With his latest series of monumental still lifes with flowers, Leipzig’s Paule Hammer (*1975) offers more than just his usual combination of subject matter and text. He surprises viewers with striking painterly details. Recently, he started putting his word creations on colorful glazed ceramics, where they take on a plastic form. Hammer always works thematically, depicting people from society, history and politics in his paintings, citing them and commenting on them. He questions current world views, life goals and familiar certainties, discursively coming to conclusions that always lead to new questions.
In this interview, the artist Paule Hammer talks in detail about his latest work series, his working methods, and his thoughts in general on various issues. (Questions by Jette Rudolph).
Jette Rudolph: Hello Paule, we are delighted to welcome you to our gallery in Berlin for what will be your fourth solo show “Weltenzyklopädie #6 – Was Weiss Ich” (World Encyclopedia #6 – What Do I Know). After a year of intensive work in your studio and at Schaddelmühle ceramics studio in Muldental, you have clearly embarked on new ways to experiment with your art. The vase sculptures are a new medium for you, and your canvases are likewise surprising because they manifest a compelling amplification of your painting techniques. There’s the playful interaction with a materiality that at times can be sculptural as well as with these manifold structures composed of potato prints and spray techniques and expressive colors – and then there are your text passages and word applications. What is it that prompts you to set up this contrast?
PH: I like taking materials or techniques I haven’t mastered yet and incorporating them into my work. This way, the unexpected might happen. I like the euphoria that comes with discovering something new.
JT: The flower motif runs through all five large-format canvas works. This consecutively numbered series has also spawned various medium-and-small-format offshoots. What does the flower symbolize for you?
PH: In art history, flowers stand for all types of things, such as a mythological or biblical figure, a virtue or a moral principle; they also stand for political movements or involvement in a class struggle. For the Aztecs, the cultivation of flowers served to support the state. Tulip mania, which took place in the 17th century Netherlands, is generally considered the first recorded speculative bubble in economic history. This means, the still life of a flower can be a historical or sexual allusion, the promise of a better life or simply a game of proportion and color – the representation of something beautiful. I like this homonym-game type of character, since I always come across things I want to hold onto, write down, think through. This is what ended up serving as compost for the painted flowers. Texts surface in the paintings as flower parts, vessels or microclimatic phenomena.
JR: What is the relationship between the flower motif in your paintings and the vase genre in your ceramics?
PH: The texts you see in the flower paintings are often little fantasies or unfinished stories. I think about things I currently see in my own environment or in the world’s environment. Then I start speculating, discovering unexpected connections, taking something I haven’t fully thought through and sleeping on it, dreaming about it. It is about growth – one thing leads to another.
The vases are supposed to counter this loose network of thoughts with their solid structure. I once said: I now formulate laws for artists – in vase form. Vases also exude a certain permanence, but aren’t as serious as, say, the Tables of the Law. At first, I worried about whether the vases and the paintings would go together, but it all worked out really well: growth and abundance inside the picture and the statement in clay in front of it.
JR: Mainly written from a first-person perspective, your narratives are sometimes scattered across the canvas like ornamental fragments or written down like long passages. Consecutively numbered from 1 to 5, they tell of the encounters you, as an artist, have with your environment. The vases even confront viewers with relevant keywords that have been taken from an art-world context, such as “art cares for the soul” or “form follows fear.” What role does the artist have and fulfill in today’s society? What are the specific challenges the artist faces? And what does society expect from the artist? And lastly: How can the flower of art plant its seeds in the media’s winds that blow around the world and, most ideally, anchor them so they continue to sprout?
PH: These are all questions I ask myself. The roles artists play, are very diverse and so are the expectations held by all the people who don’t regard themselves as artists – and, like everything else, this is all subject to constant change.
Art helps me stay in touch with the world, and I think that’s the case for everyone else. The way someone thinks or speaks or writes or dresses – it’s all the result of creative processes. Artists just think about these creative processes more often than other people and make these creative processes the focal point of their efforts. They sense that there are large, valid forms out there and that artists can make them appear. For some artists, it just happens; for others, it’s torture. In my opinion, the ideal artist helps a lot of people think and feel. It’s someone who makes the world and being-human more bearable for a lot of people.
Regarding the last question – I’m still a learner myself. There are some Instagram accounts I really love. These are from people who aren’t using any type of blatant marketing strategy but simply have a unique view of the world, which they allow me to share.
PAULE HAMMER: WELT-ENZYKLOPÄDIE #6 WAS WEISS ICH
FELDBUSCH WIESNER RUDOLPH
NOV 03 – JAN 13, 2018