«Therefore I really do believe that in my case, it’s more like finding pictures rather than creating them.»

Fabian Treiber
Stuttgart, Germany.


Tell us about yourself. How did your work in art begin? Was there a moment when you realized that you would become an artist?

When thinking about this question, I realize that the way of looking back at myself has changed slightly over time. I mean, before I began to study at the academy, I was working in an office as a computer scientist and was nearly dying of boredom. So, I decided to apply at an academy, just to get back to the things which I really wanted to do. First of all, I wanted to do something with my hands again; having a closer and let’s say more tactile relationship to materials in general. I am definitely a person, who is very attracted to materials and I would also say that I was always an acute observer of things. Sounds probably like a perfect prehistory, but at the same time, this office story doesn’t matter much to me today – I wouldn’t say this was my “big bang” in becoming an artist. The most important thing about this period was probably just to get to know what I don’t want to be.

To be honest, those days I had a really naive view on the art world or being an artist in general. So, there was no real decision to become an artist at first.

I really think this was a sort of self-conception which slightly came over me through the years. A kind of process with many steps in between and of course encouraged advise from friends, colleagues, professors and all kinds of people that I’ve met along the way. I subjectively perceived it always as some sort of artistic research or let’s say to improve something which I couldn’t even name at this time. In the very end, I’ve become an artist.

Your paintings usually show interiors or some of their elements. Tell us in more detail, what does this all mean?

There’s this very personal belief, that a painting isn’t something flat – that it’s not only a surface. In my opinion, there should be something disturbing. At least when I experience good artworks, they mostly have this effect – that they’re able to physically and personally affect you. It doesn’t matter if it’s 500 years or five days old. I think this is something which other people can experience as well, but it’s hard to describe. In a question of the decisions I take in my paintings, this belief is probably influencing them all.

That for example, if I’m thinking of painting a vase and its glaze – I really do try to hit the point, where the materials I use, are oscillating between raw material and the perception they’re going to fulfil inside a single shape or in this single painting in general. Regarding this, it’s important that all those single “parts” in my work are somehow related to this idea or at least they have to stand this personal belief. To experience a painting as something really autonomous and sovereign, otherwise, it isn’t worth the hassle.

Three or four years ago, most of my works were more abstract in a way or let’s say they were related to a vocabulary, which was more obviously an abstract one. If it’s up to me, it wasn’t that abstract at all. For example, I was on a series of small works called “tracks”. There were about fifty works, most of them were painted on found objects, like pieces of cardboard, which for example were already printed before or pieces of wooden plates, which revealed traces, which the saw was leaving on them. I wanted to achieve paintings on this pieces, in which I painterly tried to use the same vocabulary as the traces people left on them before. So, they seemed quite abstract in the end, but I experienced them more as a sort of documentation. The best of them were telling you this certain positive disturbance, when you’re looking at something which reminds you on something familiar in a very subjective way but at the same time, you would realize that it’s painted – a painterly reality, which you can experience at this moment as well. What you’re looking at, is just related to something in real life. I think working on these pieces and step by step defining my interest more precisely, was definitely a tipping point in my work.

Then, I decided or in a way I was forced to become more explicit in my paintings, to extend this personal interest of things which, let’s say remind you on a certain feeling or a personal experience. I thought there must be something like a certain kind of common sense in those shapes, forms and brushstrokes etc. pp., which are representing more than just a formal “game” or the process itself in painting.

Therefore it seems weird or provocative, when I would say, that in general my paintings are more about representing things, feelings and memories throughout the painting than they are about interiors.

At the same time, of course, the interiors are appearing, because it’s a natural consequence when you’re situating those things on the canvas. Additionally, this classical subject offers me a unique way to go on with this idea. The fact that this subject is well researched, known and nothing ‘new’ gives me a special sort of freedom. Hard to describe in a way, but for example, I don’t need to debate over materials, which were never used before and stuff like this or a new weird way of painting in general. I can just focus on the things that are relevant to me.

When you think about the appearing archaic forms and silhouettes in my paintings, that they can turn into many things in the eye of the beholder. An added oval, the air-brushed line may turn the lucid-blue truncated cone into a vase, maybe even a water glass, and the brushstrokes leading away from it become plant stalks. I do believe that it’s necessary to keep it simple or distinct in a way. If I would constantly invent crazy shapes or stuff like that, I would water my intention down. I am really interested in this sort of effortless narrative structures which are just popping up. Sometimes throughout the context of the painting itself and/or the perception of the beholder in front. There’s no need to paint very thrillingly and sensational at all, to make the beholder experience the poetry of a good painting in its details.

How does your work on picture begin? First, is it a sketch or pure improvisation?

Usually, I start with a sketch directly on the raw canvas, without any preparations before. Mostly I only wet the fabric and then I start to draw with ink on it. To me the question, if it’s a sketch or improvisation, is ambiguous. I did question this myself for several times, but I think in the end it’s really something in between. What I try, when it comes to paint is to transfer and repaint my memories or imaginings (hard to divide – mostly it’s both at the same time), directly on the canvas. In my case, this is where a painting has already started and I might experience the first hunch where it can probably take me. Most of my works still embed elements from the first contact when they’re finished.

What about your studio, how much time do you spend there? Describe your usual working day.

I am working in a small old carpentry not too far away from the city center. I really like it, it’s more of a cave because there aren’t many windows but it feels like a good place to go to work. Like a workshop, where there’s this working mood and you’re able to concentrate. I spend most of my time there during the week.
Probably my artworks are not allusive of it, but I do need a lot of structure in my daily life.

So, on the weekdays, I try to be in the studio between 9 and 10 am, after I did my mails at home. When I am in the studio, I try to prepare “things” on almost finished paintings at first, which need to dry, and then I go on with painting on other pieces. This gives me the chance to keep these almost finished ones the whole day naturally by my side, to see if my decisions can stand. Usually, I am working on several pieces at the same time. I like it and I think it’s very inspiring as well when there’s this dialogue between the pieces, on which you’re working on simultaneously. Mostly I quit around 7 pm in the evening.

Where do you get inspiration from? How important is your mood in creating a new work?

Honestly, I’m not sure where it really comes from and I don’t know if my mood is influencing my work at all. I mean of course yes, there are those bad days, but then I try to do something else and sometimes it comes to paint later. Regarding this, I think it’s always better to get into some sort of serenity when it comes to working. I am really trying to be in that state of mind. For sure, staying open to every sort of emotion while working, because emotions or moods are playing definitely a role. But just imagine if one’s too strong or let’s say you’re biased – I am not convinced that you’re doing prudent decisions while painting.

In the question of inspiration, I think, that on the one hand, there’s this attitude and interest of me, which I did explain before. For sure, this genuine search stimulates me when it comes to painting. On the other hand, there are those simple things, memories and imaginings which I just directly try to repaint. This can be a challenge but a pleasure at the same time as well. Just imagine, you would decide to paint something like “evening”. If it’s up to me, this would be a wonderful occasion to start.

What is it all about to paint something like ‘evening’?

It can be such a simple thought or an occasion at the beginning of a painting which triggers my interest and affects my decisions on canvas. But immediately, when your first intentions are on the canvas, they’ve become something different. They’re not personal anymore in a way and I do believe that’s necessary as well, that they have to become something general. There’s this dialogue getting started between me and the painting and the things can change a lot through the painting process. It’s important to stay open for a change of course at every single stage of the painting. Of course, that doesn’t mean, that it’s happening all the time. I’m just convinced of this idea, that apart from that, you’re not able to experience other qualities which are appearing along the way and which can be also a unique way to, let’s say, to find a painting. Therefore I really do believe that in my case, it’s more like finding pictures rather than creating them.

What are your plans for the current year? Have you already planned any exhibitions?

There are several exhibitions planned, but I feel quite comfortable, that most of them are curated group shows in which I do just participate. So, this gives me more freedom right know, when it comes to working. At the same time, it’s very stimulating as well, to see your work included in a selection or a certain topic.

For example, one show has just recently opened last week in Madrid at ‘Espacio Espositivo’ – three positions are circling around the aspect of “memory”, especially related to time and space. All of us are offering suggestions to transfer it into an artistic medium. This was for sure, a very interesting experience for me.

Besides that, there is a flying presentation planned throughout the gallery weekend in Berlin. It’s curated by Ruttkowski;68 gallery in Cologne. At the 1st of June, there will be a show at KANT gallery in Copenhagen, which is named ‘On the home front’. I am also really looking forward to. At the beginning of autumn, I will be showing my work on CODE art fair in Copenhagen as well.

Parallel I am working on a new book with a friend of mine, who’s a graphic designer. We did several projects together before – just to develop something throughout books or let’s say “new ways” of books, which are related very close to my artistic practice. When it is all working out fine, it would be hopefully a part of my first solo presentation this year in late October at a ‘Kunstverein’ in Germany. I will finish the year with another solo at Annarumma Gallery in Naples in December.

Your thoughts that you want to share with our readers.

I think there’s nothing left to say at the moment, but many thanks to ABSTRACT MAG for the opportunity to share my thoughts.

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