In the studio: David Benedikt Wirth

From the Fulda Cathedral to an exhibition at the White Block Art Center in Seoul. Berlin-based artist David Benedikt Wirth reveals how everything started for him and how his work has developed since. With a general love for painting, he shares why a traditional medium like oil on canvas has its own aura and what’s behind his solo exhibition Heat.


The artist in his Berlin studio 📸 Michael Ullrich


SSM: What was the first work of art that left an impression on you?

DBW: Luca Antonio Colomba’s frescoes in the huge dome of the baroque Fulda Cathedral.



SSM: You’ve had a busy period since your graduation, showing in both Germany and Asia. Has your pace of production increased as a result or does it remain the same?

DBW: Yeah, there was a lot going on that I’m thankful for and also proud of. You can become more effective in constructing canvases, planning drying times and working on multiple paintings at the same time. Still, a traditional medium like oil on canvas has its own pace and aura. That’s what I love about it.



SSM: Are all your paintings started the same?

DBW: When I’m touched by a subject, an observation or an image, I have the need to capture these feelings into a painting or a series. That’s their common origin.


David Benedikt Wirth Glow (detail), 2022


SSM: Your work is frequently drawn to the conceptual. Has this always been a pre-occupation in your painting and if so, how did it come about?

DBW: Painting as a medium is a concept itself. Sometimes a rather conceptual approach like using a specific pigment or colour spectrum contains a certain poetry that is the most precise. For the museum show in Korea I did a three meter painting of my cave-series using only an authentic Neolithic technique and materials such as Andalusian red ochre pigment, saliva and self-made painting tools. As I'm evolving further in my practice, I'm gaining more and more ways to convey what makes me fall for a subject.



SSM: In a recent series, you've studied infrared imagery. Why did you choose this as reference material?

DBW: The presence of something not visible has always fascinated me. Painting has the ability to convey sensuality. Choosing infrared imagery extends this ability by the aspect of heat. Temperature is part of our environment but can not be perceived visually by humans without the use of technology.


David Benedikt Wirth
present (detail), 2022
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SSM: What was the overall source of inspiration for your current show Heat?

DBW: The title Heat refers to something invisible, but physically undeniable, something like a medium surrounding and connecting my works. I wanted to give weight to the space in between as well. Also, each painting in the exhibition has one or more connections to the title. Infrared imagery visualizing the body heat of predators drinking and sneaking in the heat of the night. Egyptian ceramics being molded and glazed in the North African climate and then baked using heat. The handgun, heat, designed in a desert colourway.



SSM: Can you tell us what you have planned in 2023 or what you're currently working on?

DBW: There is a big show at JVDW gallery in Düsseldorf in 2024. Right now, I'm doing research for a couple of new series.



SSM: 3 songs you currently have on repeat?

DBW: 1. Yolanda Adams – This Joy; 2. The U.N. – Time Kills; 3. Rubba – Way Star



SSM: Is there a painting from art history that best describes your personality?

DBW: I felt some kind of deep connection when I saw the Roof Garden Commission by Pierre Huyghe at the MET in New York.