Lothar Buchmann - Featured Artist for November 2009

Which artistic media do you prefer to work in and why?

I have worked in many different media, from pencil to oil to granite. Exploring a medium is certainly part of the fun. Lately I paint a lot in oil, partly because of its long drying time and its viscosity that satisfies all childish anal desires. Part of the fun can be getting dirty. Stones fascinate by their resistance, hammering away looses a lot of tension. With clay, the feeling of easy forming, the totally flexible form is important. Concrete is my casting material of choice as it is weather resistant and infinitely affordable. Wood is fibrous and resists, but is soft at the same time. At the moment, I am starting to experiment with rubber latex and burlap. Sculpting takes more time than painting, so much more surface. The most uncommon material I ever used was pumpkin.

With which past or contemporary artists or artworks do you, as an artist, feel a connection?

I feel a connection to the artists we will never know. The one in ancient times who saw the face of man and started to image it. The ones from darkest time who showed who we are, in its first greatness, to the antique world. What is more touching than a Greek gravestone? You can feel the pain over 2500 years; they were like us. I love the masters of light of the 17th century, Caravaggio, de la Tour, where only a small beam shows something, the rest recessed in the dark, also Dutch art of the 17th century showing civil life, Turner, some impressionists, a bit of abstract expressionism. But then, the human view prevails with me. In sculpture, the simplest form seem to work best: Giacometti, maybe Moore, and the Cyclades.

What is it that draws you to them?

Art did not know about art when it was born. There is no pretense of anything, just the desire to express. And there was enormous effort in producing these pieces of art, neither diamond-saws nor premixed paints, no other power than muscles. And the human view was, as it is today, while culture formed the formal language. It was the childhood, before art became decoration and nausea set in.

Which particular processes or techniques of art-making interest you now?

Artists tend to be most interested in what they work at the moment. Yesterday I removed the latex-burlap masks from the clay positive. Now I have to stabilize them with plaster and cut them into half to make removable forms. Some days ago I tried to paint on burlap and the paint just disappeared. So new techniques have to be developed. I am dreaming of a studio where I could move stones heavier than 40 kg and work on them. To make art in public places would be most interesting.

What particular technical challenges in art-making do you face at this time?

More time, more time, more time; keeping surfaces intact through the molding process; getting paint onto a rough burlap surface.

What in your artistic training do you value most in your work at this time?

Learning molding techniques, about materials available to do art, about tools. The practical, crafts aspect is the most valuable aspect of any education to me. I am not sure, if much else can be taught. The rest is looking at the world and, of course, other artists’ work. I try to learn in museums, though tend to be overwhelmed and sometimes sad.

How much of a role do accident and control play in your work?

Depends: I have made a few copies of existing art. Certainly accidents are to be avoided and corrected in such cases. On the other hand, even in reality painting, if something works, even if not quite to reality, let it work. In sculpting, I start with only a vague idea, some loose sketch. Typically the final product looks nothing like the sketch. If I work with a stone, the stone, often irregularly broken off and in some given shape, generates the idea. Just look long enough onto it, amplify the shape, see something in it.

What are some of your artistic challenges at present?

Well, I am never good enough. No piece ever looks quite as it should. Some regions may do, but never the whole piece. Trying to find the ideal composition, the ideal edge, the ultimate line remains the challenge. So carry on always, forever.

What are some of your artistic accomplishments at present? 

Hey, I got the rubber mask off the clay. That was tricky. The work in progress is the accomplishment. Like fish, I do not care very much about my children. Once it’s finished, it may go into exhibitions, may go away, but I have forgotten about pain and joy.

Can you share 3 things you’ve learned as an artist through your own art?

Materials resist you. There is never a perfect piece. Gravity sucks.

When you need inspiration, how to do get it?

Banging my head against the wall may help. When I need to start a new piece, it mostly just comes. Sometimes looking at photographs brings it. Sometimes it is the decision to go for a new material, a new technique. Sometimes it’s just to start and the picture on the canvas and then it moves along. Call in the Muse: ‘Andra moi ennepe mousa…’ (‘Name me the man, Muse….’); she always comes.

When you need to learn more as an artist, how do you do it?

I learn techniques from the internet, sometimes books. Then come trial and error, and try again. Eventually I get the gist of the technique and how to correct errors. In composition and form, if learning happens at all, it comes with the work and appears clandestine. Sometimes there is regress if I’m out of the game for a long time; constant training is necessary. My paintings are getting looser, more open, less formal; my sculptures stay largely zoomorphic. I guess an art historian, if bothered, could see a development.

What’s exciting on your artistic horizon?

I do not think much about the future…it will come by itself. Maybe retirement would be good in terms of production, but then it may have the opposite effect, as there is no tension any more with the other life, and time is always available. Greatest problem is art storage, and that causes more and more negative excitement. Maybe my ultimate artwork will finally succeed. And then there is death, always on the horizon. Artists become famous after death. But what is that good for?

What is it about this artwork (self-selected work shown) that led you to choose it for this feature?

The chosen artwork, named Humble, was done in watercolour and ink and completed in about 5 minutes. The picture is probably my closest to a perfect work. All lines look right to me, the largely unpainted area amplifies any colour spot. No labour, no thinking, a poem, a haiku. Know when to stop!