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Interview with Harald Schmitz-Schmelzer

September 23, 2011

Q: What is your inspiration?

A: Since I am not an artist who is interested in depicting the existing world, I do not really find inspiration in it. Art no longer serves the function of representation, general instruction or religious indoctrination. The main function of modern and contemporary art, which is autonomic, is aesthetics. With this cognition, the important exercise of art is thinking about art, aesthetic theory.  And the artist has to do this in a non-verbal holistic medium…

Q: What artists or movements do you see your work as being related to?

A: I am, on the productive side, interested in non-figurative, abstract and self-referential art. I think of hard edge painting, Minimal art and all kinds of non-relational art, like Pollock, Newman, Stella, and Judd. Indeed there are more ideas circulating about American art of the 1950s and 1960s than there are about European art of that era. I think a lot of these ideas and aesthetic questions can still be discussed today.

Q: Could you please describe your technique and process?

A: My technique of pouring pigmented resin into and empty, hollow mold leads to an artifact that oscillates between painting and sculpture. A Canadian art critic called my pieces “hybrids” because they have disparate characters, something like an aporia. I find this polyvalence very interesting, because you can see and feel all this simultaneously, completely in contrast to the continuous process of speech.

Q: How did you first get involved with art?

A: Since childhood, I was always painting and constructing things, often in a more chaotic way. At the age of 15, in school, I felt that this was something to do in my life. At about the same time, I saw a Mark Rothko exhibition. I did not understand it intellectually, but I believe that I felt the sublime and overwhelming force of this kind of art. I wanted to do the same.

Q: Do you have any formal training?

A: In the 1970s, I studied at the Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf, one of the best art schools in the world at the time. I finished there with my examinations and a special degree called “Meisterschuler.” I also have a degree in Art History.

Q: Who are your favorite artists?

A: In addition to those that I already mentioned, I also like Raphael, Velazquez, Caspar David Friedrich, Turner, Duchamp, Serra, Chamberlain, di Suvero, Tony Cragg, Stephen Shore, Flora Hitzing, and others.

Q: How did you start using resin?

A: During my continuous education as an artist, I have never used oil paint. Today I don’t exactly know why, but I preferred experimenting with industrial paint and varnish. I remember mixing enamel paint, nitro paint, and water-based color together and experimenting a lot. Out of the idea of the shaped canvas, which is still present in some of my pieces in a developed manner, I was looking for a thicker paint that would have a stronger presence than any traditional flat paint. I experimented a lot and found a solution when I studied the coating process done on some of my pieces by a professional piano maker. As this hired labor was too expensive, I experimented and found the correct material, which gives me a lot of opportunities now.

Q: I know that you don’t consider your work to be made up of lines. Could you explain that idea?

A: Traditional flat paint, like oil, can mostly be understood as chromaticity. Some of the best masters, like Rembrandt or Velazquez, had a certain understanding for the three-dimensional quality of paint, just like Van Gogh and a lot of painters today. When I had mixed together my resin with all the other materials that I use like stone powder, cotton powder, glitter, glimmers, and ground glass, the next step of pouring it into a hollow mold was obvious. To pour different compounds one on top of another was the next simple step. There are no lines or stripes, but a three-dimensional mass of a color compound. Because of this, some pieces use the same hollow mold and have the same shape. I obviously also like the idea of repetition. I would like to see five or six of my large pieces hanging side by side, but I never have enough in stock to realize it.