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Heiko Müller (b. 1968 in Hamburg, Germany) has a diploma in illustration and design from the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, owns a small media design agency together with his best friends and likes HipHop as deeply as old books with animal illustrations. His art has been treading on various grounds in the past -such as illustration and digital compositions- and it is only recently that he returned to painting and drawing, currently exploring the borderlines between rural folk art, B-movie aesthetics and the Flemish masters. Outside his native country his paintings and

drawings have been shown in Estonia, Paris, Saint Petersburg, Los Angeles, New York, Sacramento and San Diego, and he is the only non U.S.-citizen with a membership card of the Art Dorks collective. He is married, lives in Hamburg and his favourite pastime are long drawing sessions with his seven-year-old son.

http://www.heikomueller.de

 

 

An Interview with Heiko Müller
by Selin Yurdakul
July 2008

Hi Heiko, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where do you live? What's your education background? And when did drawing and painting become important in your life?
I'm living with my wife and my two sons in a small town very close to Hamburg. Woods, fields and animals are right on my doorstep – which is exactly the kind of inspiration I need.

At art school I did children's book illustration. I'm actually not very interested in children's books but the professor was great.

I can't remember a time in my life when drawing and painting wasn't important. I have two older brothers who both excelled at drawing and painting and I strove to imitate them. Their interest faded at some stage, mine fortunately didn't.

How would you describe your style?
I don't really like to analyse this myself. I belong to the type of artist who likes to find a way to express his own simple joys and concerns without creating a huge stylistic or conceptual framework.

What is your favourite medium?
I'm pretty limited in this respect. I like to draw with coloured Prismacolor pencils on heavy paper and to use oil paint on wood. At the moment I'm not really interested in other media, which is a bit of a pity, as I have to turn down those galleries which include murals or installations in their concepts. I admire artists like Moki or Chris Ryniak who are extremely proficient in this area too.

Can you describe a typical day and tell us  what time is it right now as you are reading this question:)?
At the moment it's 10 a.m. and I'm supposed to develop a web design for a client but I'm a bit short of ideas at the moment.Usually I get up at 7 a.m., have breakfast with my family, spend an hour reading while on the train to work. At the office I create websites and see to it that they're being built. I leave the office at about 6:30 p.m., so I'm home in time to put my kids to bed and to read something to my son Leo.

Then I have dinner with my wife, and around 9 I often withdraw into my small basement studio to work on my art for another two hours.

What can you tell us about your creating process? Do you have a drawing ritual like cleaning your desk or drinking a cup of coffee before starting to work or do you usually just have something in your mind and start drawing?
Most of the time I'm pretty aware of the next five motifs on which I'd like to work. Then comes the time when I simply pick one of them spontaneously. Then I make myself a hot drink and put on some music. At the moment that's usually some old Zappa recording. I have quite a voluminous CD collection, and I'm enjoying enormously to dig for old treasures which I haven't thought about for many years.

I've read in an interview that you like listening to audio books when you're working on your artworks. This is really interesting. Do you have a favourite audiobook or story?
I have one favourite voice actor. That's David Nathan, who also dubs Johnny Depp into German. He could read the proverbial telephone directory, and I'd enjoy it. I'm particularly fond of his rendering of „The Tomb at Père Lachaise“. A vampire story by Karl Hans Strobl.

In your works there is usually two different sides rolled into one in a really unique way. Real and fantastic, modern and medieval, painting and drawing, naturally rendered and cartoony, humorous and mysterious, creepy and pretty… And sad and funny. The homesick dormouse with all the detail in his fur and his sad eyes is strikingly beautiful. It grabs my eye immediately and I feel sad. But that little cartoony spider hanging down the tree distracts me, so instead of looking at it and passing to another artwork, I keep looking with a smile. There is more to discover in the details. So besides other things, I also really like those cartoony little drawings that you draw on yor work, for that reason. And why do you like them? Could you tell us a bit about this please?
I think that comes a bit from an urge to explore. I like to be in the countryside and I love a good view. But I'm also particularly fond of things that on the one hand intrude on this natural beauty, on the other hand are already reverting back to nature. A beautiful forest wouldn't be half as interesting if you wouldn't also find animal bones there. Similarly, a romantically overgrown pasture becomes more fascinating if there's a rusty tractor hidden in the long grass. With my doodles I try to go a step further by adding a hidden world which is mostly defined by unfiltered thoughts and emotions.

At school children are often forced to suppress their creativity and to draw only what the teachers think acceptable. This is the point where most people lose the ability to slacken the reins on their creative powers. It happened to me too and now I'm trying to get back there again.

Red, white, with geese coming out, glowing or hollow. Is there anything you can tell us about the eyes in your work?
It's important to me that most of my pictures appear calm at first glance. That's provided by the composition, the atmosphere and the motif. But calmness alone would be too boring, so I try to find some ways to break it. Eyes may serve this purpose well. Glowing eyes in the darkness reach out to some primal fear – mostly because you can't see which animal is hiding behind them. I also like the idea that the eyes seem to scan the observer. He can't hide anything from them. There are many facets to working with eyes – they belong to the most exciting motifs.

How do you choose the titles for your artworks?
I'm a bit embarrassed to say so, but most of the time I only come up with a title when archiving the scan. Photoshop asks me how to title the document; I have another look and

think "Oh my God, how am I going to do call this?" I admire artists who are able to enrich their works by a title.

Do you have an artwork that you would never want to sell or give away? If you have, could you tell us about this work?
Yes, sometimes I grow extremely fond of a picture. Then I want to save it from the wrong buyer, and no collector seems good enough for me. At the moment this applies to my little black-and-white drawing of a fox.

I've read that you like to paint with your 7 year old son, Leo. Does he sometimes critique or comment on your artworks :)?
When I was working on „Giant Bear“, he said: „Dad, when will you stop painting such scary stuff. I prefer the werewolf.“ He seems a bit torn sometimes.
Mostly he is so concentrated on his own stuff that he can hardly spare a glance at what I'm doing.

Can you tell us a bit about your first limited edition book Stay Awake?
Early last year I had the idea to make a book in 2008 and started to have my pictures professionally scanned. At first I wanted to do it myself via BoD or Lulu. But while I was working on the layout, I got an email from ROJO in Barcelona. That's a publisher of books and magazine I'd been admiring a long time. ROJO's monographs are rather small (11 x 15 cm) but quite voluminous at 160 pages. The postcard size gives you a lot of ideas to layout many pages as if they were actual cards.

I also added a lot of old family photos, holiday snapshots, pictures from exhibitions and also one of Leo's drawings. It's not really a catalogue of my art, rather a cutout of my own little universe. It's much more private in nature than many other art books.


Could you tell us about your future projects and exhibits?
Besides participating in quite a number of group shows, I'm planning to do one major exhibition a year. In 2008 it will be a four-person-show together with Femke Hiemstra, Anthony Pontius and Fred Stonehouse at Feinkunst Krüger in Hamburg. These three belong to my absolute favourite artists; I'd actually go as far as calling Fred an idol. Needless to say, that's all very exciting to me.

2009 I'll have a solo exhibition at the Jack Fischer Gallery in San Francisco. This will be the first time I'll be actually present at one of my exhibitions in the US.

My plan for 2010 is still a secret. If I'll be actually able to put it to work, it'll be a little sensation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heiko Müller

 

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