“Sculpture and installations have a more intellectual approach. They are less direct and ask much more initiative from the audience”
LUXURY SPLASH OF ART: You were born in Germany but you travelled and visited many countries all over the world.
How did your artistic path start and what was your inspiration?
How would you describe the creative scene in each of those places and what impact did it make on you and your work?
Wolfgang Stiller: I started to draw and do some stages design for theatre productions during my last years of college or better the German equivalent to college. I had a very inspiring art teacher who really fuelled my appetite for art. So I am a kind of late bloomers. Not one of those artists who draw since they were 4 years old. I was also not what one would call a natural talent. I had to study hard to learn some skills. I travelled, lived and worked a lot in other countries but this never had a direct impact on subjects I was working on. Sometimes it would determine the materials which I was using for my art production but I always follow certain subjects I am interested in and never really react in a kind of spontaneous way within my art practice. I wouldn’t know how to describe the creative scenes in those places. I wonder if one actually can since it is always just a glimpse we are into those new places and it is a very subjective one anyway. As I said before, I follow up on specific projects I am interested in and therefore I am not affected immediately by other cultural approaches.
LUXURY SPLASH OF ART: I personally find your work very imperceptible to the detail. Your sculptures installations are made in different mediums (wax, metal, bronze, minerals etc.) showing all expressions in all our senses. Can you please tell me where you find your mediums and how do you do the research? Do you feel that there is a physical presence or are you just simply exploring possibilities? What do you want other people to feel or think when they look at your work? What does your work aim to say?
WS: I don’t think art has the power to make people think or feel in a certain way. Movies and music have this seductive power. Sculpture and installations have a more intellectual approach. They are less direct and ask much more initiative from the audience. Even if I could influence other people’s emotions and feelings I wouldn’t be that interested in doing so. As I said before, I am interested in certain themes or subjects and try to reflect on them. Some people use words to do so, I am using materials and space. I have my reasons why I am doing my work. I need to have that.
What I do is a reflection of contemplating things I am interested in but I don’t expect that other people get this exactly and I don’t think it is necessary. When we are confronted with an artwork we always bring our personal experiences and history into this observation or reflection. Sometimes this can be much richer and more original than the intention of the artist. If we limit our encounter with the work to the intention of the artist, we deprive ourselves from some unique experiences.
I always like to approach a work directly without running to the little paper on the side giving away the name and title. If the creation doesn’t attract me by itself I am not even interested in learning the idea of it or even the name of the artist. That being said I think it is always a useful reference to hear what the artist’s intention was.
I have no special preference for any material. First, I have an idea and then I look for the best material to realise it. Every material has its very own characteristics which makes it unique. I like to use this sometimes in the opposite way like with those wax works I did.
They look like frozen ice which is quite the opposite of melting and heat which we usually expect when we think of wax. Materials have a physical impact on the viewer which is one of the many reasons why I like sculptures.
LSA: Matchstickman – Human Heads – I really love them because you focus on the actual human figure.
What is the process of creating them and how much time do you need to see the final stage?
What kind of materials do you use and what is the story behind these creations? How people in different parts of the word react to those sculptures/installations?
WS: I started with this idea while I was living in China for 2 years. I was involved in a movie production doing some dummies. The movie was about the massacre the Japanese did in Nanjing during the occupation of China. I saw photos of the beheading of people which made a very strong impression on me. Seeing a human head without its body has a very strong and different impact. After finishing the production, I had those head moulds sitting in my studio and was playing around with them until I got this idea for the ‘Matchstickmen’. It was really more of an accident than being planned right from the beginning. The first versions were much simpler and more like heads which were put on top of a pole the way people would do during wars in former times. I got interested in the human head without a body as an artistic subject and tried out several possibilities over the years. The latest version of the ‘Matchstickmen’ became much more sophisticated with more details. I use all kinds of people from all over the world as models for my Matchstickmen. No women though but this is more because of practical reasons. I always ask for bald models and normally the male head is bigger. So it has no hidden agenda besides being more practical. They can be interpreted in different ways. Some people read them as burn out, some find them funny or even a kind of pop art. To me, they are a metaphor for the impermanence of our human existence. People react very differently to them.
I don’t think it is a regional question but more a subjective one. Many people love them, dislike them. Kids mostly like them a lot. I also get all kinds of weird reactions on Instagram. I get called racist by some people because the heads are black. Women complain that I just use male heads. I have Jewish people telling me I can’t do burned heads because I am German. It is a pity when people are not able to think outside of their little box and try to fit the outside world into their little worldview. So there are many different approaches towards my work and it is beyond my control what people think about my work.
LSA: You are an Artist/Sculptor.
What makes you different from others? Do you need inspiration, perhaps a reason or certain intention which reflects your work?
WS: As I said before, I am interested in certain subjects and reflect about them in a different language. Sometimes I get inspired by some material which gives me an idea for a certain work. That happened more often when I was in artist residency and didn’t want to do the same like what I do in my own studio. So I would roam the streets or landscape and discover something to work with. Most of the time I have a subject I am interested in and look for some material which would express this in the best possible way I can think of.
LSA: Apart from your sculptures and installations you also do fantastic drawings. Quoting your own words once you said that they reflect a subconscious of your site. In what way? What kind of drawings do you do? How do those drawings come to your mind, is it just simply spontaneous creativity which comes to your mind or the beginning of yet another project or perhaps the inspiration to the future sculpture creations?
WS: Installations and sculptures take a lot of time and planning. There is not much space for being spontaneous. Drawing is very relaxing and I just start not knowing if it will turn out more figurative or more abstract. No planning. Mostly. If I do a jellyfish drawing/painting it is different. Then I am really interested in a good result and there is planning involved. When I just draw it can easily end up in the trash bin since the quality can vary. I hardly ever do project sketches.
LSA: Being in the art world for a while now what do you think about art today?
Do you think we as artists are still unique and have our voice? Do you believe that artists still got the power to influence others? In your opinion, does a modern artist create to gain only for success and money?
Where do you think you would put yourself in as per today?
WS: Well, that is a difficult question. I don’t want to be one of those guys who say everything was better back then. Fact is that things have changed in a more commercial way and I am not really interested in most of the top-selling „ artists“. I don’t go to see shows that often anymore and if so it is mostly some older masters I am interested in since they remind me why I am doing this and why I started this 40 years ago.
LSA: Finally, what are your plans for the future? Where can we see your recent exhibition?
WS: I am working on several different new projects and if Covid 19 will allow it there are shows planned in France, Finland and Italy.