Recently, Hendrik Czakainski presented his newest series of work in an exhibition titled Urban Investigations at Urban Spree Galerie. Displaying his signature work made from the bird’s eye view point, the artist conveys his abstract vision of the urban world around us. The Berlin-based artist explores the juxtaposed concepts of order and chaos, forming a unique vision of aesthetic through his large-scaled works. Reminiscent of google map views (which the artist uses as an assisting tool to form certain configurations), his artwork displays a distant perspective which provides the viewer with an impersonal, yet highly detailed and thought-provoking vision.
We asked Hendrik questions about his art, how he perceives himself and his work, we discussed the messages his projects convey, talked about his latest exhibition and other artwork. So, enjoy the interview we had with the artist where he gave us a glimpse into his creative process and personal insight of his art.
Widewalls: Since artists and their work are usually left for the critics and the audience to be interpreted, judged and scrutinized, the first question would be how do YOU perceive your own work and in what way would you define it?
Hendrik Czakainski: My work as you can see it today - the different shapes, combinations and use of material - is the result of a development that it has been passing through during the last couple of years. I have been experimenting with different kinds of materials, combining formations of surfaces and struggling with finding a way of uniting material, form and content. In my pieces I am trying to display fractions and glimpses of phenomena that occur at the clash of globalization, industrialization and demographic developments by translating them into the forms and material I have found over the years. Considering this, the content of my work could be related to sometimes catastrophic conditions (if you think of slums or massive industrial sites and the pollution that comes with it) that I try to convert into pieces that –despite of all that– display some kind of beauty. Maybe you could say that my aesthetic is always trying to walk the thin line between devastation, destruction and the beauty of, for example a perfect square, an interesting material surface or a coherent composition. It is both difficult for me to find the balance between these poles and propulsive/stimulating/inspiring to oscillate between order and chaos, norm and deviation, the concrete and the abstract. It is the tension between these antipodes that interests me most. When I look back at the pieces I produced over the last couple of years I am honestly surprised because I can now very well retrace the different stages of development that my work has lived through. I think it is this process that leads from one thing to another, driven by its own logic, that I find most fascinating about making art.
Widewalls: What inspired you to attain such a distant perspective of a bird’s eye view in your art?
HC: Attaining a distant view to the objects I am displaying has been part of my work for a long time. It is motivated by the interest in my own allocation. The distance allows me to consider my position in relation to the surrounding environment. It offers a different way of discovering places and finding spots and gets us to read structures from above – be it of landscapes or urban areas. Crucial to this were travels to the megacities of South Asia. People often think that I am sort of copying views of particular areas via google maps, but in practice I am only using these tools to study certain configurations or to collect inspiration concerning shapes and forms. The fascinating thing about the human cognition is that we can achieve the view of a large distance without even physically attaining it. It allows us to see things we could not see from the ‘human perspective’, exposes structures and correlations.
Widewalls: Some of your work displays a rather post-apocalyptic tone with a sort of a looming chaos, is this something that you expect to happen in the real world?
HC: No, I do not believe that we are heading towards some sort of apocalypse. There will always be problematic developments, things that don’t comply to certain rules and regulations, that lay outside the norm. I believe that mankind is always searching, eager to find solutions. Not always in favour of all that lives on this Earth. The things that I display in my works are rather forms of necessary evil, they are consequential results of the developments the human species has lived through during the last centuries. What I want to express with my work is to some extent the opposite of the apocalypse: amongst all the destruction and chaos I can still find something intriguing, considered from the outside perspective of a birds-eye-view, you could simply talk about phenomenon of cause and effect. Where there is order, there is chaos, where there is norm there is deviation that bears systems of their own inherent logic. My artistic approach and the distant perspective allow me to carve out fascinating aspects without denying the evil ones.
Widewalls: The title of your latest show is Urban Investigations, so after a thorough investigation, what did you find?
HC: The title of the show derives from the character of my approach to the subjects I am dealing with which could be described as investigative. So this has to be understood rather as a motto than as a description of results. I understand “investigative” as the thrive to search for answers. I am not particularly interested in the results it might bring but in the engagement it means. It is a kind of motor that keeps me running. Therefore I can’t really define what I find, the situation is rather that with every leaf I turn I find something new. You could say I found that the well of inspiration is inexhaustible, I am more than ever eager to make new pieces.
Widewalls: You are an Adjunct Professor of Architecture at the Beuth Hochschule für Technik in Berlin, so does this architectural aspect influence your creative work?
HC: Everything that surrounds me influences myself and therefore also inspires my work. I really like working with the students. It is always very interesting and enriching to get to know their point of view on themes and questions that are important to me. Working with different and often much younger people can be an inexhaustible source of inspiration if you are only open to it and willing to take up with it. Sometimes the ideas and projects of the students can shed light on subjects that I didn’t know up to that point or even help me get closer to answering questions that have been circulating in my mind for a long time. I once, for example, had my students work in a way that is closely related to my own approach, it was fascinating to suddenly have thirty people employ similar research techniques and methods of finding interesting structures, surfaces and compositions. I could watch them add their personal skills to the things I showed them which in turn served as inspiration for me and some of their results were really amazing.
Widewalls: Your art has been described as visualization of what is often unsighted by our species, so what is it that we are missing?
HC: This can again be related to the question of the birds-eye-view: the ‘human perspective’ denies us to see certain correlations and in my work I am trying to show them and extend them.
Widewalls: The main materials you employ are wood, carton and concrete, and you are known for creating large-scale works, could you please describe the process behind your huge pieces?
HC: At the beginning it is mostly a theme from a movie or a documentary that interests me, sometimes only small aspects or details that draw my attention. Following these details and the ideas they inspire triggers a seemingly never-ending chain of discoveries of other details and domains. I collect pictures, screenshots from documentaries, read snippets of articles, follow links... At a kind of second stage I start making sketches and sometimes even small models. These are necessary since I work in a very composite way, I can find and try different possibilities of composition and arrangement this way. Simultaneously, I experiment with different kinds of materials, make little tests, try to see how they react under different circumstances and when exposed to certain substances. Ultimately follows the realization in large scale. I sometimes have complex and laborious substructures to create multiple layers and levels. This can cost me lots of time and nerves: I construct, tear down, change and build up again until I am satisfied with what I have. I change my perspective on the piece frequently: I do most of the construction having the piece lying horizontally but then I put it on the wall, check it from close-up and distance, I also use a huge ladder to view the pieces lying on the floor. At the very end, I colour the pieces – an exciting and interesting process I really like, it’s a little bit like painting. Sometimes I feel like Jackson Pollock, running around his paintings, sweating. The more colour I use, the more fun I have. But I also work on details and use a very small brush. When I’m lucky, the piece is finished after this, but this happens only on rare occasions. Usually I have them hanging or standing around in my studio for weeks. I can see them all the time while I am working on something different, I kind of test them, check them out and mostly change and add a lot of things.
Widewalls: Your exhibition Urban Investigations is currently on view at Urban Spree Galerie, how is it going so far?
HC: The exhibition is going well. I am very happy to have met Pascal Feucher, the owner of Urban Spree. The gallery has a really nice and big showroom that gives me the possibility to display a great deal of the work I produced recently and that still renders space to also set up two installations. It allows me to present my artwork in a great surrounding with an exciting lighting situation and to assemble a very nice exhibition. Urban Spree is very vivid and filled with creativity and inspiring people which makes it a perfect place for me to work at.
Widewalls: What are the future projects we can expect to see from you?
HC: My head is usually filled with lots of ideas, in my mind I start thinking about future projects before I have even finished the current ones, this means I will just keep going. But I hope I can continue the cooperation with Pascal Feucher (the owner of the Urban Spree galery) which I liked very much, we have made plans that feel right and important to me. We will see what we are going to realize and how we will continue.
All images courtesy of Urban Spree Galerie