do you balance technical skills with aesthetic content, and intellect with intuition?
My paintings are mostly about the process of layering color and overlapping aesthetic content. The collage style allows me to reflect on the vibrancy of color and the process of storytelling. Intuition is an incredible resource and gift for using texture, blending, and highlights to create rich colors and depth. My experience has taught me that the more I use my intuition, the better I get at it. Nevertheless, I try to balance the connection between the wisdom of my analytical brain and the wisdom of my spiritual heart. My working methodology includes the idea of a coexistence of different painting languages. In this sense I investigate the nuance of details like fabric texture and the variations of shiny and rough surfaces created by different colors and different painterly approaches.
Much of my effort goes into planning and creating an illusion of depth or space without using perspective techniques. For this reason I focus on experimentally learning how to construct and arrange shapes and forms on a two-dimensional surface. My first step toward starting a new painting is in the construction of the wooden frame; during the working process sometimes I imagine it as bones or a vertebral column. Lately I am experimenting with transparent fabric. The idea is to show a part of the wood and the artistic production; ideally, the viewer becomes aware of the distances between the canvas, the frame and the wall. The observer has the possibility to reflect on their inner bodily construction, comparing oneself to the basic structure of an artwork. The art of painting is always about the intimate triangle between the artwork, the artist and the viewer.
My last works dealt with the topic of the forest, city borders, and the city’s outskirts. In many steps, tensions grow between the illusion of reality and the representation of, for e.g., the bodily skin of a painted tree. Maybe it is for that reason that I am so interested in Birch trees. I am fascinated by the bark that sometimes appears like a silken skin; it is especially the process of peeling and the contrast between the black and white stains that inspires my work. In Russia, birches symbolize the idea of virginal beauty, eternal youth and purity. It is no surprise, then, that in my paintings: art, emotions, and ethics are closely bound. Very few human actions take place without an emotional driver and so it is with the making of art. In this sense it is also true that I try to understand the expression and rising of emotional context in films and cannot stop using film stills as a resource.
3. Your paintings have such a great sense of color, where do you draw inspiration from?
I thoroughly enjoy contrast, for example, the conflict between darkness and brightness. This interest is reflected in nature’s processes of constant change; life becomes death, and death becomes life again. The varnish and the adding of different transparent layers on top of each other is a metaphor for this continuous circulation. Through this technique I can use both the additive and the subtractive blending of colors. Furthermore I am fascinated by the artificial brightness of Neon acrylic paint and the special perception of its transparency. The result is the confrontation of nature with a layer of unnatural and formalistic commentary. I have come to realize that I have an emotional sensitivity to color and that my color choices are strongly influenced by the street art of Berlin; I paint for the love of painting and the joy of creation.
4. What kind of influence(s), if at all, does your culture have on your art?
In general I am interested in collage and the combining of contrary elements from varying sources. Therefore I collect elements of film sequences, lines, rhythms and styles characterized by a fast tempo and virtuosity found in street-art forms. Berlin is fantastically urban with tags and street paintings made by artists from all over the world.
5. Any historical and/or contemporary artists that currently influence your work?
I appreciate the work of: Kai Althoff, Corinne Wasmuht, Daniel Richter, David Hockney, Franz West, Gerhard Richter, Pierre Soulages, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, Francis Bacon, Max Beckmann, Edvard Munch, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Arnold Böcklin, Albrecht Dürer, Matthias Grünewald.
6. What inspires you to keep going and how do you keep yourself motivated?
The most inspiring thing is studio swapping: visits from colleagues and visiting them in return. Also, good feedback from a recent exhibition keeps me motivated. There are millions of opportunities for artists to get new input. It is a surprise every time, when and with whom it happens.
7. What future plans do you have? any dream projects…
Currently I am planning a ten-meter long painting with a shadow and forest theme.
8. Professionally, (career-wise) what’s your goal? How do you bridge the gap between creativity and business?
For me it is important to find a way to paint figuratively in a contemporary sense. That means to investigate relevant discussions about narrative issues and representation in figurative art. I am willing to make a contribution to my field. My aim is a reputable career with international exhibitions in private and public institutions and galleries.
9. What are you working on at the moment? Any upcoming exhibitions or projects that you are excited about?
At the moment I am working on three canvases simultaneously with different content. One of them consists of hexagons and is a great experiment.
10. If you were to describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
11. Lastly, any words of advice for aspiring artists?
Just stay loose! Never take things for granted.
To see more of Anne Wolk’s work, head over here.
(All images copyright Anne Wolk)