Every room a different world
As the saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, turn them into lemonade”. A more modern take may be to call for salt and tequila, but at its core, the saying is about applying your creative drive and resilience when times are hard – which is traditionally where art comes in. In these times when coronavirus is placing restrictions on the cultural sector, it is wonderfully appropriate that artist Susanne Pittroff is currently working on a gigantic lemon.
At the moment it’s just a model and the dimensions are in proportion to her studio on the site in Sendling. From April 2021, the lemon will move to the courtyard of the psychiatric outpatient clinic for adults and day unit for children and adolescents at Nußbaumstraße. Pittroff’s focus at this particular location is on healing power: “I wanted to give them something positive. Something cheerful and healthy.” (More about Susanne Pittroff’s art on her website).
The light-filled room where the artist is working is in Building F. The brick structure is at the rear of the site where the Philharmonic Hall is gradually taking shape, next door to where the tyre dealer and body shop operate. Susanne Pittroff teamed up with six other artists to lease the building ten years ago. It used to be the canteen for the Stadtwerke München – the municipal utility company – and Pittroff’s current workspace is where the Currywurst used to be served (according to local legend). The artists’ cooperative turned the building into studios and financed the work themselves as well.
So it’s no wonder that they’re following the changes right outside their front door closely, as the modular construction of the University of Music and Performing Arts Munich takes shape. They all see the arrival of a vibrant arts centre as an asset and they are looking forward to interacting with all the interesting people. Even the construction site can be exciting: “Sometimes it’s like a stage, seeing what the roofers are doing and watching the drilling”, says Christoph Lammers. But construction noise and vibrations are getting on their nerves and the light will also change.
The artists believe that the new building will make their studios very dark. They hope that they can keep the basement areas – an important storage area for materials and works of art – but that’s by no means certain as the Gasteig HP8 site becomes more densely packed. Alternative space is scarce and Building F is not a marriage of convenience. All the artists work in different media and they find the interaction enriches their work. It has also led to many studio celebrations and exhibitions. Walking through the brick building, every room opens up another world.
Eva Schöffel’s studio is tidy and calm. The artist is interested in geometric shapes and she uses a wide range of techniques and materials: lino cutting, cut-outs, sculpture and photography, frequently on a large scale. She engages in particular with architecture and the two-dimensional representation of space. A wall-mounted sculpture made up of small, loosely arranged cubes creates an architectural sculpture that plays with perspective: aligning in multiple directions, it cannot work in just two dimensions. The result is an engaging dialogue between coherence and destabilisation. (To the website of artist Eva Schöffel)
Where people and colour meet
And then you enter the brilliantly colourful domain of Doris Hahlweg’s studio. The room is filled with panels covered with vibrant layers of colour. The technique she uses means that she works on several pieces at the same time in her studio – because oil paint on aluminium takes three to four days to dry before she can move onto the next layer.
Her approach creates visible brush strokes “that are actually present, not simply simulated”, as she explains. “Applying the paint has to be a genuine action.” This may bring thoughts of overall consonance and harmony to mind, but when Hahlweg talks about her art, she makes the creative process sound a little like a wrestling match. Canvas would be too much like fabric and the paint would seep down into its structure. Aluminium, on the other hand, is always slightly challenging; it resists, does not submit; you can handle it, scratch away at it, the paint doesn’t sink in. “It is very forthright and challenging”, as Hahlweg puts it. (To Doris Hahlweg’s website)
A place for collaboration
Next door, the studio of Christoph Lammers features black-and-white drawings. His work is driven by contrast: Where does space open up? Where is there an opening, where is it more indistinct, where is there ambiguity, where do things become clear? He frequently spends time in nature and develops his observations back in the studio; sometimes literally, sometimes very figuratively. Lammers has been involved in collaborations with other art forms for around ten years now.
It started with a theatre festival where he performed as part of a group with live music, dance and video art. “None of us had met before the performance and we spent five hours together on stage, moving around, supporting – and sometimes forgetting – each other.” He extended his live drawing into the space with adhesive tape and the dancer followed the lines with controlled movements, like a tightrope walker. “You have to open yourself up to the situation and the moment, then you create a different way of making decisions. Being part of a group is fun” And this also how Lammers views new connections and the future interaction with other creative minds, who will move to the site along with the Gasteig. “That’s precisely what’s so special about the place”, he says; “the fact that you’re not all on your own.” And the fact that adding mixers to lemonade to create something even better is no surprise in a city where Spezi – a mix of cola and orange soda – is a cult drink. (More about Christoph Lammers’s art on his website)
Text: Benedikt Feiten