Interview

Victoria Ferreira from DMagazine, Argentina, interviews Stefan
à Wengen

Victoria Ferreira: What is your creative process like?
Stefan à Wengen: I like to follow a certain theme, but it’s not easy to describe. I find usually images in magazines or in the internet or I shoot a lot of images by myself. After this I do some small drawings. Is there an image that says something to me I usually do a bigger drawing. In this process I'll find out the colours for a painting. These drawings are like plans for paintings. There are also big drawings, seen as plans for paintings, that I think for almost a year to be executed as a final painting. There are other drawings that just stay as drawings.

Victoria Ferreira: How and why do you choose the subjects of your portraits or landscapes?
Stefan à Wengen: I really don't know! They just come to me!
Actually, I am just kidding.
I read a lot, travel a lot, it is an ongoing process. But in the end I don't know exactly how I choose my subjects for my paintings, but basically I work in the process that I tried to describe after your first question.

Victoria Ferreira: What materials and colours do you like working with and why?
Stefan à Wengen: I like making paintings because they are individual and handmade. I love oilpaintings, but for my work I misstrust this classical technique, so I work with acrylic colours. It allows me to work faster and I don't have to wait weeks or even months of drying. Working fast means I have to really concentrade while working because what I have painted on the canvas cannot get removed again.

Victoria Ferreira: How did you develop your particular technique of adding one or two colours to dark pictures? Some of them look like film negatives.
Stefan à Wengen: This has to do with thinking about how to show memory. In a way it is like in a movie, I try to zoom my paintings into a different past, or a fictional reality. We all know this device from films, when natural colour disappear or modulate, we know it from our own dreams at night. In movies it always signifies a cut, it might indicate dream sequences or fragments of memory slumbering in the depths of the unconscious and sometimes suddenly and frighteningly floating to the surface of the consciousness.

Victoria Ferreira: Where does your interest in night, darkness and desolation come from?
Stefan à Wengen: That is not an easy question! I’ll try to answer;
I try often work with things I do not understand such as death, sexuality and time. Since my childhood I am fascinated in things I would try to understand but no one was able explain to me. For example where does the feeling of melancholy come from, why do I have depressing days, why is alienation so, well, alien? Why is the night sometimes frightening and at the same time so beautiful and protective?
There is always light in the dark, there is always good in evil – or like Lautréamont once said: "Like Baudelaire, like Flaubert, he too believes that the aesthetic expression of evil implies the most vital appreciation of good, the highest morality."
Or to express it in an other way:
I always felt the idyllic seems uncanny to me, the idyllic of a fancy (and privileged) suburbia for example implies to me that there may be a great deal of underlying violence to keep up images of the idyllic, to keep up the atmosphere of this place, that suggests permanent holiday. These things irritate me and are fascinating me at the same time.
There is no black or white, there are always greys, but there can be black and white... you know what I mean...?
And doesn't have everybody a dark side? Don't we enjoy the execretion sometimes – beside it helps to keep up our cardiovascular system?

Victoria Ferreira: How and why do you include the Freudian concept to the uncanny in your work?
Stefan à Wengen: I had to. Since my work moved in this direction and deals with psychology I had to deal with Freud. The unconscious can tell you a lot of what is embedded in deep in our souls. It is like a huge reservoir with all of our enclosed memories, experiences and desires. What can be more interesting than this?

Victoria Ferreira: What are your influences and sources of inspiration?
Stefan à Wengen: I can give you some names of persons that have inspired me or still inspiring me: Hans Lebert, Francis Bacon, Francisco Goya, David Bowie, Ferdinand Hodler, Michel Foucault, Julia Kristeva, Bruce Wayne, Arnold Böcklin, Max Frisch, Edgar Allan Poe, Caspar David Friedrich, Edvard Munch, Odo Marquart, Antoine Chintreul, Johann Heinrich Füssli, Georges Bataille, Bruno Manser, Jean Baptiste Chardin, Guiseppe Cannella, Robert Pogue Harrison, Simon Shama, Umberto Eco and many, many others.

Victoria Ferreira: What do you want to provoke or transmit with your work?
Stefan à Wengen: Uff!
There is no strategy involved to provoke something particular. But I think, for me, giving expression to the oppressive, the disconcerting, the alien, corresponds to a primal human need.

Victoria Ferreira: Why did you move from Switzerland to Germany?
Stefan à Wengen: Love! And it is still the same reason I am here for more than 20 years...

Victoria Ferreira: What can you tell us of the art scene in Düsseldorf?
Stefan à Wengen: It is much smaller than the art scene in Berlin which is overcrowded with artists. It seems almost every artist is moving to Berlin at the moment. Sometimes I ask myself if there are any artists that wants to stay here like I do. Düsseldorf is small and cozy, but I like to be here because Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam are close by and the airport is just around the corner.

Victoria Ferreira: What music do you listen to while you work?
Stefan à Wengen: While I strech my canvases I usually listen to harder music such as "My Chemical Romance", "Trendmoller" or more monotone ones as "Fad Gadget" for example. While I paint or draw – it is depending on my mood – I like to listen down tempo Jazz like "Bohren und der Club of Gore", or more sentimental or quite melancholy music like "Brendan Perry" (in a way it is sad music with a voice like one might find in Frank Sinatra), "Dredg" or "Unkle", "Kip Hanrahan" or "Moondog". Sometimes I like to hear while I paint the symphonies of "Philip Glass", or the one by "Frank Zappa" – do you know his classical compositions? They are just wonderful! – or I listen to beautiful singers such as "Merdith Monk". I also enjoy funny or ironic music sometimes like "The Residents".
Oh, there is also wonderful experimental music that I found for working: a musician from Düsseldorf with the name "Hauschka"...
Oh yes, sometimes I listen to Gamelan-music from Bali as well until it drives me crazy...

Victoria Ferreira: What do you like doing when you are not doing art?
Stefan à Wengen: Travelling into tropical jungles, writing, rewriting, reading, watching TV all night long, cooking, collecting antique wooden Buddhas and also trying to be lazy – and that is really hard work sometimes!

Victoria Ferreira: Which is your gallery in Berlin and what can you tell us of it?
Stefan à Wengen: Jiri Svestka Gallery. He owns two galleries, one in Prague – I forgot to mention Franz Kafka in your 7th question! – and one in Berlin.

Victoria Ferreira: What are you working on now and what are your upcoming projects?
Stefan à Wengen: My next show, after my solo museum-show at the Museum of Art in Lucerne in Switzerland, will take place at Jiri's gallery in Berlin. I am thinking of naming the exhibition "Memento" or "Comfortably Numb" and I will show probably – just guess – new paintings of the night and darkness, melancholy memories.