Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Interview With German Painter Evol

German tromp l'oil artist Evol started off being everything that I have a hard time connecting with in art: graffiti-based, German, hyper and obviously political and performative. But I was have been interviewing him for a piece I'm working on and I've gotten quite familiar with his work, and its really quite astounding. Growing up in a war-torn Berlin with all of these pre-fabricated concrete slabs with bullet holes and spraypaint marring its surface allowed Evol to celebrate the grit of the city. And he did this meta-urban thing, where he started using cubes and electrical boxes to paint on other structures, so it was like this mini buildings next to the real thing. It's pretty engaging.

This is going to be in Surface next month, but they aren't running nearly any of the interview, and I thought that he was so articulate I had to post it somewhere. He is such an unpretentious, interesting artist. I think if all artists talked about their process as just a "It's just what I do and its to make things pretty" like he does, I, interview more of them.

BD: A lot of your work deals explicitly with architecture - usually run-down, extremely urban looking spaces. What continues to draw you towards these dilapidated buildings? Do you find beauty in them? What about your background (educationally or otherwise) that pushes you towards the urban landscape?

Evol: In fact, the works sort of portray the area that I moved to almost nine years ago. Most of the buildings looked like that back then; most of them weren't renovated, and of course, you couldn't have called it a posh neighborhood, because it appeared rather poor. But in the end that offered possibilities and space for people to make things happen with little or no money, like off-cinemas, illegal or improvised bars and clubs or galleries or other projects. You just could do it - no one really cared and you didn't need resources to do something spontaneously or temporary, and what you described as rundown or dilapidated was in fact was pretty charming: visible history on facades with marks from generations of inhabitants, silent stories of existence (isn't it that what all the tourists like about Venice or small villages in Southern France e.g.?)

So because to all the stuff that happened here, the area got more and more popular. And just like anywhere else gentrification happens, prices go up, thousands of gallons of yellow paint were dumped on those buildings and took away the charm, the people and the possibilities. So for me, the surface of those buildings is a symbol for a neighborhood that offers a lot of discovery /exploration because it hasn't been commercialized yet.

Installing the work at Flamingo Beach Lotel

BD: How did you start in product development? Are you drawn towards architecture in a similar way? Why or why not?

Evol: I drew all my life and as far back as I can remember, Iwanted to study graphic design back. After a few tryouts/internships, I couldn't imagine spending my life doing it. So I tried it out by adding another dimension: I´m not naturally drawn to architecture, it simply is my surrounding. I like living in a city, and if you spend your days or nights walking around or looking for spots to be played or spots others have played, you start developing an eye for it. I mean, buildings or architecture in general are the stone manifests of our society ...

BD: You came from a graffiti-filled background, but your work seems to vary from typical European graff artists. What did you take from the graffiti scene, and what do you think it could do better without? Do you think your similarities are mostly in the fact that you and graffiti artists paint outdoors?

Evol: I think there is no typical European style or something, since there´s a huge difference between Prague, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Milan, Rome, Barcelona, Amsterdam...and that´s what I like about it: when people try to develop their own visual language or playground of expression (I mean, it's difficult to throw funky letters like from the New York 80's. On the other hand: that has been done in the 80's already). And/but that´s what I took from it; the possibility to tell your own story by leaving your mark in public spaces. Get to an audience you don't know, leaving something on their daily ways, using impartiality and the unexpected.

I wish people would be more aware of this, the joy of discovering your surrounding/social environment.

BD: Would you consider doing more commissioned work? Your show catalogue talks a lot about "artistic schizophrenia" and having two VERY opposing sentiments: Nike's and armored tanks, anti-commercialism on a product box. Can you speak a little more about being so contradictory?

EVOL: As a product designer, I was doing commissioned work. And there´s nothing wrong about it. Abstractly seen, it´s a problem with certain parameters, and you gotta find a solution for that. There´s nothing wrong with shoes, your feet can be quite cold without them. It´s the level of commercialism we have to deal with these days.

The tiniest corners of your life get branded ("brandalism" as someone whose name I can't remember right now once subsumed it), so as an artist, I´m my own client, and my reflections on the things surrounding me are the products.

BD: What is your favorite type of place to paint?

EVOL: It could be my studio, because I´m struggling with a tiny, fragile stencil that almost doesn't survive from the cutting mat to the table the way that it should to get sprayed, or a well chosen place in public where a certain impact can be made on the passerby...

Images courtesy of the artist and Wilde Gallery