On your website you can find a quote from José Ortega Y Gasset: “The work of art is an imaginary island surrounded by reality.” What does that mean for your art?
The image of the island clearly describes the relationship between reality and art. Even if the work of art does not appear to contain any references to reality, there is usually a more or less direct reference to current aspects of the reality that surrounds me. The work of art itself creates its own reality, which, like an island, is surrounded by reality, but not part of it.
“Equating aesthetics with beauty is an invention of the modern age”
In 2002 you did your doctorate on “Aesthetics” and examined the neurobiological foundations of aesthetic perception. What makes a work of art aesthetic for the human brain?
In order to answer the question, I must first explain the term aesthetic : In philosophy, aesthetic means nothing other than perceived through the senses. In this respect, every work of art conveyed through one of the senses is by definition aesthetic. Equating aesthetics with beauty, on the other hand, is a modern invention. If the question is aimed at this modern term, I would have to rephrase it as what makes a work of art beautiful for the brain
The brain follows the principle of similarity and deviation and provides a highly individual catalog of objects to be compared and the willingness and flexibility to follow its associations also varies greatly from person to person, depending on general cognitive abilities, education and personal biographical character. Beauty can lie in the similarity to the familiar as well as in the deviation from it. The quality and complexity of the respective associations determine the aesthetic experience of the viewer. In the history of science after the 19th century, the concept of aesthetics is expanded to include the entire range of properties that determine how people evaluate perceived objects.
How do the insights from your research influence your art?
The central theme of semiotics is the relation between sign and meaning. In my work, I am interested in how meaning arises. What information content does an object have in different contexts and how can it be charged with meaning? In this context, the work of art is an extremely complex symbol and the engagement with art is an individual attempt to read this symbol and to relate it to the entire arsenal of experience that is available to a person. This applies to the artist who creates a work, but also to the viewer who deals with the work of art.
“For me, art is a medium to raise questions and to deal with them openly”
You write on your website that you often start your work with a question of form or content. Does a work of art have to have a message for you, i.e. provide an answer to this question or at least contain an attempt at an answer?
Very often a new job actually begins with a more or less specific problem. For me, art is a medium to raise questions and to deal with them openly. Only in rare cases does it actually produce permanent answers, but that is not the primary goal either. The task of finding answers falls equally to the viewer. As an artist, I don’t see myself in the position of communicating generally applicable answers or even messages. I only let viewers participate in my work on certain questions.
You studied linguistics. How important is it for an artist to be able to explain their work?
I think a work of art should make sense even without explanations from the artist or someone else. Nevertheless, you have an advantage, of course, if you as an artist are able to explain your work or, better, your way of working and thematic focuses. However, I would definitely not want my explanations to lead to the viewer’s area of association narrowing in accordance with my specifications. Ultimately, a work of art means nothing at all without the viewer’s perception and thinking.
As an artist you have already worked with the media of painting, photography, printmaking and artist books. Which medium fascinates you the most and why?
In fact, I work simultaneously with all media and use them for different problems:
When looking for patterns, I work with printing techniques to examine the interplay of individual elements and materials. Digital photography is superior to human perception when it comes to extracting details from familiar contexts. The artist’s book is the most complex and best suited medium for conceptual work, as it allows meaning to be coded simultaneously on different levels. The object-like nature of the artist’s book allows for a variety of forms of presentation and, by touching the work of art, gives the viewer a more direct and free access to materials and reading channels than traditional media such as painting or graphics.
Where and when can you see your pictures next?
Some of my screen prints as well as works on wood and canvas can currently be seen in the Hofgalerie in Friedeburg.