GoArt! studio visit with Klaus Killisch
„Mann vor Mauer“ (1988) by artist Klaus Killisch is part of the group show „ Die Schönheit der großen Stadt“ at Ephraim Palais, running till October 28th, 2018. The exhibition shows 120 top-class works by artists who represent the urban and social structures of Berlin in the 19th and 20th century. Born in the former GDR, Klaus Killisch lives in Berlin since 1972, first studied industrial design, later painting at the Academy of Arts in Weissensee. Expressionism as well as the Bauhaus idea, pop and punk, bands such as Einstürzende Neubauten or Nick Cave have influenced the artist’s style from the beginning – a particular kind of collage painting. Music as sound, or rather as material – vinyl, record sleeves or portraits of these models often represent a component of Klaus paintings.
Miriam met the artist in his studio.
Miriam Bers: You told me that the above named heroes of the eighties also swept to the former East of the city, to the Art Academy in Weissensee. This is hardly comprehensible for someone who never lived in the GDR. How does it coalite: Punk and GDR? How come that these movements have significantly shaped your work?
Klaus Killisch: My interest was listening to cool music while painting; for example Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds or Einstürzende Neubauten inspired me a lot. This kind of music best expressed our feelings, the awareness of life at that very moment. It was like a motor stimulating me while painting and propelling me into trance. And it still works the same way today. Much later I understood how much ‚Zeitgeist‘ was turning up in my paintings. This for example is highly visible in ‚die Seele brennt‘ or ‚Teutonisches Bild‘, showing a wolf-man rising out of the image-space.
MB: You mentioned the pottery workshop of Wilfriede Maass being important for you and for other artists, who later also had a gallery in Berlin Mitte in the 90ies.
KK: In the 80ies, the pottery workshop of Wilfriede Maas was a kind of salon and meeting place for the subversive art scene in Prenzlauer Berg, East Berlin. Artists like Cornelia Schleime, Wolfram Scheffler or Angela Hampel painted their pottery there. When I met Wilfriede, many of them had already left the East to live in the West. This exodus was a big loss, but at the same time it helped us going one step further. Together with Wilfriede, Sabine Herrmann and Petra Schramm I founded one of the first artists run galleries in East Berlin. We invited other artists to work there. The ceramic works being produced in the workshop have then been exhibited together with the respective actual work. I therefore had designed blue wall paintings and exhibited my pottery in front of it. That was pretty cool! In the nineties we moved to Gipsstreet with the gallery. We were pioneers of the art boom in Mitte. One highlight was the exhibition ‚Sake Bar‘. It was the idea of Mikael Eriksson. You could sit in a recreated Sake Bar, drink from the vessels but also buy them. Neo Rauch, Carsten Nicolai and many others participated.
MB: How has your work grown in the nineties until today, in the spotlight Berlin? Have you instantly had contacts to people living abroad, after the fall of the wall? I know that in 2004 you co-founded the group ‚Collective Task‘, a kind of mail art together with a poetry scene in New York. How does it work and what is the idea of the collective undertaking about?
KK: When the wall felt through our peaceful revolution I was kind of fortunate: I have been invited to the Biennial of Venice! My expressive works were part of the show Berlin! inthe Italian Pavillon. That was totally exciting and new. With the help of fellowships and exhibitions I traveled a lot and also stayed in Japan for a while. There, I met the American poet Robert Fitterman with whom I have a very long friendship now. He had the idea of ‘Collective Task’. We both organize CT for more than 10 years. The idea is relatively simple: Each month an artist sets a task and the others answer, each in his or her creative way. The results and its variety can be seen on our website. In 2012 we were even invited presenting the work at MoMA. This was thrilling.
In my artistic work I am open for inspiration. Thus several years ago I have been asked by Sangare Siemsen to create a ceiling look for his bar ‚ambulance‘, with records he dj‘ed in the nineties. With this work my passion for vinyl break out. I started experimenting with acrylic color and screened motifs from advertisement thereby developing my collage painting. Talking in terms of music, there is Sampling. And this is how I conceive my art – as a mix of a piece of everyday culture, of the club scene, of trash and painting. Unfortunately the bar no longer exists. In the meantime the ceiling has been covered. Perhaps one day it can be uncovered again.
MB: What will be shown at your next solo exhibition “Endless Rhythm” in Chemnitz? Where and when can it be seen?
KK: The show will beon display at gallery ‚Weltecho‘, starting October 20th, 2018. I already look forward to realizing a wall work there, on the 5 meter high walls!
MB: Which is your favorite place in Berlin?
KK: My studio.
MB: Which is your place of longing?
KK: Parpan, a little village in Graubünden.
MB: How does your day end? Do you cook yourself or do you eat out?
KK: Both. But cooking at home and dining with my family is best.
MB: Recipe idea?
KK: My children often ask for pancakes. And most of the times they turn out well/filmly cut. There are so many options to enjoy them – with salmon, mushrooms, salad or as a desert.
photo credit: Klaus Killisch