Ernst Miesgang calls himself a visual artist as he uses various mediums based on the topics he wishes to address. More recently, he has been creating ceramic sculptures from broken porcelain pieces, often opening doors for interpretations.
With his works, Ernst wants to critically comment on the modern world and rethink how human development should be. Shifting our development focus to the human race is the key solution. While art does not present a resolution on itself, it pushes the boundaries of which people question the status quo of how we live today.
Q. You work across many artistic approaches, including photography, installation and sculptures. What are the reasons you chose each of these to practice, and do you find commonalities?
I call myself a visual artist and I don't feel attached to any specific method. I choose the medium depending on the project I would like to realize. Often I draw inspiration for my artwork from the medium itself. In my ceramic and porcelain objects, I work with mostly industrially made kitschy porcelain and ceramic figures that I smash and reassemble.
Regardless of my medium, I aim for each of my works to function independently and stand on its own. Thus, it is not necessary to understand the entire context in which the artwork is embedded for the work to function in the recipient's perception. When I deal with contemporary art in galleries or museums, I often miss this immediacy that artworks can have. That's probably why I try to create works that have exactly this force that I find so attractive.
Q. You also have a degree in communication. Do you think this experience helps you as an artist?
I had a one-sided technical education in electronics and computer science when I was young. During my education, it was already clear to me that after graduation, I would like to further my education in media theory, social science, and psychology. During my communication science studies, I got a broad overview of different disciplines in the humanities. This helps me now to situate and contextualise my work.
Q. You were formally trained in the art and photography. Could you share with us how did you eventually find sculpture as a medium that you would like to work on?
The study of art and photography at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna with Univ.-Prof. Dr. Yair Martin Guttmann was very open. It was optional to deal exclusively with photography. No matter which medium you worked with, you always received valuable feedback and the best support from the teachers and their assistants.
In an art program, one should learn as many art theoretical perspectives and have as many opportunities to experiment with different media as possible. This was the case at the Academy for me and I am very grateful for this experience. During my studies, I learned a lot and got to know myself. Artistic practices are very individual, as no single standard model works for everyone. While studying art at an academy, you can try yourself out in a protected setting, explore personal boundaries, and at best, go beyond them. That's how I eventually got involved with sculpture as a medium. I have always been an avid flea market visitor. There I discovered cheap ceramic and porcelain figurines as source material for my creations.
Q. In your sculptures, you used a lot of elements from everyday items and added your interpretations. Could you explain your rationale for this creative approach?
I often work with everyday objects that are easy to obtain and available in large quantities, and I like to use unconventional methods.
I am very strong in the ability to transform ordinary and familiar objects into extraordinary ones. My works irritate visual habits, and thus tensions arise, thanks to which the artworks can unfold their power. The objects of the series SHATTERED are made of ceramics and porcelain, but I do not work with traditional techniques such as pottery or casting. I use only ready-made objects, which I smash and whose fragments I assemble with epoxy resin into new independent objects. By limiting myself to the randomly broken shards, new forms emerge intuitively.
Q. Your artworks seem to serve as critical commentaries on the modern world. Could you elaborate on the message that you are trying to convey?
With my works, I criticize the exuberant belief in technology and the progress of our time. Humans are not outside nature but part of a large, complex, fragile ecosystem. If we destroy this ecosystem, we also destroy ourselves. The further development of technology only automatically solves social problems. No matter what technology is used, it will never be able to satisfy the current enormous hunger for energy and mobility in our modern world.
Without a radical social paradigm shift, the problems of our time, be it the climate crisis, the advancing social inequality, or the global health crisis, cannot be solved. Therefore, we as a society need to rethink our value system. Speed, volume, and growth must no longer be the focus of attention.
Q. In order to bring across your message, what are some of the artistic approaches you adopt?
Meret Oppenheimer once said, "It is the artists who dream for society." In earlier times, this task was performed by shamans or priests. Thanks to strongly developed intuitive spiritual gifts, they could comment on or anticipate relevant social events. Artists have a similar talent as they also have the ability to objectify the impressions and insights gained in this way. Works of the art live from the range of interpretations that can be applied to them. It is not the task of art to provide answers to socially explosive questions. But it can open up new perspectives, pose previously unthought questions, and put the finger on the wound.
Q. Could you share with us your process of creating each artwork?
I often set to work without a sketch or an idea. I follow my intuition and the possibilities of my chosen technique purely. Only during the creation of the artwork, I realise why I do it and what story this artwork tells.
In my studio, I have a huge mountain of shards. It is a kind of puzzle with infinite possibilities. Putting new objects together is an almost meditative activity and maybe my attempt to bring order into a chaotic and out of control system.
Q. How would you describe your personality and do you think that contributed to your artistic practice?
I would describe myself as a patient, thoughtful and withdrawn person. That is why my works, which I often work on for weeks, are a plea for slowness, contemplation and reflection. For this, I often miss out in the hectic art business.
Q. Are there any other artistic approaches you would like to try in the future?
I am continuously working on my existing series of works, and at the same time, I am always looking for new approaches and ideas. As a freelance artist, you quickly run the risk of finding yourself in an economically precarious situation. A high degree of flexibility and creativity are qualities you need for this profession.
It is always the newest work that is closest to my heart. I am always trying to expand my formal language, so recent works always have my full attention.
Q. Could you describe your work in 3 words?
Separate and connect