I want to create something effortlessly expressive. Something you cannot help but continue to look at. Something that is hard to forget.
German artist Björn Bauer creates powerful abstract paintings that are the result of an endless process of experimentation. Rarely does he use the same technique twice - he rather likes to take the viewer with on his exploration of the medium, leaving the meaning of his artworks open to their interpretation. In doing so, the artist hopes to provide an incentive for discussion, to start a conversation, and deepen a sense of community.
We interviewed the artist in his studio to learn more about his artistic process.
INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST
Q. Did you always want to become an artist?
A. Yes. I wanted to become an artist well before
I even understood what that meant. As a kid, I processed everything that
interested or excited me by drawing it. I always had a firm belief that, somehow,
I had to do something that would allow me to create images.
Q. Was there a pivotal moment in your career as an artist?
A. After working as an art teacher and
exhibiting artist for twelve years, I decided to go back to art school in 2017
to pursue an MFA. I went into the program with a particular vision of what I
would create for my thesis, but my professors did not respond to anything I
tried. At a loss, I switched from a figurative approach to a purely abstract
one. Finally, I started getting some positive feedback, and that started a
chain reaction through which I discovered a way of working that was more
exciting and more suited to my true interests than anything I had done before.
Q. Do you start your work with a pre-conceived concept or picture of what you would like to achieve or is the outcome unexpected?
A. I have learned that I work best with only a
very loose idea of what I want to achieve. A significant part of what you see
in my work is improvised. I just start painting until I discover something that
interests me. That is usually when I come up with a very specific plan to
complete the painting, and it’s usually by adding a thoroughly considered
counterpoint to the improvisation.
Q. How do you arrive at the titles of your artworks?
A. If I’m lucky, a title will come to mind while
I’m working on a painting, but more often than not, I spend a lot of time
looking at the finished work and letting it spark my imagination in some way.
I’ll often research various subjects that I associate with the image, just to
look for terminology that is less obvious. I also like to dig through a
dictionary or thesaurus to look for unusual words that seem to fit the image.
Q. Could you describe your techniques and artistic research process?
A. I build my paintings out of multiple layers,
and I like to experiment with as many mark-making techniques as I can get my
hands on. Sometimes I’ll devise unique tools to apply color, or force paint
through various porous surfaces to achieve different textures. If something
produces an effect that I like, I’ll continue developing this technique, but
it’s almost impossible for me to do something the same way more than a few
times - everything I do is always changing. I structure my studio time so that
I can find a creative flow, and when I find it, new solutions and techniques will
Q. Much of your work could be said to have a ‘dark undertone’, is this an effect you try to achieve intentionally?
A. I certainly gravitate to art that has a level
of intensity, which sometimes borders on harshness. I find a sense of beauty in
this kind of imagery because I feel there is something genuine and truthful
about it. My process is very much about finding sense in chaos and implementing
weathered and distorted elements to build visually engaging images. However, I
am an optimistic person, and my work is ultimately about hope because without
that, I would not be able to create anything.
Q. What would you like your work to evoke in the viewer?
A. I would like the viewer to find a connection to their own thoughts and emotions in my images. I share my own interpretations, but these are not set in stone and part of the intent is that interpretations can multiply and evolve as people spend more time with the work. Even better, if people talk to each other and share their impressions of the work as a way to connect - that is the best possible result.
Q. What is the most interesting interpretation that you have heard of your work?
A. Someone once told me “your work is about power.” That puzzled me a bit because I took it in a negative sense. But the truth is that power is only negative when it is abused. I want to create something effortlessly expressive. Something you cannot help but continue to look at. Something that is hard to forget. In that sense, I suppose harnessing creative power is central to what I do.
Q. Which other creatives, books, music, or movies inspire you?
A. Music is a constant source of creative fuel, and I spend more time engaging with sound than with visual art. There are way too many musicians that I love for me to list here, but I especially enjoy music with sophisticated layers and textures, whether it’s jazz, ambient, or metal. I also love visiting galleries and museums. I’m most impressed with art that is genuine and unmistakable, and my favorite painter will probably always be Gustav Klimt.
Q. Could you describe your work in three words?
A. Honest – Bold - Hopeful