For our next preview feature from the upcoming Moniker Art Fair in New York, we’re sharing an interview with Christian Böhmer! Christian is a self-taught contemporary artist who creates large-scale murals along with drawings and paintings. He has exhibited work around the world including in Australia, Germany, The Netherlands, and Switzerland among others. Most recently, he completed a mural painting for the "one wall project" curated by the Urban Nation Museum of Urban Contemporary Art in Berlin. After learning more about his work and process, we’ll certainly be looking forward to seeing what he exhibits at the fair!
Tell us about your background. You describe having roots in the graffiti movement of the 90's so was this the type of art that first inspired you and that you first created?
Yes, graffiti was the kind of art that influenced me most when I was a kid in the mid-nineties. I was lucky enough to live only a few kilometers from Europe’s largest legal graffiti hall of fame at that time, which was the famous "Schlachthof Wiesbaden". Once a year, there came the world’s most famous writers together to have a graffiti jam for one weekend. I was so fascinated to see what was possible to do just with a spray can, that I decided to try this on my own. As it was a legal spot to paint graffiti, there was no need to hurry or to get nervous. I think this is why I had time enough to experiment in every direction, which included painting characters, too. I found out that I had much more talent in character painting then in writing letters....
How has your work developed since then? When and why did you turn to portraits?
The first few years I developed in painting characters and as I got better and better, I moved towards a photorealistic style. I believe the most difficult subject one can paint in photorealism is a portrait, where there are no mistakes allowed. And when you dive into this world of painting portraits, you find out that there’s a lot of stories you can tell with that kind of art.
Can you explain your reasoning behind covering various body parts of your subjects - namely their heads and faces, but also in recent work, their hands as well?
As I said, it is very interesting to tell stories within portraits. I did that for a long time, but one day you ask yourself, what will be the next challenge? What else can I add to these stories? When you think about that, the next logical step will be to transform the portrait, to paint it in an abstract way. But the abstract in my portrait painting is not the transformation of color or shape, but the paper bag. I found out that for me this is a perfect medium to use in order to transform shape, to give it a message, or to simply hide the face itself. Sometimes less is more :)
You recently completed a new mural in Berlin, congratulations! How did that project come about? How often do you create larger, public works and do you enjoy it as much as your smaller pieces?
It was Yasha, the director of the Urban Nation Museum of urban contemporary art in Berlin, who asked me to paint this specific wall. I just began working on a new series of drawings, which plays with red colored hands, that tell all those stories that hidden faces can’t tell. This series deals with people on the edge of society, the ones nobody listens to. And the wall I painted in Berlin is located in an area where these people live. So it was the perfect match.
What will you be showing at Moniker in New York?
I will be showing this new series of people with red hands hidden behind their paper bag mask. But you need to see it in person!
Do you have any additional exciting projects going on in 2019 and beyond that you'd like to share?
Yes, I will have a huge solo show in Mainz, Germany in September. I’m very glad to be there because that is the place where I grew up and where I had my first graffiti writing experience. I have not been back there for more than 15 years!
I will also have a group show in October at 19Karen Gallery near Brisbane in Australia, which I’m also looking forward to. I love the idea that people from all over the world can have the opportunity to see my art in person.
Moniker will be held May 1 - 5 in New York City at:
New York City, NYC
Learn more about Moniker Art Fair by visiting their website.