I live in Berlin, Germany, since late 2008, but lived most of the 2000s in Vancouver and Toronto, Canada, and I grew up in the alpine Principality of Liechtenstein (population 35.000). Im 36. I went to the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (now Emily Carr University) in Vancouver, and to the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, USA, for an exchange semester in Illustration, and I graduated with a Bachelor of Design from Emily Carr in 2006. Ive only started art school at age 29, in 2002. Before that, my life had been, lets say, a bit unfocused. While on a noncommittal odyssey of post-secondary education (including Linguistics and American Literature), I played in cassette-only punk bands, hosted a radio show (was scolded in meetings for making up my own station IDs (jingles) and playing music that was too hard), hosted a TV show (there was only one show on Liechtenstein TV (per week) at 6pm on Sundays, and it got cancelled after a few months due to low interest from both the public and advertisers; needless to say the TV station (2 full-time employees) went under after the cancellation of its only show). Throughout the Nineties Ive done posters and design for DIY bands, labels, venues and zines in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein. Since graduation I work as a freelance designer and illustrator for $, and as a visual artist for my sanity. You can find my work on www.manfrednaescher.com and www.arcademi.com/manfrednaescher and my zines through www.gute-seiten.net/site/?cat=10&s=screenshots or through my website.
Right now I'm focusing mainly on expressive watercolors on paper, usually figurative, often portraits. I've been working on serial paintings based on film frames that I recontextualize in the form of full-color zines.
Changes often... I keep discovering inspiring work and people all the time. Some mainstays would be Ed Ruscha, Raymond Pettibon, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Francis Bacon, Paul Klee, David Hockney, Max Ernst, Marlene Dumas, Elizabeth Peyton, Peter Doig, Daniel Richter, Turner, Goya, etc.; Film is an important influence: Early Truffaut, Rohmer, Malle, Spike Jonze, Gus Van Sant, Vittorio de Seta, Murnau, Lang, film noir, etc.; music, DIY culture (Have you ever read "Get In The Van" by Henry Rollins? A diary-type book about Black Flag's first national tours, inspiring stuff); my girl, my friends.
A cheese plate?
Mondays to Thursdays I get up at 6.30am, and try to get something substantial done before noon. Then I usually work a bit more casually in the afternoon or into the evening. On deadlines I often work into the night. I have a small studio space at home. Music: Right now: No Kids, Small Black, Nite Jewel, the xx, No Age, Misfits, Bert Jansch, The Green Arrows, Christian Walt, Eluvium
Let's just say I'm frugal. Next question...
In general, I start with an idea, and then produce pretty simple, straight-forward paintings and drawings. Reduction, fragmentation and editing are key for my process: I really need pretty severe constraints for what I do, otherwise I would never start a project; too many choices are paralyzing for me. What I need more than paints and paper is some kind of conceptual framework, and my interests have lead me to the concepts of memory and artifice to provide me with an overriding theme for my work. Films are great source material for me, as they create an illusion of life through artifice. The repository of emotions and situations that films consist of, all those things we can relate to as viewers - not to mention the time and place they were made in - can trigger or shape memories. And on a practical level, film frames provide me with ready-made compositions and figurative constellations that I can work from.
Whenever I begin a project, I try to distill an essence of what I want to depict from my source material. For example, for The Endless Summer, a series of pictures of surfing based on the film of the same name, I used "warmth" as the defining visual principle. This made me decide on a color palette that was derived from the idea of fire (yellows and reds), which, in turn, helped define the mood of the pictures. Another example of my approach to color would be The French Connection, which is a series of portraits of Gene Hackman as a cop on the hunt. I decided to show the film's famous chase scene exclusively through portraits of Hackman (no car, no street, just his face), and show all the anger, confusion and fear, this constant fluidity of extreme emotions that's conveyed through his face, with a dramatic, expressive use of color.
I get the DVD's I use from the public library in our neighborhood. So I never know what I'll be getting, because I would just see what they have that day and bring something home. I like the surprise aspect of this approach. Usually I work from films I already know and love for one reason or another, and working like this makes me look at the films in an investigative way and I tend to notice aspects I may not have paid much attention to before. It for sure helps me to learn about films and film-making, and it helps keeping me excited for the project.
Films from the library, a 6-year-old Powerbook in disconcerting shape, a program to make screen captures from DVD's (SnapNDrag), a projector, a wall, tape, paper, pencils, watercolors, brushes, a scanner, Photoshop, InDesign, a friendly local print shop.
Some of my friends are working on great stuff right now: I love the new Depatterning CD-R (noise and processed field recordings, a bit like Lucky Dragons, but with a more personal, intimate approach). There's a new film that just went into production that I'm involved with as a graphic designer, it's by Alison McAlpine who won the Special Jury Award at Slamdance two years ago (her new film is not done yet, but my mind is already blown). My friend Derek Howard is working on a film that got him to travel to some incredible places on the planet (http://vivanlasantipodas.vox.com). And the new scarves from Louis by Amanda are amazing (www.etsy.com/shop/louisbyamanda).
Bring it to the bank. And think about it later... Ok, no. I'd buy a vintage Braun record player. Buy all my best friends a flight to Miami Beach in the winter. Buy a lot of my friends' art. Get an assistant, pay him/her well. I don't need much, so I could probably live off the rest of the million comfortably for a long time...
A picnic in a park with good friends I haven't seen in a long time.
The cultural wealth and historical density of Berlin is something else. The food is great. Public transit is great. The library system is amazing. And it's still relatively cheap to live here.
Support your friends, they need it (Fecal Face is good with that). Go see NoMeansNo if you feel like you're growing old. It will make you feel better.
I have a drawing in the Anonymous Drawings show here in Berlin right now, a drawing in the upcoming issue of the great Toronto-based Free Drawings zine. Some shows in Germany with my zines, some confirmed, some not. Some illustration commissions. A new Screenshots zine in March. I'm preparing some three-dimensional work and an upcoming stop motion animation project. Some enjoyable graphic design work. In general, I'm planning to get more ambitious with my watercolor and drawing work, get more focused, and at the same time expand my visual vocabulary. I mean, I haven't done this for very long (I only got serious about art in 2009 with the launch of Screenshots), but the response has been great so far. I just want to keep learning and keep having fun with it, everything else is just icing on the cake (like this interview!).
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