“For me abstraction in art/design is a way to unify, simplify and connect things. I find paintings most interesting somewhere in between abstraction and realism.”
When and where were you born?
Where do you currently live and work?
How long have you been practicing your craft?
With long interruptions; for about 20 years.
What inspires you?
I grew up in a small town in the German black forest area and this landscape will always be an inspiration. But I’m fascinated by the city here in Chicago, obviously. This certainly finds it’s way into the work. People also, of course. I like the idea of interconnectedness in general. Stuff seems to be connected on a deeper level and that includes all of it: the environment/nature, animals, people, design, architecture… It’s a rather obvious thing if you think about it, but we aren’t really aware of it for the most part. For me abstraction in art/design is a way to unify, simplify and connect things. I find paintings most interesting somewhere in between abstraction and realism. Motives that were once based on reality but became abstract over time, through repetition and experimentation. Abstraction leaves room for interpretation and that’s a great thing in my opinion. When I look at art I’m often puzzled why some pieces “work” and others not. Some drawings/paintings are literally alive, others aren’t. That’s particularly fascinating to observe in abstract art. A long and complex creation process is visible (or can be felt) in good art even if the piece has been created in minutes. In regards to drawing, the line, rhythm and expression, the “language” interests me most. Searching lines, not hiding mistakes but rather overdrawing in layers keeps things fresh and dynamic. I like when the drawing process is visible in the end.
How would you describe your style /approach?
I’m a graphic designer by trade and painting/drawing allows me to create on a much more experimental, spontaneous level. I only have a very rough plan when I start and improvise while I work. I like to react to things while I create, correct, overpaint, erase etc. I may define certain conditions for myself in the beginning such as a color palette, a certain motive or a brush/tool/material and then explore the possibilities within those set conditions/limitations. Through experimentation and exploration something surprising can happen. Something you couldn’t imagine before. That’s where it gets interesting. I think that something new (at least new to me) can only be created through experimentation. It’s not about the attempt to visualize an existing visual idea. if you work as a professional designer for so long It’s often difficult to let go and simply enjoy creating for the sake of it. So maybe after all the act of painting and drawing is a way for me to stay loose, to create with a method but not with a plan or clear goal. The process must be very different from my day job. It’s personal and free from the pressure of pleasing clients. I’m not sure if “just for fun” would describe it well. It’s rather about self therapy, overcoming the intimidation of a big white canvas or paper, break habits and to do something different and fresh. Somewhere amongst those lines.
What has been a defining moment in your career?
I studied graphic design in Basel, Switzerland and we spent plenty of time drawing and painting there back in the day. After 2-3 years or so into it I felt something click. Hard to describe what it was, but I finally understood a certain quality. Something you needed to experience and discover for yourself. For me It’s the ability to blow life into a drawing or painting. Took a while to get there and I can’t always make it happen, of course. Drawing and painting fascinated me ever since, but I didn’t practice it much afterwards for some reason. Then, around 7 yeas ago, I went to figure drawing sessions for the first time since design school. This re-vitalized and old passion.
What are your future plans?
Somehow find the time and keep doing stuff. Time is precious and I don’t want to waste too much of it anymore. This becomes clearer the older you get.
Can you leave us with some parting words or advice?
Naturally I’m thinking about the “why” sometimes. Is what I’m doing there mean something or is it good for anything? The answer in my case is that it’s probably “just” an exercise with no real purpose. But it’s good for me, I think. I was at a design conference recently listening to a presentation about the importance of “side projects” for designers. I agree, it’s a positive thing and it’s worth trying to find the time for such projects. Painting/drawing makes me create differently and therefore I practice to think and act in a different way. Who knows, maybe it helps me approach problems and situations more spontaneously. In the end it affects me in a positive way and therefore hopefully also the people around me. Seems to make sense to me. Good enough.
Where can people learn more about you and purchase your work?
All images copyright Oliver Roeger. All rights reserved.