We interviewed Markus Oehlen to speak about the physical realities that shape all parts of life, including art practices.
For our Storefront Show you created a monumental work from your ballpoint pen series. Could you describe this technique that you developed a few years back and have been exploring ever since?
Markus Oehlen: The technique is actually a monotype; I use a string that is dipped in paint and glued to a board. By using my own bodyweight I press this stamp onto the fabric and literally trample on the fabric in order to transfer the paint onto it. I use several layers, sometimes with the same stamp in order to create an effect of repetition, other times with a different one which creates more of a layering of different motifs reminiscent of doodles.
How did you come up with this method and how is it related to your other works?
MO: One could say that the idea of the ballpoint paintings derives from the “Wickelbilder,” which are paintings completely composed of string instead of brushstrokes. And these, on the other hand, come from the sculptures which have the imprint of string shaping their surface. It’s fun to play with ideas through repetition and inversion, and thus create a flow and continuity within the oeuvre, even though the result might look aesthetically very varied.
There are several human heads depicted on this painting but what really stands out is the giant clown face with what appears to be a bleeding eye. What is the history behind this particular work and where are these motifs coming from?
MO: Yes, you are right, one can easily perceive this character as a clown with a bleeding eye. But of course there was no real reason for me to create such a figure; I definitely did not want to paint a horror-clown. More so I was thinking about Dubuffet, whose approach I admire. In some ways the clown is also a metaphor of the artist in his studio, especially in these current times which have been quite isolating. I enjoy bringing together different ideas that float in my head and merge them on the canvas. This corresponds with my strategies for my overall oeuvre, which from an early stage on I have been concentrating on the concept of overload. From the beginning it was my intent to counteract the trend towards monochrome paintings which were regarded as the more noble thing to do. I have always been more drawn to the complicated and complex.
For those who can’t make it to the gallery, be sure to watch our video of Markus’ Storefront Show here!