MEET THE ARTIST: Introducing Wilhelm Beermann — a Young Talent from Düsseldorf Academy
Interviewed by Ruth Polleit Riechert
Wilhelm Beermann was born in Herten, Germany, in 1985. While he was drawing intensively during childhood already, he started a career in the fashion industry after his final exams at school. One of his clients, however, an artist himself, draw his attention to art. That made Wilhelm apply at Art Academy in Mainz, where he started his studies in Visual Arts. In 2014, he continued at Art Academy Düsseldorf, class of Professor Thomas Grünfeld, where he graduated in 2017. Since 2013, his work was shown in numerous exhibitions. The artist lives and works in Düsseldorf.
During the degree show at Düsseldorf Academy in 2017, Wilhelm had displayed five extraordinary paintings. Some of these works can be seen online now in his exhibition at RPR ART. For the interview, Ruth met Wilhelm in his studio in Düsseldorf.
Wilhelm, when did you start working as an artist and why?
After school, it was apparent to me for family reasons to get an education in the fashion industry, but I quickly realised that this is just not the path for me. One of my clients who liked my work is an artist and invited me to his studio. I already knew at this time that I wanted to study again after the training. I then applied to the Kunstakademie in Mainz and was accepted right away. After my intermediate diploma, I went to Düsseldorf.
I paint because it is the only activity that calms me down. But books or screens also work quite well. The object in front of me must be rectangular; then my eyes find peace.
Who or what influenced you?
Even before my studies, I have looked at a lot of art. I frequently go to museums and allow myself the liberty of being a big fan of different artists. It all started with Gauguin. I was maybe eleven or twelve. When I focused on Cézanne at the beginning of my studies, it was like an epiphany for me, and I began to concentrate on painting. In Cézanne’s prospects of Mont Ventoux, everything flickers and transcends. By denying forms in his works, he wanted to expel painting from painting. The persistence with which he pursued this attitude, and the quality of the subsequently created work, has profoundly influenced my notion of painting.
I believe that painting has a lot to do with imitation. The living subject and the works of great artists in the back of the head — both influences the resulting work.
For example, Brice Marden tried to paint like Manet and still created something unique. Mary Heilmann, Ellsworth Kelly. Blinky Palermo. Raoul de Keyser. Manet. Matisse. Mondrian. Rembrandt. There are many who fascinate and influence me.
At the beginning of my studies in Mainz, I have taken an analytic approach to the discipline of painting, especially with different minimalistic movements. You can see that in my works. My form language employs constructivism and colour-field painting and is also reminiscent of hard-edge or minimal. At the same time, what surrounds and interests me in everyday life slips in consciously and unconsciously: for example, influences of writers, filmmakers, and musicians from the popular culture or personal memories of places and persons. This permeability was also stimulated by Professor Thomas Grünfeld of Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.
What is your objective in art?
My pictures are not necessarily “about” something: they are the counterpart to unspecific experiences, a random product from the abundance of everyday influences.
My ambition is to paint images that do not portray a specific period or space, but instead act as a mirror and thus are always new for the beholder. To achieve that, it is important to position yourself in such a way that you do not obstruct the view for yourself. If images have meaning, then it is in the material and not in the form of a code that must be decrypted. I believe that a picture can open up a reflective experience in a visual, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual way for both its creator and the beholder.
What techniques and materials do you prefer?
For what I am currently doing, lacquer and the smooth surface of aluminium are well suited.
Before putting the paint on the carrier, I make sketches and work out a plan. However, I have never managed to complete a picture according to plan. While painting, the results tend to progressively sheer off the initial plan.
The painting is ready when the compositional elements are positioned in such a way that they enter into a continuous interplay. For this, I apply different and competing compositional rules. I apply paint with brush or spatula and strip it with a sanding machine or solvents.
Overall, direct painting represents only about 10% in the development of a new work. When I create paintings, I try to work through, otherwise, the lacquer dries, and the surface is destroyed. For larger images, this can mean 14 hours of uninterrupted work. If I am not satisfied, I strip the colour off and start over. I work in parallel on several pictures because sometimes I need to distance myself.
When I’m painting, I do not like to get distracted. I am happy when I can go to the studio, and no looming appointment prevents me from working through the night. Or going home at 6 o’clock, and continue the next morning.
Wilhelm, thank you for the interview!