Brutstätten und andere Schwärmereien (Breeding Grounds and Other Infatuations)

Art is what an artist does – this is how Bruce Nauman summed up his answer to a question that has been virulent ever since the dawn of modernism. The studio, in turn, is where an artist does what he or she does – the place where art is created. For the studio has long since ceased to be a firmly defined space, and only in individual cases does it correspond to the image of the traditional workplaces of pre-modern painters and sculptors that has been handed down to us. Today, the studio situations of visual artists differ from each other in a way that is just as striking as the pluralism of techniques and media, of artistic practice and conceptual thinking. In this context, the studio does not even have to be spatially defined, but can be variable or placeless, meaning a situation or a state, depending on the artistic approach. Nevertheless, all concepts of the studio do indeed have one thing in common: They are the productive nucleus of artistic creation and development, the breeding ground of an artistic process that is only fully completed when the work leaves the studio – or the state of the studio – and is exhibited.   

Stefan Vogel, born in Fürth in 1981, works with a wide variety of artistic media, techniques, and formats. In his exhibition Brutstätten und andere Schwärmereien (Breeding Grounds and Other Infatuations), he traces his own creative process. Where do the limits of controllable creation lie, and where does the quasi-natural growth of a work begin? Does it emancipate itself from its creator by being based on an idea, by following a concept, or by resulting from an artistic strategy – and does it do this already in the course of its creation or only at the moment when it is exhibited? Generally, a work is considered finished as soon as it leaves the studio. For Stefan Vogel, however, it is not uncommon that, when works are brought back to the studio after an exhibition, they are re-entered into the working process to be reworked or taken as the basis for new works. In many such cases, the different working processes and ways of thinking remain visible – at least in places – and become comprehensible for the viewer. This applies, on the one hand, to the techniques and materials that make up the various pictorial levels – painting and drawing, as well as a wide variety of everyday materials and collaged photos – and, on the other hand, to the linguistic, poetic level that plays a key role in many of his works. Chains of pictorial associations combine with sound poems and concrete poetry to form complex structures that provide various points of access to the work. The large-format works in particular, however, elude a comprehensive perception in purely physical terms and require a constant change of perspective. The immersion in details, in the fragments of poetry written with a typewriter, or small-format pictorial and drawing elements require an extreme close-up view, while the necessary connection of the onomatopoeic with the overall painterly effect repeatedly demands that the viewer take a step back. Time and again, the image eludes the viewer, provides hints, opens up associative spaces, lures the viewer in and sends them away again. 

Like the process of artistic creation itself, the viewing and development of the work becomes a temporally extended process. In this way, the processes of creating the work are, as it were, run through again in the act of reception and flow into the aesthetic and conceptual perception, even becoming an immanent part of the work. Seeing as an artistic process already plays a central role in the contemplation of the studio – the breeding ground. Starting from the assumption that the studio is not so much a space as a variable place of artistic thought and action, seeing – and, analogously, general perception and reflection – becomes the artistic act par excellence. In the exhibition Brutstätten und andere Schwärmereien, Stefan Vogel devotes himself to these parameters of artistic production and reception, the studio and the exhibition, in a very sensual way. The works are by no means relegated to the background of an overarching staging, but rather become all the more central, since the reshaping of the space is entirely under the sign of ideal contemplation. 

Stefan Vogel studied under Anselm Reyle at the University of Fine Arts (HfBK) in Hamburg from 2004 to 2012. In 2016, he was fellow at the Villa Romana in Florence.

© Johanna Adams, Translation Gérard Goodrow