In conversation: Florian Genzken
The Vienna-based artist Florian Genzken shares his favourite music, how he works and what excites him – in and outside of his work.
SSM: How did you get to your studio today?
FG: Luckily I live above my studio, or the studio is located under my flat, not sure which way describes it best. Anyway, my way to the studio is really short: Just going downstairs.
SSM: What kind of environment do you create for yourself to work in?
FG: Especially in winter it's important for me to have it warm and cozy, so that it's a place where you really want to spend time. What is also important to me is that everything has its place and that I can move freely between the works. Since I mostly work parallel on several projects or paintings I want everything to be in reach, but nothing to stand in my way.
SSM: 5 songs you’re currently listening to?
SSM: You’re a painter who works across different mediums. Do you have a favourite one right now?
FG: At the moment I'm trying to learn more about photography. I arrange and stage artificial plants and illuminate them with studio lights. I'm aiming to get results that at first glance look like an advertising shot that was taken outdoors. And on the second look everything about it is obviously artificial and staged: the flowers are plastic, the sky is backlight and the dewdrops are made out of Viennese tap water. For me photography is – at the moment – a great way to compose and create images in a relatively clean way. When it comes to oil painting there are no tricks, you have paint on your hands and on your clothes, the materials that you work with have a strong smell, it's physical work and sometimes the material seems to work against you.
Untitled (Fig), 2022
Digital print on photo paper
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SSM: Are all your works started the same?
FG: As mentioned above I work in different medias, so the method that allows me to produce a work is varying. When painting you are limited in the choice of your tools and depend on what the paint allows you to do and what not, that's why the outcome is always unexpected. Producing objects or photos I start to think about what I need to organize in order to produce what I imagine. But the starting point for all my works is a pretty conceptual approach, I never just start working and see what comes out, because every decision needs to have a certain logic to me.
SSM: Could you name an underlying theme that connects your works shown on Super Super Markt?
FG: The paintings and the scan are dealing with surfaces and some kind of disturbance forced onto them, speaking about the interplay of surface and superficiality. Marks, signs, stains, signatures that were left on them or inscribed into them, commenting, contrasting or contextualizing what lies beneath, formulating an attribution. I'm trying to explore how our perception of the world is influenced by the vast number of images and signs that we are confronted with daily, each of which evokes associations that demand our evaluation. It's thrilling to me how an object is shaped by the glance of a subject and its projections. Take landscape for an instance: It can be beautiful or boring, a place for recovery and wellness, a place for feeling connected to nature or it can be creepy, even hostile. These attributions are most likely not based on experiences but something that we learned from consume or pop culture. There‘s an interesting moment in saying „I was here“ by pissing initials into the snow, knowing that this tag won‘t last long. It can be read as a metaphor for making art itself, doing something in the hope of that the product will be seen, that it will last, but at the same time knowing that it‘ll be gone and forgotten soon. The traces and signatures that people leave on objects or their surroundings say a lot about our view of the world surrounding us, one that mainly focuses on assessment and utilization. Say portraying by showing the marks that the portrayed left.
The Signature Collection (Everest), 2022
Oil on canvas
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SSM: Comedy, drama, fantasy or romance?
FG: Drama drama drama.
SSM: Are there certain references that reappear in your work?
FG: Certainly the aesthetics of advertisement or movie cliches and all kind of staged imagery excites me. It's fascinating that the vast majority of images is produced in order to provoke certain reactions or attitudes towards them. Kitsch has also some very interesting aspects to me, because it's so accessible. I think it's kind of boring when artists try to approach that topic with some distant coolness and irony, since kitsch is just kitsch because you simply can't distance yourself from it. No one hates sunsets. I start most of my paintings with a photo that I either staged myself or that is stock footage, press or advertisement photography. In the process I take photos of the painting in different stages, edit it with digital brushes - for example in order to play around with certain light situations - and then I try to retranslate that into painting. So one could also say that digital photo editing is a reappearing reference, even though it is one that can hardly be seen in my works. There are some historic references as well, when it comes to choosing the motive and format. For example I mostly do landscape paintings in a portrait instead of the classical landscape format, because now the huge majority of photos is done with a smart phone and most of them have a portrait format, because it's just easier to handle (the phone when taking the photo as well as the upload and the consumption in a feed).
SSM: Who’s the last artist that you discovered?
FG: Can't say who really was the last one but in the past months I first saw works by Ndayé Kouagou in Athens and Danh Vo in Vienna and was really fascinated by the two positions. Alexandra Bircken is an artist whose work I knew and liked before, but her recent exhibition in Brandhorst Munich made me see her work in a wider context and I like it a lot.
SSM: If you could experience any work live right now, which one would it be?
FG: The performance FAUST by Anne Imhof thrilled me when I saw it 2017 in Venice. It was so dense and direct, that you can barely get an idea of it, when you watch it on a screen.