Which artist originally sang Where were you

friends of freinds

Andreas, you are originally from Russia. When did you come to Germany and why?
1990. My parents had to flee from there and I had to go with them. We came from Ekatarinenburg in the beautiful Ural Mountains, in the middle of Russia - the third largest city in Russia after all, very few people know that. During the Second World War, people even considered relocating the capital there. The whole arms and heavy industry also migrated there because of the iron ores and because no enemy can get there. Otherwise you would have to go through Siberia first.

Are you still there sometimes?

Yes, I still have family there.

In which city did you end up back then?

In Heidelberg, then Ebersbach, then Jagsthausen, then Öringen and then Aries.

However, these places are not among the third largest cities in Germany.

No, but Aries is the smallest town in Baden-Württemberg. They received city rights when Berlin was still a swamp.

Did you speak German back then or did you have to learn the language first?

I had to learn that first. At that time I came from the 5th grade in Russia to the 3rd grade of the special needs school in Heidelberg and the lesson consisted more of the fact that we annoyed the teacher and went swimming. Then they wanted to put me in secondary school, but because of an IQ test I ended up in secondary school. There I graduated with a 1.0 and then I went to high school, where I didn't stay long.

You went to a school for gifted children.

That was in Russia, up to 5th grade. In the mornings there were normal classes and in the afternoons there was ballet, interestingly art history and painting classes.

When did you come to Berlin?


What brought you to Berlin?

A girl.

And how long did that go on with you?

Almost 6 years. I am rock solid.

So you came to Berlin out of love.

Yes, I did community service and then I started painting.

Did you start painting in Berlin or before?

No, before that. At school I learned all the basics and when I came to Germany I had a little teen revolt against everything I had learned and didn't do anything anymore. At the age of 15 or 16, however, it started again almost automatically. I put a skull down and drew it for 8 to 9 hours every day. Because I didn't do my Abitur - that is the real punch line of my biography - I had to come up with something else where I could still study and live lazily. Painting was the only thing I was good at and so I thought to myself, I'll give it a try. I applied 6 times to the UdK and was never accepted because of a lack of talent. Maybe they were right, but now I compensate for that with other things. At that time I was already doing exhibitions, they were all sold out.

At the beginning of the year you spent several months in Beijing and worked there and did an exhibition at Urs Meile. What was your impression and can you still feel the booming market for Chinese contemporary art?

I don't like most of the Chinese painting. The Chinese are much stronger when they make performances or videos or sculptures. There are few good paintings that I liked, but now in the second generation, which is less concerned with China and more with painting history, there have recently been a few strong positions. I also have to say that the art scene in China is incredibly strong, so you can learn a bit from here. It's much more intense. Here you hang out more and more at parties, talking about the next maximum prices, and all the nonsense, name-dropping - it's getting unbearable. Now it is already in the gala and the colorful who wore what at which vernissage. All this glitter and glamor lust is completely out of place. It's a strange longing from people.

What attracted you to go to Beijing?

Because I was afraid of getting diarrhea and so I thought to myself, I have to try it. And I never had diarrhea in Beijing, the food was really excellent.

Then you were also in New York.

Yes, but that was only for the fair, for shake hands. Champagne parties, easy girls, fat limousines ...

But you have probably also looked at art.

Yes, the George Condo exhibition in the New Museum was very awesome.

I saw the last exhibition with him at Sprüth Magers and was positively surprised because I'm not that big of a fan myself.

I also liked the exhibition very much. He's a really very good and intelligent painter.

What do you mean by “intelligent painter”?

Oh dear - trick question.

You chose “intelligent” so deliberately, you could have said he is a talented painter.

I don't really want to talk about George Condo now, I want to talk about myself.

But I am interested in this statement.

George Condo is a man who knows the entire spectrum of painting and who draws on its full potential. He doesn't sit there like the Leipzig School, which unpacks the 1-brush, but takes the abbreviations, as the Impressionists have already done. It is not to be copied, it can do something. Finished. He makes interesting pictures, makes use of history, but has his own visual language and is very funny, profound - he makes the perfect pop painting with a classic claim.

You are a big Old Masters fan and have probably also been to museums in New York.

Yeah yeah The Frick Collection - again and again. And the Metropolitan, they have an incredible collection.

We talked briefly about it recently, about American painting, which does not have such a long tradition as European painting. What striking differences did you notice?

If you look at landscape painting, for example, you noticed that something completely different opens up in American painting due to the vastness of the country. Incidentally, it is similar with the Russians. It's much more bombastic and maybe more proletarian. Even the Abstract Expressionists who all learned from the Germans - Hoffmann, etc. What's the difference? I don't know - maybe it's because everyone is always squinting over here.

Do you mean historically or contemporary?

Contemporary too - check out the guy who paints Danish porn. It has to be Danish porn and ultimately it looks like old German-Dutch Renaissance painting, just a little more warped.

America is said to have a certain European affinity because Europe is associated with intellect or tradition.

What total bullshit is! It is said again and again that the Americans are stupid - but that is true of the masses here as well. People make fun of the fact that some Americans think Paris is the capital of Germany, but who can list all the states of America here?

You moved into a new studio from Kreuzberg to Weissensee. How do you find it here?

I think it's excellent and China also moved me to do it. The decision had been made beforehand and I wasn't sure whether I wanted to go that far, but Prenzlauer Berg is actually already on the other side of the street. I like the seclusion. It's so rural. In China, I wasn't in the center either, and I really liked that at work, because then you think carefully about where to go. That was very good for me and I notice that here too. I shared my studio in Kreuzberg and now I'm alone here.

You painted your biggest picture so far in Beijing and with the new premises you can probably paint even bigger pictures.

Yes, 6 × 3m, but that's enough. That was a formal decision, not out of overwhelming reasons, so to speak. I wanted you to be in the picture.

What was the name of the work?

“Teenage Wet Dream”. Based on a ham by Rubens, “The Decision of Paris”.

Much of the painting I see today is in huge formats, i.e. actually no longer suitable for the average living room. When I'm in Berggrün's collection - all the Picassos are in relatively handy formats. Does the painter only produce for museums and large collections today?

There has always been big hams!

However, Berggrün was a private collector who showed his collection in the Stüler building only late. Today, many collectors build halls of the same size for their collections.

The Rubells built an entire museum.

Exactly. And many artists only produce for large areas, less for the “living room”.

I'm not doing this and I was also surprised that the painting sold so quickly. I also think it's cool when people have that stuff hanging in the living room. I think the sofa picture is great because people actually live with it.

But with the picture above the sofa, you are sitting with your back to art. At most, that is reflected in the television, where you can watch it.

Actually, you want to attract attention with good painting and not with large formats. But of course you jerk off on it, on such a huge part. It's also fun because you can act very differently when painting. Gestures are very important to me, I can paddle around with my hands in a completely different way than on a 40 × 50cm picture. It also gets a different energy from it.

Do you make sketches or preliminary drawings on the canvas before you start the painting process? Do you draw in general?

Sometimes one way or another. If a work is created based on models, then the composition is already there and then I can start right away, because most of it has already been done. Sometimes I also do small watercolors.

You also do sculptures.

I do sculptures.

How does the sculptural process differ from that of painting for you?

I actually do the sculptures in between to relax and to do something different. But then I realized that working with clay, which is later cast in bronze, is not so different from painting - you knead and smear and model in exactly the same way. And, funnily enough, it's faster too. If I use illusions in painting, the clay is already finished - e.g. I don't have to make any more shadows.

Do you remember your first encounter with art and was this a formative experience for you?

My parents are both art historians and I grew up in the studio. My father is an artist and an art historian, and so is my mother.

But your mother sings too, right?

Before I was born, she studied singing, jazz and classical music. Unfortunately I am not musical.

So there was never any other alternative for you?

I never thought about it, it was just so obvious to me. I wanted to do car design once, but then I realized that you need a high school diploma and have to deal with stupid CEOs and designing the next VW Golf was not my dream. I also have an authority problem.

How important is music to you? Do you listen to music at work?

Music is very important and a daily companion. The spectrum is very large, from classic to pop, indie rock to death and black metal, industrial metal. Most of the time hard rock stuff or experimental electronic music is playing. But also often classical.

We have just talked about being an Old Masters fan and a lot of your work is based on works by Old Masters as well.

Just like any painter's actually. As an artist, you are never detached from tradition. It would be total nonsense to say I made something out of myself. I take on all kinds of people, including those whose work I don't like, they are just as interesting because I can then exclude them for myself. The vocation to take an old picture and paint it is nothing new. All the old people did the same. In the German Renaissance, all the church pictures - it was quite normal to paint the pictures in honor of the master. I always found that aspect much more exciting than completely reinventing something.

Here in the studio you are currently working on the picture, “The Fall of the Blind” by Bruegel and you are translating this work into your own language.

It's like with music, you don't have great new topics, everything repeats itself over and over again. Nevertheless, one no longer wants to hear a love song from 1950 today. That is why there are contemporary versions of it today.

You yourself never finished your studies at the UdK.

No, the market picked me up. My pictures always look unfinished, maybe I'll never finish something in my life.

Was it still an important experience for you?

It was important and good in hindsight. You are still studying and I am still learning. But in your studies you are with many others who want the same thing and you have to assert yourself. And of course you come into contact with professors, which is very interesting.

I have the impression that the professors transfer their own style very strongly to the students.

That is more of the student problem, that they run after them and show epigone-like behavior. The professor could of course intervene, but why should he? The students could perhaps tell each other that, but they always shut up - just don't hurt anyone, always be friendly because you also share the studio. There is actually very little talk and only a good professor can get a discussion going. It's a bit of a sickness at universities, now that everything is so professionalized and has to be usable, there is no more room for nonsense - that's terrible. You see it in London, everyone knows what successful, good art looks like and then does it, but then of course it's too late. You saw that in Leipzig with Neo Rauch or the people from Daniel Richter here in Berlin, you don't hear much from them, except from those who have broken away.

Traditional training as an artist, i.e. learning to draw properly, is still important.

This is definitely a good prerequisite because it gives you a lot of freedom in painting. You have the full range and knowing it doesn't hurt. Of course, a lot of people talk about the free expression, but what free expression if you can just doodle like a four year old? Only Picasso said “when I was 9 I could draw like Rafael; it took my whole life to draw like a child ”. And you can tell from every single picture that it was academically trained. You can't take a face apart without knowing how it was put together beforehand. If I want to paint a perfect kitten now, which, by the way, not many can ...

... except for Martin Eder.

He can't really do that either. They are terrible. But if you want to paint them, you don't do it in 2 days but in 10 minutes, because you know how to do it. Isn't it wonderful!

I recently read old interviews and essays by Henry Goldzahler again and I realized again that an artist like Willem de Kooning had his first solo exhibition at the age of 44. When an artist is 30 today, he has to hurry not to belong to the scrap heap. You yourself had success very early on.

Yes, and that wasn't always healthy either. I had my first museum exhibition when I was 28 years old. 150,000 visitors. But that also irritated me because I didn't have a solid base and that then plunged me into a slight crisis. Painting in particular is so slow and sluggish that it takes until you get there. The change goes faster in the head, of course, but on the screen itself it sometimes takes a whole year before you manage to implement an idea.

I find it sometimes almost tragic when artists are super successful very young and then have 40 or 50 years to go - the pressure to live up to the success and deliver is extreme.

The artists have always had to live with that, Rembrandt, Rubens or Holbein, who was 18 or 19 when he came to the royal court.

But they didn't live that long back then either.

Titian was 89.

That was an exception.

Not at all - artists keep getting old. The contemplative life - work little, earn a lot and sometimes, like Charlie Sheen, mix a pail of Margherita on the terrace in the afternoon and fall asleep.
Rubens was a star and, above all, a good businessman. Andy Warhol’s Factory, the studios of Anselm Reyle and Damien Hirst with 100,000 assistants, that was what all the guys had back then. The assistants were so excited about it, the artists even paid them back then - today the artists pay the assistants.

Could someone paint your pictures?

No, because my painting is very process-heavy and I have a discussion with my pictures about how they should look later. And sometimes it likes to spit back, the pig.

Do you keep stumbling over the same problems with your painting?

I'm too quick and impatient. Why should I paint a cloud when it is clear with a wipe of the cloth that it is a cloud. This looks more interesting because many can paint clouds but not throw a rag to make it look like a cloud.

Old topic: is painting dead or why is it so difficult to find good painting?

I've never seen it like that, it was always painted. However, there is hardly any good new painting at trade fairs.

That's right - in relation to the art that exists today, there is relatively little good painting. Perhaps it is also because painting is quickly ticked off as a traditional, “boring” medium.
Is it more interesting to sit in a black box for 2 hours and see if something happens or not?

Some find it more exciting to look at something they don't understand. Or they think they understand but don't.
I have nothing to do with people like that. But maybe I should. New is also a strange word. It is about a contemporary answer to the needs of the beholder. But one that also stands above fashions - fashion has no place in painting.

The Autocenter did an exhibition this year called “A Painting Show”, curated by Aaron Moulton. That was a good concept. It has to do with painting but not only in the classical sense but the term was expanded, i.e. there are not only canvases to see, but also video etc.
Hallelujah! Painting is the mother of it all. Look at Caravaggio, in my eyes he was never a painter, but rather one of the first directors. He staged.

... and nibble on little boys!

Otto Mühl too. Egon Schiele, that's all I say.

He seduced little girls!

The whole family!

Further information on the work of Andreas Golder can be found in the Urs Meile gallery.

Interview and Text: Lisa Bosse
Photography: Alex “Foley” Flat