07.04.2021, Limelight Artist of the month, Artorney Award, Rotterdam
link to interview at Artourney Award, Rotterdam:
Who is Anne and what does she do?
I was born and raised in former East Germany and I’m a figurative painter whose artistic work stands in the tradition of realistic contemporary artists Vija Celmins and Russel Crotty. Committed to an attitude of reskilling, this landscape painter uses traditional methods and materials.
I develop my compositions from a perspective of observations of the sky and paints a wide variety of light phenomena. My painting process is an artistic translation of terms such as glow and shine into a visual language. For that reason, I work on an unusual and finely nuanced palette of blue shades. The colour spectrum of the light in her paintings astonishes viewers and takes them away to a world of romance and silence.
In this context, my subject matter speaks of the imagery of futuristic science and astronomy, which we have only become familiar with from the advances of satellites, cameras, and computer-generated images. By layering content from these diverse sources, I create a fantastical interpretation of nature, in which the simultaneity of Romanticism and Utopia becomes perceptible.
What is your background?
Being an artist always had great value in my family. Even as a little girl, I did colour pencil drawings with my grandfather. He was incredibly good at drawing men’s heads. His family came originally from East Prussian Königsberg, modern-day Kaliningrad. He knew a lot about the East’s landscapes, with its birch trees and the Baltic region’s coastal formations. While living in East Germany, I regularly studied artworks from Polish landscape painters. I still love the paintings Moose Fighting with Wolves by Julian Fałat (1853–1929), The Old Town Square in Warsaw at Night 1892 by Józef Pankiewicz (1866–1940), and Courtship by Wacław Szymanowski (1859–1930).
At the age of 13, I visited an open house exhibition at the Burg Giebichenstein Art Academy in Halle for the first time in my life. I immediately fell in love with the old castle ruins and the rose garden in the middle of the castle courtyard. It appeared to me like an ivory tower in a kind of nutshell compared to a grey and often hectic urban world.
At that time, I already decided to study art. The moment I turned 16 years old, I tried to apply to art school and was immediately accepted into the painting class of Ute Pleuger.
After three years of studying in this sheltered environment, I felt the need to see a little more of the art world. I moved to the University of Fine Arts Berlin-Weissensee and the Chelsea College of Fine Art and Design, London.
In 2006, I found my first gallery representation in Berlin and exhibited at my first Art Fair called Contemporary Istanbul. On this occasion, Can Elgiz purchased one of my large-scale paintings into the Elgiz Museum collection.
From this point on, I expanded my exhibition activity at an international level, with various group shows in the USA, Great Britain, Spain, Denmark, Slovenia, Turkey, and many other countries.
What does art mean to you?
My paintings predominantly show night sky sceneries with deep and open galaxies. By quoting space telescope images and digital photography resources, I test the margins between art and reality.
With my motives, I try to close the photographic information gaps, like digital error glitches. Simultaneously, I sample landscape compositions in a collage technique to envision a future that’s not here yet.
For me, the process of painting is nothing destructive anymore. Instead, I experience myself as a creator of atmospheres and universes.
I understand the profession of a visual artist as something which brings new thinking and generosity to the world. Therefore I try to be someone who does human work that changes another life for the better.
That includes becoming an innovator in my artistic field of landscape painting. I wish to present discoveries that the audience might have missed. For instance, I replace the deep light of the old masters with screen colours from backlit screen surfaces and attempt to carry the classic themes of the landscapes into the present and future.
What do you think art means to people in general? What is the importance of art in the world?
In my opinion, my paintings have value and bring joy to others. At the same time, I am convinced that my landscape pieces are not for everybody. That means my futuristic mountain scenes are for people who experience themselves as visionaries and future enthusiasts.
My clients often build lifelong relationships with works of art. Some of my collectors told me that my paintings are growing with their lives. Nevertheless, deeper layers of understanding are necessary. Why does buying contemporary art, in general, bring pleasure to collectors? Often, producing art means producing luxury items. I have to admit that not everybody in the world can afford art or needs art to live a good and satisfying life. Visual art is essential for artists and their like-minded peers.
The painting process helps me to calm down. Over the years, I have learned how to relax from the stressful outside world during the creation process.
How do you work?
I work with one assistant in my studio. She helps me to realise and put into practice more extensive projects. Currently, I am planning to create 10 to 15 works of art in the future. With her help, I can confidently fill larger exhibition spaces, and my assistant helps me keep track of each piece’s progress. For more extraordinary projects, sometimes friends help me with technical advice. Recently, I was given a motor with which one moves disco balls. Thanks to my friend’s dedication and inventiveness, I can now set my planetary spheres in rotation in the exhibition room.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Many of my works show the world at night. People have felt touched by the magic of the stars at all times and in all cultures. My landscape motives represent an attempt to translate the longing to travel to the stars into the painting’s specific language.
I am fascinated by science fiction stories about space travel and cyberspace. Involved in the society of digital culture, I alter film stills and photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope and integrate them into my compositions and personal painting cosmos. During my childhood, I saw a seemingly infinite number of simulations of stellar skies and demonstrations of planetary runs at 360-degree shows at the planetarium in my hometown of Jena. Jena was the centre for laser and optics technology in the former GDR. This formative experience continually influenced my fascination with science fiction and space travel. Picturing the future can be absorbing. Since the start of the technological age, science fiction has acted as a reflection of the public’s hopes and anxieties about the future.
My main interest is space travel and in the search for life on other planets and moons outside our solar system. As a child, I found the astronomers’ results extremely unsatisfying concerning the search for potentially habitable worlds in our universe. That’s why I became interested in science fiction novels: I had a deep longing for more.
During the 1980s, scientists could not prove the existence of planets in other star systems. The first exoplanets were discovered as early as the 1980s, but at that time, they were either classified as brown dwarfs (HD 114762 b) or temporarily discarded due to the still-inadequate measurement accuracy.
In 1992, three planets outside the solar system orbiting the pulsar PSR 1257 + 12 could be confirmed.
Which artist or artwork inspires you most? (what kind of art do you have at your own home?)
I live with two drawings by my Dutch colleague, Witte Wartena, and four paintings from my dear friend, Mitja Ficko, from Slovenia.
Name 3 artists you would like to be compared to
Vija Celmins, Russel Crotty, Angela Bulloch
What do you hope to achieve in your art career?
I am building my art career with the vision of having a vibrant artwork production in my bright and beautiful artist studio. As a creative person, full of energy and love, I am sharing my passion with others to spark joy in their hearts. Using my art as a way of sharing values and beliefs with others feeds my heart. I aim to become a well-known professional artist and do the best work I can. In my envisioned future, I get regularly invited to take part in museum-quality shows in international institutions. Five international galleries represent my art and regularly sell my works at art fairs in Europe and the States.
What do you like and dislike about the artworld?
Anne Wölk (1982, Jena/Germany) was born and raised in former East Germany. Wölk currently lives and works in Berlin. She is a figurative painter whose artistic work stands in the tradition of realistic contemporary artists Vija Celmins and Russel Crotty.
Committed to an attitude of reskilling, Wölk uses traditional methods and materials. Her paintings predominantly show us night sky scenes with deep and open galaxies. By quoting Spacetelescope images and digital photography resources, Anne Wölk tests the margins between art and reality.
Parts of Wölk’s family came originally from East Prussian Königsberg, modern-day Kaliningrad. Through their cultural roots and characteristics, the artist sees herself as a wanderer between different worlds of Eastern and Western culture. During her childhood, she often came into contact with paintings by Baltic and Russian landscape painters.
With her ongoing exhibition activity in the USA and her extensive exchange of ideas with American artists, Wölk’s fantastical landscapes are characterized by a multicultural character and show German, Baltic, Russian, and American elements.
In 2006, the young artist entered the international art world at the Contemporary Istanbul Art Fair. The collector Can Elgiz bought one of her large-scale paintings for the Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art in Istanbul. Her painting Doggirl was shown in several thematic group exhibitions next to famous artists Cindy Sherman, Tracy Emin, and Sarah Morris.
Later on, Anne Wölk received an MFA from the School of Art and Design Berlin and was a BFA student at the Chelsea College of Art and Design in London.
After graduating from art school in 2009, the painter became known for beautiful large-scale landscape paintings and was selected and shortlisted for several international competitions and scholarships.
Her awards include the national Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes scholarship; the Alpine Fellowship grant at Aldourie Castle, Scotland, UK; a residency at Bodensee Art Fund; and an artist-in-residence grant in Goriska Brda, Slovenia, awarded by the German Embassy, Ljubljana. She has exhibited at international institutions, including the Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art, Istanbul, Turkey; the CICA Art Museum South Korea; the Zeiss-Planetarium Berlin, Germany; the Accra Goethe-Institut Ghana; and the Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts, Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republik.
Wölk has exhibited her work alongside artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Johannes Wohnseifer, Azade Köker, and Stephan Balkenhol. In 2011, she was selected for the Edition S 36 of DSV Kunst Kontor, Stuttgart. The Edition S 36 was a compilation of contemporary artworks, including paintings of Jonathan Meese and Tim Eitel.
She has exhibited and sold on the international art market, including the Swab Art Fair Barcelona in Spain; Viennafair in Vienna, Austria; KIAF Seoul in South Korea; and Contemporary Istanbul in Turkey.
Wölk has since shown her work in private gallery shows, including Galería Luis Adelantado, Valencia, Spain; Arebyte Gallery, London, UK; Galerie Wolfsen, Aalborg, Denmark; Pantocrator Gallery, Shanghai, China; Alfa Gallery Miami, USA; and The Residence Gallery, London, UK.
In October 2013, Anne Wölk won the Category Award for the ArtPrize competition ‘Art Takes Paris’, judged by directors from The Andy Warhol Museum in New York, Lisson Gallery, and the Marianne Boesky Gallery. In 2017, Wölk was announced as the Showcase Juried Winner in the painting category of the 9th Artslant Prize. Her painting ‘Virtual light’ was selected by a jury consisting of Natalia Zuluaga (Artistic Director of ArtCenter/ South Florida), Nathaniel Hitchcock (co-organizer of the Bass Museum of Art) and Malose Malahela (co-founder of Keleketa! Library). Two years later, the painter participated in the finalists’ exhibition of the art competition Art Revolution in Taipei, Taiwan.
How would you define yourself as an artist?
I predominantly create fantastical landscape sceneries, and I see myself as an artist rooted in painting. The surfaces I work on are canvases and Styrofoam. My passion for space and its exploration developed at a young age. My dream of traveling to faraway planets was nurtured by reading science fiction books and seeing simulations of stellar skies at 360-degree shows at the planetarium in my hometown, Jena.
Nowadays, I can say that the consumption of utopian novels and movies has strongly influenced my painting motifs and has shaped me as an artist. My recent artworks show extraterrestrial worlds and reflect on ideas about space colonization and terraforming. As a visual storyteller, I am fascinated by the search for life on other planets, and I try to convey my imaginations into figurative art. Inside the cosmos of painting, it is very simple to let fantasies come true. By creating starscapes, I share my desire for the intangible beauty of the universe with my audience and leave it as a gift. Sometimes that means refining the elusive sparkle of stars or depicting their infinitely deep glow with my brush, could be understood as a very personal implementation of my early childhood dream of traveling into space.
What kind of education or training helped you develop your skillset?
I started my education in the class of Ute Pleuger, a German conceptual painter with a focus on architecture. ‘What you see is what you see’ was the first quote I heard at art school from my professor. The statement was borrowed from the internationally renowned painter Frank Stellar and meant to convince young art students like me to follow the path of formalism and conceptual art. At that time, figurative art was banned and only accepted in the form of life drawing in undergraduate classes to develop composition skills. In these intellectual surroundings, I have learned that if I want to be a success as an artist, I have to accept that art only speaks to its audience with a clear conceptual idea. Execution in terms of the right choice of material comes second, and artistic skills like painting craftsmanship could be meaningful in the sense of understanding color and paint as material properties.
I passed the entrance exam in the painting department at the Art College Burg Giebichstein one and a half years before I made my A-level exam in high school. I think it was the result of an early career decision. At the age of 15, I already knew that I wanted nothing but to become a painter. In my freshman year, I was the youngest student, and I was always afraid of mindset manipulation and guru techniques from the dominant teacher. In my view, artists listen to the inner voice that drives them to create. My inner voice is very critical, which helps me with designing and executing new and better artworks.
From the beginning, I have received some scholarships and small awards, like the scholarship of the national Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes. Winning a scholarship was a stepping stone into the indispensable support system for artists. The money allowed me to travel and educate myself. It forced me to go out of my comfort zone and exposed me to different cultures, which helped me realize how diverse our world truly is.
Three years living in Halle was enough for me, and I continued my studies in Berlin. I completed my education at the Academy of Art and Design in Berlin in 2009.
In Berlin, as a student of Katharina Grosse, I have enjoyed the purest idea of the painting process – the synchronicity of acting and thinking. In her class, I naturally came into contact with the concept that a painting can land on any surface. An Exchange semester in a sculpture class at Chelsea College of Art and Design in London had a powerful influence on me and guided my work in entirely new directions. In London, I gained a better understanding of volume and negative space.
Today, I have learned a lot from the monochromatic night sky drawings of the American artist Vija Celmins. I find her quiet and precise work to be incredibly inspiring, deep, and complex. By studying her work, I have realized that what we don’t understand forces us to take a closer look. Although I have studied with professors from the western hemisphere, I still feel attracted to reskilling, discipline, and craftmanship. I see these strongly reflected in Celmin’s artistic approach.
What experience in your life would you say is reflected in your works of art?
I was born in 1982 in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) on the edge of the zone of Soviet influence. Living in the shadow of the wall left only a few memories. Still, until today, I find myself enveloped in a cloud of disturbing and dark stories. My parents and grandparents cannot get over their psychological wounds caused by having their freedom restricted and being prevented from realizing their dreams. Their memories are in great contradiction to the mainstream narrative of living in the former GDR, which influenced my worldview.
I often think of my mother, who is full of anger to this day whenever she talks about her experience when visiting family members in West Germany. The government did not allow her to take me with her to make sure she had a reason to return to the GDR. Her own country treated her like a criminal and gave her a constant feeling of vulnerability. That is why my mother taught me early on what it means to be free to travel wherever you want and what opportunities this freedom opens up. She always supported my efforts to pursue an international career.
The people of my parents’ generation had artworks, books, theatres, and movies to go to places in their heads. The planetarium in my hometown of Jena was rare, too, where dreaming about traveling (to the stars) was allowed and not restricted. The simulations of stellar skies and demonstrations of planetary runs were the town’s main attractions and an integral part of kindergarten and school trips. During my childhood, I saw an infinite number of shows about the history of our solar system. Jena was the city where the planetarium was invented by the engineer Walther Bauersfeld by the order of Carl Zeiss. My hometown was the center for laser and optics technology in the former GDR. Until 1990, the presentations were under the control of Soviet influence and were sometimes used as a vehicle for heroic Russian space race propaganda. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the planetarium’s presentations integrated more and more images depicting the viewers’ emotional intelligence. They focused on the wonder of our visible and currently known universe in their science program for children and young adults.
In the present time, inspired by these early experiences, I find my motifs by using photographs of telescopes. More precisely, that means that I translate photographic material from the Hubble Space Telescope and Europe’s CHEOPS satellite into paintings. The enthusiasm with which people search for life in space stimulates my studio work and is part of the underlying mood in my visual worlds.
Nocturnal landscapes, nature, architecture, and especially LED-lights are found in most of your work. Could you tell us about the symbology behind your interpretation?
Art, in its purest sense, is an attempt to construct a parallel world with different horizons of opportunity. The focus of my artistic research is the process of recreation of reality. My working method is characterized by the employment of collage techniques and the layering of landscapes with juxtaposed objects and playing with light. In this sense, I try to bring forward a fantastical interpretation of the current and future possibilities of civilized environments grounded in scientific discoveries.
The motifs are inspired by telescopic observations and illustrate a world of extraterritorial views. My nocturnal landscapes combine pop-sci-fi visual references, such as space stations or LED light beams. The use of light is meant to carry properties similar to street lights from digital advertising and the eerie reality of our worlds being monitored and guided by forces larger than us. My paintings bring forth recurring questions: What will our habitation look like on other planets? Will we continue to embrace our technological advances in space? Will our future be a utopia or dystopia?
Architectural elements are included in my compositions when dealing with the futuristic designs of the Bauhaus-related VKhUTEMAS movement. In general, I adore the union of the artistic and technical vision of the Russian Avant-Garde. In 2015, a comprehensive and extensive exhibition was held at the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin. I saw many detailed architectural drawings of future city ideas and space colonies next to the historical background information of Russian Avant-Garde Futurism.
Where did you get your inspiration from? What sources did you use?
Next to historical art influences, many international futuristic and utopian novels have strongly influenced my painting motifs and artistic research. As a teenager, I have read science fiction novels such as Return from the Stars by Stanisław Lem and Roadside Picnic by the brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. Since then, I have read tons of science fiction novels with completely different cultural backgrounds. For that reason, I have a vast collection of books, which I have built upon the two first novels I have mentioned previously.
One of my favorite novels, which addresses the main points of my subject matter, is Neuromancer (1984) by William Gibson. Gibson predicted cyberspace, which is structured similarly to our Internet. But in contrast to today’s flat monitor experience, cyberspace can be accessed as a location. The idea of traveling to the stars via augmented reality is of great interest to me in the same way as a structured space composition in paintings. I am currently reading Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. The novel addresses the big themes of space colonization, gods, messiahs, and artificial intelligence.
The search for life in space was, for a long time, science fiction. But the fast evolution of computer and lens technologies have allowed this to become a reality. Astronomers have discovered more than 2,500 other stars with planets orbiting them in the Milky Way galaxy. Our solar system is just one specific planetary system consisting of a star with planets orbiting around it. On January 6, 2020, NASA reported TOI 700 d, the first Earth-sized exoplanet in the TESS’s habitable zone. The exoplanet orbits the star TOI 700, 100 light-years away in the Dorado constellation.
Your work explores futuristic science and technology, which we have only become familiar with from the advances of satellites and cameras, and in cinematography and computer-generated images. How do you progress from sketching your ideas to presenting a final project? What gives your work such a unique expression?
Nebulae, which are formed from interstellar clouds of dust, hydrogen, and helium, are a great source of inspiration for me. They are symbols of aesthetic contemplation – of pure and true beauty in nature. By quoting details from photographs made by a machine, like the Hubble Telescope, I experience a constant need to close the technical gaps of information in the machine-made image with something real, like material paint. In this sense, I develop my craft by layering photo-realistic details on top of a loosely abstract layer of flowing color. My painting motives are in a constant shift between abstraction and realism. I develop my composition from drawings and a vast collection of astronomical photography and film stills from science-fiction movies.
What do you see as the strengths of your pieces, visually or conceptually?
Conceptual thinking and a commitment to painting craftsmanship are the main strengths of my artistic approach.
My artworks should get stuck in the head. By that, I mean, a painting has to be more than “only” technically perfect. It should own something special like an independent sole, that is difficult to put into words, but that only turns art into “art.” My motives are magical and somehow crazy in their way, like the landscapes in dreams and opposing associate terms such as bright and quiet, attractive, and a little scary.
Through my cultural roots, I experience myself as a part of two different worlds, having both Eastern and Western cultural influences. My recent body of work is the culmination of a long year of search for my painting language. During my childhood, I often came into contact with paintings by East-European and Russian landscape painters. My grandfather was the first person to promote my interest in drawing. He taught me basic rules for studying nature and understanding proportions. He came from the East-Prussian Königsberg, modern-day Kaliningrad. After World War II, he was banned from his home city for his lifetime. He spoke Russian fluently and told endless stories about Kaliningrad and the great displacement. I remember him as an ambitious draftsman. During my early childhood, he influenced me with his drawings and portraits full of Baltic Romanticism and melancholy. His Refugee Traumata still influences the cosmos of my paintings. Although I belong to a different time and generation, the Baltic melancholy has inscribed itself into my artworks, like a different melody.
Is there a piece you consider a ‘breakthrough’ in your work, in terms of approach or subject matter?
My painting Doggirl (2006) was the first artwork of mine that was purchased by a museum. At that time, it represented a kind of breakthrough for me. I took my first steps into the international art world. A Berlin-based gallery showed two of my artworks at the Contemporary Istanbul Art Fair. On this occasion, the collector Can Elgiz bought one of my large scale paintings for the Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art in Istanbul. It was one of these rare lucky moments during an artist’s career. It happened when I was a completely unknown 24-year-old student from a little-recognized East German art college with no degree at the time. The purchased painting was shown in several thematic group exhibitions next to artwork by famous artists Cindy Sherman, Tracey Emin, and Sarah Morris. Later on, a museum assistant told me that the museum staff and curator simply liked the artwork’s figuration and paint handling. That was the main reason they had included it in various art shows.
Another important artwork for me was my first 3-dimensional painting on a styrofoam sphere in 2019. It is titled Second Earth and was first shown last year at my solo show Astral, at tête gallery space in Berlin. The work is a 40cm styrofoam sphere coated in a galaxy of acrylic paints. The cool blue palette presents a mountain-scape paired with a deep night sky above. Reminiscent of a snow globe, Second Earth offers an icy view of a melancholic landscape and refers to the theme’ life beyond earth,’ showing a territory many light-years away. It is conceptually inspired by scientific investigations of new colonies on life-friendly planets. It addresses the power structure of who will have access to a potential planet B. The sphere was just the beginning of a new artwork series consisting of seven spheres, referring to a planetary system.
How do you see the project evolving in the next five years? Are you excited or scared of the future?
Honestly, right now, I am more scared than optimistic. In the mid-2020, the art community still finds itself in an exceptional and very unusual situation. I see and hear about the ongoing collapse of the gallery system and nonprofit institutions. Endless journalists, curators, and gallery owners play mandatory roles as the so-called support system of artists. I pray every day that as many people as possible survive this crisis.
For my future, I hope I can become even closer to my work. Fewer distractions by cultural events can probably lend to a more focused time in my studio. As we artists adjust to the new normal, we are all finding alternate ways to make the most of our time. Nevertheless, I prefer to work on concrete projects than focus on potential opportunities.
I am very excited about my next project, which is the creation of a series of painted styrofoam spheres. The idea was born in 2019 with my artwork Second Earth. It started as an experiment and will expand into a site-specific installation consisting of seven pieces. The spheres should represent a planet system and bring forth a body of work that grew from exploring territories of potential utopia in outer space. The three-dimensional paintings refer to possibly habitable exoplanets in the red dwarf system of TRAPPIST-1. The star TRAPPIST–1 was first discovered in 1999 by astronomer John Gizis. Since then, astronomers found out that the system has seven planets. Three of these planets are in the theoretical ‘habitable zone,’ the area around a star where rocky planets are most likely to hold liquid water.
Over the years, I have learned that time management and a long-term strategy is essential for a sustainable art career. When I step back and look at the bigger picture, I can tell you that I’m working on a 6-month, 2-year, and 5-year plan. My 6-month goal is to paint for my upcoming exhibition projects until the end of the year. That means that my two-year goal is to produce enough consistent work to fill a new solo exhibition. I am also planning the creation of a dome with canvas works included, but now, this seems to be more of a five-year project.
Any shows, galleries, or publications where our readers can find your work?
Raúl Alvaro from Pantocrator Gallery invited me to present some of my recent paintings at the Swab Art Fair 2020 in October. The Art Fair will be held online because of the coronavirus pandemic. The virtual tour will be online from 1 to October 15 on their homepage: https://swab.es
On November 13, my painting ‘Virtual Light‘ (2017) will be part of the Rotary Charity Auction in Munich. I am happy when the artwork finds its new home at an art collector’s house and, of course, when my art raises money to help other people.
In December, I am looking forward to my first solo exhibition at the Czong Institute for Contemporary Art (CICA Art Museum) in South Korea. The artworks of the show will be documented in the CICA Art Now 2020 publication, which will be released in January 2021.
There are many galleries and nonprofit art centers that try to help artists by organizing online events. I currently take part in several online exhibitions, such as Booth 07 at the Alfa Gallery (Miami, Florida, USA) and the Engravist Printmaking Bienal (Istanbul, Turkey). The ongoing support touches me for my galleries and the online engagement from my audience.
Anne, can I visit your studio?
I would love for you to visit my studio. Feel free to drop me a line if you want to see new works, and I will show you my process in the workroom.
At the beginning of August, I will move into a bigger space in a different district in Berlin. It is located in a brand-new studio house for visual artists at Gehringstrasse 39 in Berlin Weissensee. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to paint in an affordable and substituted workspace. The studio belongs to The Studio Office of the Kulturwerk of the BBK. It allows me to develop my work further even in times of crisis as we are now experiencing the coronavirus pandemic. The Studio Office has made a long-term commitment to securing places for the artistic production of visual art in Berlin.
Anne Wölk Explores Space Travel and Science Fiction
Anne Wölk is fascinated by science fiction stories about space travel and cyberspace. Involved in the society of digital culture, the artist alters film stills, as well as photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope, and integrates them into her motifs and personal painting cosmos.
In 2004, Anne Wölk came to Berlin to study at the University of Fine Arts Berlin-Weissensee. As a student of Katharina Grosse, she enjoyed the purest idea of the painting process – the synchronicity of acting and thinking. Through her studies she naturally came into contact with multicultural artistic concepts.
After graduating, Wölk decided to stay in Berlin to get involved in an international art community. “Early on, I felt drawn to the German capital for its reputation as a location for contemporary art, and I liked its gallery centers in Berlin-Mitte and Kreuzberg. Over the years, Berlin became more and more one of the world’s most sought-after art places. The cheap rents for flats and studios pushed the development of the city, as well. The thing I like most about Berlin is its unique Eastern European flair. The urban lifestyle has significantly influenced my artistic development and language.”
Since living in Berlin-Mitte, Wölk attended an infinite number of exhibitions in private and public institutions, as well as in museums and art associations. The artworks she experienced there came from all over the world. “The opportunity to live in the center of the international art world has widened my horizon and influenced my way of thinking. Mainly, I love the diversity of the Berlin art scene, and I regularly do studio visits with friends, colleagues, and curators.”
Wölk’s work is influenced by German and Russia elements. “My Grandfather came from East Prussian Königsberg, modern-day Kaliningrad. After World War II, he was banned from his Home City for his entire lifetime. He spoke Russian fluently and told endless stories about Kaliningrad and the great displacement. I remember him as an ambitious draftsman. In early childhood, he affected me with his drawings and portraits, which were full of Baltic Romanticism and melancholy. During my childhood, I often came into contact with paintings by East European and Russian landscape painters. His Refugee Traumata still influences the cosmos of my paintings.
Although I belong to a different time and generation, the Baltic melancholy has inscribed itself into my artworks, like a different melody.
Through my cultural roots, I experience myself as a part of two different worlds, having both Eastern and Western cultural influences.
Russian elements and approaches were also included in my compositions when dealing with the futuristic designs of the Bauhaus-related VKhUTEMAS movement. In general, I adore the union of artistic and technical vision of the Russian Avant-Garde. In 2015, a comprehensive and extensive exhibition was held at the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin. Next to the historical background information of Russian Avant-Garde Futurism, I saw many detailed architectural drawings of future city ideas and space colonies.
Next to historical art influences, many international futuristic and utopian novels have strongly influenced my painting motifs and artistic research.
As a teenager, I have read science fiction novels, such as Return from the Stars by Stanisław Lem and Roadside Picnic by the brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky . Since then, I have read tons of science fiction novels with completely different cultural backgrounds. For that reason, I have a vast collection of books, which I have built upon the two first novels I have mentioned previously.”
“It fascinates me to think about past generations of painters, architects, and writers in the former zone of Soviet influence and their limitations concerning traveling”
Wölk’s work is touching on the concepts of travel, including space travel, something that has deep roots in the cultural divide that existed before the fall of the Berlin wall.
“It fascinates me to think about past generations of painters, architects, and writers in the former zone of Soviet influence and their limitations concerning traveling.
The planetarium in my hometown of Jena was one of the rare places where dreaming about traveling (to the stars) was allowed and not restricted. The simulations of stellar skies and demonstrations of planetary runs at 360-degree shows were the town’s main attractions and an integral part of kindergarten and school trips.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, there have been tons of novels, TV series, and movies that thematize the traumata, especially due to the travel restrictions, of the former GDR population. As products of pop culture, these themes are the substrate of different approaches and perceptions of the events.
Some integrate pop comedy elements like the movie Goodbye, Lenin (2003) by Wolfgang Becker, or focus on aspects of collective traumata like the drama The Lives of Others (2006) by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. It is a cultural substrate between Ostalgie and Stasi surveillance caused by GDR arbitrariness.
I very often think of my mother, who is full of anger to this day when she talks about her experience visiting family members in West Germany. The government did not allow her to take me with her to make sure she had a reason to return to the GDR. Her own country treated her like a criminal and gave her a constant feeling of vulnerability. That is why my mother taught me early on what it means to be free to travel wherever you want and what opportunities this freedom opens up. She always supported my efforts to pursue an international career.
In addition, I would like to say that particularly Berlin has an immense history of painting, like Neue Sachlichkeit in early 1920. Nevertheless, modern-day influential contemporary art galleries and museum institutions show concept art and support sculptures and installations predominantly. I love figurative painting, and I never doubted its endless possibilities for future artist generations. Sometimes, it seems hard to find serious exhibition venues to show my work in Berlin. That is the main reason why I started to travel with my paintings to other countries and cultures to find like-minded artists and collectors for my narrative context.
For example, in the winter of 2006, I took my first steps in the art world when a Berlin-based gallery showed two of my artworks at the Contemporary Istanbul Art Fair. On this occasion, the collector Can Elgiz bought one of my large scale paintings for the Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art in Istanbul. It was one of these rare lucky moments during an artist’s career. It happened when I was a completely unknown 24-year-old student from a little-recognized East German art college with no degree at the time. The purchased painting was shown in several thematic group exhibitions next to famous artists Cindy Sherman, Tracey Emin, and Sarah Morris. Later on, a museum assistant told me that the museum staff and curator simply liked the figuration and paint handling of the artwork. That was the main reason they had included it in various art shows.”
These days Wölk is busy preparing for her upcoming solo exhibition at the CICA Art Museum in South Korea which will open on December 2, 2020. Additionally, Pantocrator Gallery in Berlin, Germany, will present some of her recent paintings at Swab Art Fair in Barcelona, Spain, in early October 2020. She has ongoing projects including online exhibitions, such as the Engravist Printmaking Bienal in Istanbul, Turkey, and Booth 07, which is curated by Alfa Gallery in Miami, in Florida, US.
/Anne Wölk/ August 11/ 2020
Anne Wölk is a visual artist based in Berlin, who paint a fantastical interpretation of nature, where Romanticism and utopia are perceptible at the same time.
“The trick is to become successful in doing what you love.“
Hello, Anne. Can you introduce yourself and what you do?
My name is Anne Wölk, and I am a visual artist based in Berlin. I paint a fantastical interpretation of nature, in which Romanticism and utopia are perceptible at the same time. Most of my works refer to science fiction movies and novels.
My subject matter is driven by my fascination for outer space exploration and the search for life on other planets.
Next to science fiction, I am also conceptually inspired by scientific investigations about new colonies on possible life-friendly planets. In this context, some of my works are intended to address the power structure of who will have access to a potential Planet B.
The utopia of the imagined alternative living ground brings up the question: What will our habitat look like on other planets?
When you see my paintings for the first time in an exhibition, you can see that the motives are multilayered narrations that are comparable to cinematic sceneries. Involved in the society of digital culture, I am altering film stills and photographs of the Hubble Space Telescope into my motifs. Caused by its reference, my later artworks inevitably appear futuristic.
If you take a closer look at my paintings, you will discover detailed mountain landscapes with horizons of mesmerizing deep blue color, which might look like extraterrestrial terrain. Dreamlike artificial light floats in the picture space, leading into the emptiness of a virtual vacuum. It is an attempt to redefine the genre of landscape painting through the conceptional use of bright screen colors. During the painting process, I always try to reinvent myself as an artist and to break new ground.
We have read that you were affected by your grandfather’s drawings in early childhood, and you grew up obsessively drawing in little black books. Do you think that your creativity comes from your genes?
The origin and reason for becoming an artist represent, for me, an ongoing mysterious connection with the blurred past. Honestly, I think that creativity is more often stimulated by positive role models than determined solely by genes.
My grandfather came from Kaliningrad and could draw very well from his memory. After World War II, he was banned from his home city for the remainder of his life. As an ambitious draftsman, his portraits were full of baltic Romanticism and melancholy. He spoke with deep regret about the German guilt and the great displacement concerning Königsberg and its transformation into Kaliningrad.
Königsberg became a kind of a myth after 1945 and a so-called German Atlantis in the sense of a fabled, unreachable city. My grandfather’s life was, like the lives of most of his peers, characterised by violence. Born premature and out of wedlock, he was forced to fight his way up to survive. As a young adult, he became the welterweight champion of East Prussia and was later given the title of an army officer. He eventually ended up as a ‘responsible’ police officer in the GDR.
I personally think that drawing was, for him, a type of therapy to calm down and to respond to his physical and psychological transitions caused by his traumas.
When I visited him, we sketched and painted together in a room in his apartment. He looked at everything and commented critically; he occasionally corrected elements of my early humble attempts. He preferred to draw male heads, and I tried to imitate him. I can especially remember situations in which he found my way of drawing noses unacceptable and asked me to take a closer look.
I think that looking at the details and at the underneath levels of things is an essential piece of advice for any artist. Until today, I keep a sketchbook with me, and I use it as a kind of diary and as an item to save and collect ideas for later paintings.
Sure, I believe everyone should follow what makes them happy. Did you always know what career you would like to have? How and when did you realize that you wanted nothing else but to become a painter & what was your creative path from the very beginning?
At the beginning of my development, I dealt a lot with Russian and Baltic landscape painting. I’ve always enjoyed drawing birch trees and have loved them for their cool and beautiful elegance. Next to that, I was eager to learn to do portraits, and I trained to draw as precisely as possible from memory. In terms of artistic background, I enjoyed drawing and painting since I was very young, and my family was supportive of my interest.
At the age of 14, I met my first real painter, who was a local artist with a degree from the Academy of Fine Arts Dresden. He was the founder of a small private art school, which was connected to a large work studio. It was not a classic school but rather a starting point for aspiring artist personalities. Very often, primitive feedback sessions developed into troubled talks about God in the world until late at night.
During this time, I painted my first large scale artwork, which was later exhibited in a small gallery space at the ‘Haus of the Mauer’ in Jena.
After a certain period, I had tons of drawings and paintings that included portraits of friends and family members, as well as forest landscapes.
By the way, at that time, I had already done some early starscapes, but I did not dare to put ‘space pictures’ in my portfolio.
My teacher always told me that the representation of saddles in the universe are tourist topics and are made by unemployed Russian propaganda painters.
With a ‘mindful’ selection of my early artworks, I passed the entrance exam in the painting department at the Art College Burg Giebichstein Halle one and a half years before I made my A-level exam in high school. I think it was the result of an early career decision.
At the age of 15, I already knew that I wanted nothing else but to become a painter, and I could not see any other future possibilities for me.
During this time, I was also an active member of the Writers Corner of the Kassablanca Youth Club. We exchanged information about current trends in the German graffiti scene and spent a lot of time drawing styles and characters with Copic Markers inside our black books, another name for sketchbooks.
How the teenage girl from the countryside decided to choose education at the University of Fine Arts Berlin-Weissensee?
When I applied to the University of Art and Design in Halle, I was particularly impressed by the romantic Ruine Castle on the main campus. I found the courtyard particularly beautiful, with its pavilion overgrown with roses. It was a shelter in the form of refuge for yearning souls that had little to do with the real world outside.
Young and naive, I had no idea what the Zeitgeist of Contemporary Art was and which teaching concept was actually happening in the painting class of the ‘castle.’
I started my education in the class of Ute Pleuger, a Berlin-based conceptual painter with a focus on architecture. As a teacher, she embodied a cool, analytical, and intellectual mind. The German conceptual painter Beate Spalthoff was also teaching at that time in Halle, and she infected me with her enthusiasm for the painter Luc Tuymans. I studied his work for many years and wrote about one of his series in my written diploma thesis.
Even today, I still enjoy looking at his paintings in exhibitions whenever I get the opportunity.
His unique approach of translating photography into a painted language fascinates me. Tuymans never paints on a picture for more than a day, and he puts all compositional elements in one layer of color, similar to the method of prima painting.
Unlike him, I prefer a long process of adding thin color glazes layer by layer. It takes a long time and often lasts for several weeks or even months.
Three years living in Halle and following the path of formalism and conceptual art were enough for me, and I decided to complete my education at the Academy of Art and Design in the capital of Germany. As a student of Katharina Grosse in Berlin, I have enjoyed being part of a group of international students from a variety of different artistic approaches and concepts. I have learned that color knows no boundaries and can connect different spaces inside and outside of exhibition space. I naturally encountered the concept that a painting can land on any two- or three-dimensional object.
Suddenly, I was surrounded by international art deputies, and everything felt like the big wide world. During this time, we, as her students, took a two-week-long class trip with her to Japan and visited temples (like Ise Grand Shrine), museums, galleries, architects and artists, Kyoto, Tokyo, and the rural northern regions of Japan.
That sounds so inspiring! Am I right that you had the Erasmus exchange program at Chelsea College of Fine Art and Design (in London)? How would you compare these 2 experiences?
The Chelsea College of Art and Design was the partner school of the Kunsthochschule Berlin Weißensee, and I was able to do an exchange semester there without any problems. The art scene in London is much more international than in Germany, and the competition between graduates of the many art colleges is correspondingly tougher. Without a financial background, it is almost impossible to get a foothold in London.
I studied at the sculptor class at Chelsea and met many international artists. Gerald Wilson invited me to study in his class; I learned many new aspects of negative forms and the impact of objects and their volume in space.
At that time, the British artist Rachel Whiteread had a comprehensive solo exhibition in London that we have visited with Gerald’s class. Whiteread’s installations deal with the investigation of cavities. For example, the artist reproduces the space under a table. In that way, Rachel Whiteread shows the displacement of the table legs in space as a negative footprint. Her sculptural work shows the difficulty that we have, when we think of space only as a thing, and not so much as airspace.
I felt welcome everywhere in London and had several exhibitions there. As a student, I was enormously supported and brought together with professionals from the art world. I suspect it has to do with the fact that most international students at Chelsea College have to pay a lot of money to get their education. For the teaching artists, it feels natural to feel the obligation to connect the students with a high-quality and sensible network of galleries and museums.
Speaking of them, when did you have your very first exhibition?
I had my first exhibition while studying painting at the Burg Giebichstein Halle. I won first place for painting at the 9th national state exhibition of Thuringia, Erfurt. The opening was the first month of my freshman year and was held at the University of Erfurt.
And how old were you when your paintings were sold for the very first time? Did this sale boost your future career?
A professor from the university in Erfurt bought the artwork with which I had previously won the 9th national state exhibition of Thuringia, in 2001.
My painting Dog girl (2006) represented kind of a breakthrough for me. It was the first artwork of mine that was purchased by a museum, so it was then that I took my first steps into the international art world. A Berlin-based gallery showed two of my artworks at the Contemporary Istanbul Art Fair. On this occasion, the collector Can Elgiz bought one of my large-scale paintings for the Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art in Istanbul. It was one of those rare lucky moments during an artist’s career. It happened when I was a completely unknown 24-year-old student from a little-recognized East German art college with no degree at the time. The purchased painting was shown in several thematic group exhibitions next to artwork by famous artists Cindy Sherman, Tracey Emin, and Sarah Morris.
That’s a great success! What percentage of education, skills, hard work, contacts, and luck would you put into a formula for a successful career in your field?
The truth is that very few gallery owners are interested in your education or want to see your art college degree. They look for ‘fresh’ works and mostly only exhibit artists who have been recommended to them.
I personally trust my skill set and education, and do not want to miss it. Conceptual thinking and a commitment to painting craftsmanship are the main strengths of my artistic approach.
It is not easy to make it as an artist. It’s hard work and comparable to a marathon. The first step for me was to follow my passion and to master my painting skill set versus craftsmanship. You need to grow a network of friends and supporters within your art community. The trick is to become successful in doing what you love. I personally believe in hard work, but luck is also mandatory. You need to be ready and to have a consistent body of work when the opportunity comes along. The most important aspect for me is the advice to never stop studying and researching.
Today, I have learned a lot from the monochromatic night sky drawings of the American artist Vija Celmins. I find her quiet and precise work to be incredibly inspiring, deep, and complex. By studying her work, I realised that what we don’t understand, it forces us to take a closer look. Although I have studied with professors from the Western hemisphere, I still feel attracted to re-skilling, patience, and discipline. I see these strongly reflected in Celmin’s artistic approach.
Besides, I really admire the astronomical globes of Russel Crotty. He is an artist that is not known so much in Germany, but is quite popular for his drawings in his home country, the USA.
Being a full-time artist could be tough. What are the best lessons you had learned in your career, and what are your top three best resources that helped you grow in your career (websites, people, programs, etc.)?
From the beginning, I have received scholarships and small awards, such as the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes scholarship. Winning a scholarship was a stepping stone into the indispensable support system for artists. The money allowed me to travel and educate myself. This situation forced me to go out of my comfort zone and exposed me to different cultures, which helped me realise how diverse our world truly is.
My work was selected and shortlisted for several international competitions and scholarships.
The awards I received include the Alpine Fellowship grant at Aldourie Castle, Scotland, UK; a residency at Bodensee Art Fund; and an artist-in-residence grant in Goriska Brda, Slovenia, awarded by the German Embassy in Ljubljana. I have exhibited my works at international institutions, including the Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art, Istanbul, Turkey; the CICA Art Museum, South Korea; the Zeiss-Planetarium Berlin, Germany; the Accra Goethe-Institut Ghana, Ghana; and the Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts, Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republik.
My paintings have been exhibited alongside the works of artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Johannes Wohnseifer, Azade Köker, and Stephan Balkenhol. In 2011, I was selected for the Edition S 36 of DSV Kunst Kontor in Stuttgart. The Edition S 36 was a compilation of contemporary artworks, and it featured paintings of Jonathan Meese and Tim Eitel.
I have exhibited and sold on the international art markets, including the Swab Art Fair Barcelona, Spain; Viennafair, Vienna, Austria; KIAF Seoul, South Korea; and Contemporary Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey.
For a decade, I have been presenting my works in private gallery shows, including Galería Luis Adelantado, Valencia, Spain; Arebyte Gallery, London, UK; Galerie Wolfsen, Aalborg, Denmark; Pantocrator Gallery, Shanghai, China; Alfa Gallery, Miami, USA; and The Residence Gallery, London, UK.
In October 2013, I won the Category Award for the ArtPrize competition ‘Art Takes Paris’, presided by directors from The Andy Warhol Museum in New York, the Lisson Gallery, and the Marianne Boesky Gallery. In 2017, I was announced as the Showcase Juried Winner in the painting category of the 9th Artslant Prize. My painting Virtual Light was selected by a jury consisting of Natalia Zuluaga (artistic director of ArtCenter/South Florida), Nathaniel Hitchcock (co-organiser of the Bass Museum of Art), and Malose Malahela (co-founder of Keleketa! Library). Two years later, I have participated in the finalists’ exhibition of the art competition Art Revolution in Taipei, Taiwan.
Here are some pieces of advice that I found helpful: 1) Do not give up, and do not stop applying to support programs. Rejections are temporary; 2) You have to stick to clearly separated budgets, and you have to invest time, money, and effort into your career; 3) You need to have a website and a newsletter; 4) Keep your artist friends close to you. Support them whenever you can. They will do the same for you.
Super! We’ll write down these advices. For how many years have you been painting now, Anne? Have you found your personal painting language yet?
I’ve been painting and drawing since childhood. At the age of 15, I decided to pursue a professional career as an artist.
My recent body of work is the culmination of a long year of searching for my painting language. For many years, I have tried to confront my visual worlds with geometric forms and to interrupt the visual space.
Since 2017, I mainly deal with the representation of cosmic space and unimaginable distances like light-years. Stars that appear in my pictures as tiny little details represent, in reality, vast worlds in distant areas of space.
Can you tell us about your creative process?
I start a painting with a sketch. I carry out this preliminary drawing with black or white charcoal. When I work in a large format, I sometimes draw a grid to be able to transfer a cluster of stars more precisely. I always work on about three to five works of art at the same time.
My recent body of work reflects on the ambivalent appeal of LED neon light in our environment and the light fog driven by the advertising and tourism industry in the nocturnal landscape. The aesthetic of dystopian Hollywood blockbuster movies strongly influences the use of LED in colourful neon lights in our inner cities. Neon tubes are a symbol of the superior technology of a digital world.
For me, your artworks are vivid collages of geometric shapes and real objects, something between stars, science fiction, and abstract. When it comes to your paintings, what subjects/names/themes feed your inspiration?
My working method is characterized by the employment of collage techniques and the layering of landscapes with juxtaposed objects and playing with light. In this sense, I try to bring forward a fantastical interpretation of the current and future possibilities of civilized environments grounded in scientific discoveries.
The motifs are inspired by telescopic observations, and they illustrate a world of extraterritorial views.
Futuristic dystopias are very popular in our modern-day society. They describe a world of destroyed nature accompanied by dangerous climate change and humanity without hope. In particular, the genre of cyberpunk is a world characterized by dark scenes selectively illuminated by artificial neon light.
My recent body of work is characterized by the contrast of natural light phenomena, such as the glow of the Milky Way, with the bizarre visual effect of colorful LED tubes. My paintings are intended to help people reexperience the overwhelming beauty and uniqueness of the stars in our night sky, which we have lost through excessive light pollution.
Artificial light, placed by the urban population, can be found nearly everywhere in the nocturnal landscape of the Western hemisphere. A situation where one light shines over another makes us feel uncomfortable. The omnipresent glow of the LED tubes makes us aware of how sensitive we are to artificial light and how light can change our body and brain in unexpected ways.
I assume growing up in Jena influenced you a lot, as it is known for the Optical Museum and its displays of vintage Zeiss microscopes and spectacles?
The love of astronomy and space travel occurred very early in my life. I saw many stellar sky presentations at the planetarium in my hometown.
Most of the shows were demonstrations of revolutionary satellite techniques that were used to examine our solar system. The details in my pictorial representations of nebulae were only made possible by the advances of satellite technology, like NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescope.
My favorite attraction was the remarkable rings of Saturn as an amazing natural phenomenon. The rings consist of countless small particles that range in size from micrometers to meters and that orbit Saturn.
In the old city center of Jena, inside a passage called Goethe Gallery, visitors can see the Cosmorama – the oldest ever created star projector – which was part of the inventory of the first planetarium.
Voyages to strange new worlds in the planetarium are not like visits to a regular cinema. They are unique experiences that cannot be compared to anything else. As a spectator, you sit under a vast dome. You are surrounded by stars and planets in a 360-degree projection. The visual beauty of the universe overwhelms you as a visitor and changes your perspective as a human being.
Optics is a very present science in Jena thanks to Carl Zeiss and Otto Schott. A highlight of the optical museum is an exhibit called ‘The mirror box’. This object is a box made entirely of mirrors with a peephole, which offers an impressive view of the infinity.
The exhibits that show the forerunners of the cinema are also interesting – for example, the camera obscura, dioramas, or stereoscopes.
An exhibition space in the museum is dedicated to astronomy and to the history of the planetariums. In a dark room, a planetary model begins to spin, and a solar eclipse takes place.
Photographs of regions far away in the outer space stimulate my imagination, which vibrates in my painting motifs and has shaped me as an artist.
In that sense, I try to share my early childhood dream of traveling into space with my audience.
Maybe, for that reason, my fantastic multilayered narrations appear to be like cinematic sceneries. Some of them even directly refer to science fiction movies and novels. I like utopian stories, and I enjoy immersing myself in futuristic narratives. Dreaming with the poetic I is comparable to an experience of rising and dissolving in a painterly process of visual storytelling. Often, the poetic I blends one’s consciousness, which brings back the things of the past with another and able to shoot towards the future. It is similar to the experiences of simultaneous superimposition of different reality levels layered on top of each other inside a painting composition.
How much do you think does location affect work and career for artists in general & how did you choose yours?
After graduating, I have decided to stay in Berlin to get involved in an international art community. Early on, I felt drawn to the German capital for its reputation as being a location for contemporary art, and I liked its gallery centres in Berlin-Mitte and Kreuzberg. Over the years, Berlin became more and more one of the world’s most sought-after art places. The cheap rents for flats and studios pushed the development of the city as well. The thing I like most about Berlin is its unique Eastern European flair. The urban lifestyle has significantly influenced my artistic development and language.
Outside of art and astronomy, what other interests do you have?
I love reading, and I have a vast collection of books, which I have built upon in my first science fiction stories. For example, I own novels from authors such as Ursula K. Le Guin, Stanislaw Lem, Haruki Murakami, William Gibson, Philip Kindred Dick, and Cixin Liu. Many international futuristic books have influenced my painting motifs and artistic research strongly.
I love especially the groundbreaking novel The Left Hand of Darkness, written by the well-known author Ursula K. Le Guin and published in 1969. With this book, gender theory enters the male-dominated science fiction literature. During this time, feminist science fiction was born as a subgenre and focused on issues such as gender inequality, sexuality, race, economy, and reproduction.
Le Guin’s book became famous for his intellectual study of androgyny. The writer created a strange world without sexual prejudices, a world in which residents can change their gender at any time.
The act limited the exposure of female stereotypes and helped improve the representation of women by taking into account aspects of psychology and human emotions.
May I ask, of your entire collection, which painting is your personal favorite?
I don’t have a favorite piece. Every painting was important in its own way and has helped me to understand a problem that led me to the next step of my artistic development.
Is there something you really dream of doing then?
An important artwork for me was my first three-dimensional painting on a styrofoam sphere in 2019. It is titled Second Earth and was first shown last year at my solo show Astral, which was held at Tête gallery space in Berlin. The work is a 40 cm styrofoam sphere that is coated in a galaxy of acrylic paints. The cool blue palette presents a mountain-scape that is paired with a deep night sky above.
Reminiscent of a snow globe, Second Earth offers an icy view of a melancholic landscape and refers to the theme of ‘life beyond earth,’ showing a territory many light years away. It is conceptually inspired by scientific investigations of new colonies on planets that support life and addresses the power structure of whom will have access to a new potential planet. The sphere was just the beginning of a new series, consisting of seven spheres and referring to a planetary system.
I am also planning the creation of a dome with canvas works included, but right now, this seems to be more of a five-year project.
Looking forward to seeing these artworks.
I would like to take the chance to inform your readers about my upcoming projects.
Here is some news that I am really excited about:
Raúl Alvaro from Pantocrator Gallery invited me to present some of my recent paintings at the Swab Art Fair 2020 in October. Swab Art Fair will be held online because of the coronavirus pandemic. The virtual tour can be found on their homepage (https://swab.es) from October 1 to October 15.
On November 13, my painting Virtual Light (2017) will be part of the Rotary Charity Auction in Munich. I am happy when the artwork finds its new home at an art collector’s house and, of course, when my art raises money to help other people.
In December, I am looking forward to my first solo exhibition at the Czong Institute for Contemporary Art (CICA Art Museum) in South Korea. The artworks of the show will be documented in the CICA Art Now 2020 publication, which will be released in January 2021.
There are many galleries and nonprofit art centers that try to help artists by organizing online events.
Currently, I take part in several online exhibitions, such as Booth 07 at the Alfa Gallery (Miami, Florida, USA) and the Engravist Printmaking Bienal (Istanbul, Turkey). I am touched by the ongoing support for my galleries and the online engagement from my audience.
/neim/ readers can learn more about upcoming projects and new works on my Instagram account and on my homepage.
Sure, we’ll leave your details below, Anne, so our readers could follow your creative story. Vielen dank Anne, for sharing it. It was a pleasure to get to know what kind of person is behind these surreal paintings.
Follow Anne’s story on
9 July, 2020
How has the COVID-19 affected the way you currently work? Have you lost work and wages or been affected by event cancellations that you relied on for income?
In the first six months, I have financed my studio practice with art licensing and art sales from December 2019. In addition, I had some income by teaching several art classes in January, February, and March. Right now, the art business is very slow. I have lost some teaching wages and network opportunities. Also, exhibitions in commercial galleries have been cancelled. There are many galleries and nonprofit art centers that try to help artists by organising online events. I took part in several (online) exhibitions, like Booth 07 at the Alfa Gallery (Miami, Florida, USA); Engravist Printmaking Bienal (Istanbul, Turkey); Festival Art Spring at the Janusz Korczak Library (Berlin, Germany); and 20 x 20 Art on Paper at the Christine Xuereb Art Gallery (Sliema, Malta). I feel touched by the ongoing support and online engagement for my galleries and audience.
How have you changed your art practice and art business during the last few months to adapt to these challenges?
I have transferred some equipment from my studio to my flat to be able to continue creating artwork for potential future projects. Painting at home is a tricky business because of some of the toxic materials. It has also affected the size of the artwork. Sometimes, unfortunately, that could mean painting small and thinking small. At the beginning of August, I will move to my new studio, and I will start to prepare for my solo exhibition at the CICA Art Museum. That means that I will expand my practice to large paintings again and that I will try to finish some of my larger pieces, which I had not been able to take home in March.
How, if at all, have you been affected financially?
A group show, “20 x 20”, at the Christine Xuereb Gallery in Malta was postponed until the end of the year. Christine organised an online exhibition and generated a lot of PR, but the online presentation did not result in any sales for me. Furthermore, one of my one-week workshops was canceled, as was an art auction in Hamburg. The Swab Art Fair Barcelona, in which I am participating, will be an online event only. For me, this means that there will be no opportunity to talk with potential new clients, collectors, and art lovers
Have you seen any new opportunities arise due to COVID-19 or the current events of our world (for example, public art, commissions, prints, etc.)?
Raúl Alvaro from Pantocrator Gallery invited me to present some of my recent paintings at the Swab Art Fair in October. The Art Fair will be held online because of the coronavirus pandemic. In December, I will have a solo exhibition at the Czong Institute for Contemporary Art (CICA Art Museum) in South Korea. My painting “Virtual Light” from 2017 will be part of the Rotary Charity Auction in Munich. I am happy when my art helps people – and, of course, when I receive 50% of the money to support my art business and studio. You can learn more about upcoming projects and new works on instagram @studio_anne_woelk
And there will very soon be an extensive interview in Al-Tiba9 Magazine.
Have you used your art to help your community during this time at all? If so, please tell us about your projects.
During the lockdown, I made a free online painting tutorial video for my students. Before the summer break, I went outside with my class to an urban area to comply with the rules of social distancing. All of the children enjoyed the time we spent together. They appreciated reconnecting and exchanging personal experiences from the lockdown. As a result of the crisis, their motives for painting were full of desire, such as to visit the sea and a general longing to be allowed to travel.
6-7 June 2020
Online Studio visits with artists based in Berlin Pankow, Prenzlauer Berg & Weißensee
Studio Visit Anne Wölk:
Amalienpark 4 13187 Berlin,
2020 Interview Jugendkunstschule Pankow
(February 2020, available in German language only)
Diese Woche stellen wir euch Anne Wölk vor. Anne leitet bei uns den Malerei-Mappenkurs, sowie “Malen & Zeichnen” am Montag. Ob Sie schon einmal mit der Kunst aufhören wollte und warum Sie gerne mit Kindern arbeitet erfahrt Ihr hier:
1.) Welche Künstler*innen magst du am meisten?
Anne: Ich mag die Arbeiten von Vija Celmins, Julie Mehretu und David Hockney.
2.) Was darf während du arbeitest nie fehlen?
Anne: Es ist schön mit einer tollen Bildidee den Ateliertag zu beginnen. Farbe und Pinsel brauche ich selbstverständlich auch, um meine Fantasien in gemalte Bilder zu übertragen. Während der Arbeitszeit höre ich abwechselnd Radio und Science Fiction Hörbücher. Das hilft ein bisschen gegen das Gefühl von Einsamkeit im eigenen Studio, befördert mich aber auch in andere Galaxien und Welten. Außerdem darf auch eine guter Pausensnack nie fehlen. Das brauche ich um meine Konzentration beim Malen zu halten.
3.) Was ist das Schönste am gemeinsamen Arbeiten mit Kindern?
Anne: Schön ist es, wenn meine Kursteilnehmer zum Beispiel mit dem „Pouring“, dem Acrylfarbe gießen experimentieren und über die vielen Facetten der Mischtöne und Strukturen staunen. Dann ist die Begeisterung der Kinder so ansteckend, dass ich mich an der Freude über das gelungene Experiment auf wunderbare Weise mitfreuen kann.
Zusätzlich mag ich auch die lustigen Gespräche, die wir während der gemeinsamen Arbeitszeit haben. Mich interessieren immer die Erfahrungen der Kinder, die sie „draußen“ in der Welt machen oder über welche Verhaltensweisen der Erwachsenen sie sich besonders verwundert haben. Das öffnet stets den Blick in eine andere Realität. Die kleinen Episoden ihrer kuriosen Geschichten werden häufig zum Teil ihrer gemalten Bildwelten und somit in den künstlerischen Prozess transformiert. Damit ist die Arbeit mit Kindern nie langweilig.
4.) Wolltest du schon einmal mit der Kunst aufhören?
Anne: Es gibt immer wieder „Ups and Downs“ in der künstlerischen Karriere. Aber was mir bisher am meisten geholfen hat ist: Weiter Malen und nicht aufgeben!
5.) Was inspiriert dich in deiner Umwelt am meisten?
Anne: Am meisten inspiriert mich der Blick ins Firmament und die Unendlichkeit des Sternenhimmels. Ich empfinde ein tiefes Gefühl der Erhabenheit, wenn ich die Schönheit der Leuchtkraft der Milchstraße in mir aufnehme. Ich liebe auch klassische Musik, insbesondere die späten Klaviersonaten von Beethoven und Schubert.
Schaut doch gerne mal bei der lieben Anne vorbei:
·ARTiculAction, International art publication, May issue
Video Art Embassy Slovenia:
October 2014 Art Embassy
Artist-in-Residence grant in Goriska Brda,
winery Skurek, Slovenia
awarded by the German Embassy, Ljubljana
Xenia Fink, Anne Wölk, Carl-Heinz Draxl, Masa Gala, Klemen Brun,
Artist in residence program at MMM Art – Skurek, German Art Embassy, Goriska/Brda, Slovenia; organized by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Slovenia with Xenia, Fink, Anne Wölk, Carl-Heinz Draxl, Masa Gala, Klemen Brun, Etko Tutta, http://www.scurek.com/
Link to homepage Scurek Wine Production Slovenia
·Featured Artist Interview: Get to Know Anne Wölk
HI.LITE.HEAD, USA, (January 2012)
Mini Interview Anne Wölk
|Written by Trippe|
|Wednesday, 28 September 2011 09:00|
Location? Age? Education? Website?
Berlin, 28, MFA Fine Arts, www.annewoelk.de
How would you describe your work to someone?
I am a contemporary figurative painter, who creates mixed-media paintings with a penchant for bright colors, geometric shapes, and street-art forms. My work explores the relationship between cultural plurality and a recycling of pop-culture, by layering different motifs from Science Fiction film stills and quotations from an art historical background, like Symbolism and color-field paintings. Overall I am constantly studying the possibilities of oil paint as a medium and trying to push my boundaries.
I appreciate the work of Kai Althoff, Corinne Wasmuht, Daniel Richter, David Hockney, Franz West, Gerhard Richter, Pierre Soulages, Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko.
I always get two with cheese.
In the summer of 2009 I undertook a journey by car for several weeks along the French and Spanish-Atlantic coast with stops in Paris, Bordeaux, Vieux-Boucau, Biarritz, San Sebastian and Bilbao. I enjoyed myself immensely.
Sometimes I like the sound and the noise of the studio building with its different characters, but usually I love to listen to: audio books, The Cure, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Costello, Erykah Badu, The Fugees, Faith No More, Jeff Buckley, Amy Winehouse, John Lennon, and Lassie Singers, (among others). Honestly I have no real daily routine, I paint when I am hot for my work. Late in the evening is the best time to concentrate. During the nighttime I get ready for new things and I have my best ideas.
I love to sell my paintings; however, I do a variety of jobs to earn money.
The most important tool is my mobile phone. I make shots of everything I like and collect ideas and details for my painting process.
Much of my effort goes into planning and creating an illusion of depth or space without using perspective techniques. For this reason I focus on experimentally learning how to construct and arrange shapes and forms on a two-dimensional surface. My first step toward starting a new painting is in the construction of the wooden frame; during the working process sometimes I imagine it as bones or a vertebral column.
The observer has the possibility to reflect on their inner bodily construction, comparing oneself to the basic structure of an artwork. The art of painting is always about the intimate triangle between the artwork, the artist and the viewer.
My current research deals with the topic of the forest, city borders, and the cityâ€™s outskirts. In many steps, tensions grow between the illusion of reality and the representation of, for e.g., the bodily skin of a painted tree. Maybe it is for that reason that I am so interested in Birch trees. I am fascinated by the bark that sometimes appears like a silken skin; it is especially the process of peeling and the contrast between the black and white stains that inspires my work. In Russia, birches symbolize the idea of virginal beauty, eternal youth and purity. It is no surprise, then, that in my paintings: art, emotions, and ethics are closely bound. Very few human actions take place without an emotional driver and so it is with the making of art.
I use mostly oil, acrylic and aerosol.
I am really excited about my next group show. It is an exhibition displaying drawings from international artists that share a passion for the drawing medium.
I would buy as many artworks as possible from artists I like at early stages in their careers.
Is to take a small road trip to RÃ¼gen, a German island two hours away from Berlin and look for the best beach to spend a good part of the day.
Berlin is fantastically urban with tags and street paintings made by artists from all over the world. I love to live on Torstrasse in Berlin-Mitte because it is diverse and dynamic.
Rollerbladers on the bicycle path piss me off!!
A Drawback, Curated by Perennial Art at Atelierhof Kreuzberg with artists: Sara Bomans, Iris van Dongen, Marcel Van Eeden, Michael Kirkham, Nathan K. Menglesis, Fiona Michie, Sebastiaan Schlicher, Witte Wartena, Robin Whitmore. The show runs from 28 September through 2 October 2011, opening on Friday the 30th of September 2011 from 7 to 10 pm. Gallery hours are Wed-Sun, 2 to 7 PM and by appointment.
Kunst in Kreuzberg E.V.