IN CONVERSATION WITH ALEXANDER WERTHEIM

Artist Alexander Wertheim, explores alternative perspectives in art. He delves into his transition from music to painting, defining art as a struggle between structure and chaos. We talked to Alexander about his art, how he found his way to it, and what criticism often accompanies it.
Alexander, as someone who comes from an artistic family, you probably had many, early points of contact with art. When would you say that you developed this certain connection to recognizing something as art or being able to define art?

I am not sure whether I can recognize or define something as art but I think that an expression may become art if it shows an alternative perspective on the world. 

People often argue about what art is and especially what is good art?

I think good art is what stays in your mind.

And does art allow for mistakes?
“Mistakes or coincidences might look more interesting than what we intend or plan. Owning one’s incompetences may be helpful in the creation of art, similar to how it’s charming to speak with an accent.”
Your father is a sculptor. How can one imagine your artistic exchange? Have you tried your hand at sculpting yourself?

One three-dimensional thing that comes to mind is an installation of paper streamers that I did for a group show with my classmates in Berlin. I designed the streamers in several striped color rhythms and decorated the gallery’s ceiling. Also a few years back, I did the stage design for a theatre play consisting of window display articles such as fake cherry blossom trees. Besides that I never really sculpted myself… My father and I are in a regular artistic exchange. 

Looking at your history, it’s funny to see that you’ve actually been making music for a long time. Why art then?

I was drumming throughout my childhood, coping with my hyperactive disposition. As a teenager I spent my afternoons composing music and playing in bands. What struck me about painting is that nobody can watch you at work. So I went to Berlin to become an artist. 

To what extent would you say your artistic reality has changed in recent years? Also, how have you changed as an artist?

During my 8 years of studying, I experimented with very different ideas. For instance I was painting in a photorealistic style for a couple of years. During the time I was studying in New York, I was painting pillow cases and table cloths. In my last semester at University, I decided that I wanted to do something different and started to paint lines in different colors on white canvases. 

Your artworks represent a clash of vertical and perpendicular lines that could be called parallel indifferences? How would you translate what happens there into your reality. How would you describe it as a mood in itself?

My paintings depict the clash of horizontal and vertical entities. They try to construct a logic within the chaos of decision making. They show the struggle of a structure against its own disintegration.

For the current exhibition at Schlachter 151, which is called September 23, you have exhibited a total of 11 works, all of which were created exclusively for this exhibition. Can you explain what is reflected in the works created during this period of time?

For the show at Schlachter 151, I developed a new method of filling my canvases. On the bigger works I figured that there is a certain distance between the strokes that is just wide enough: not too crowded, not too blank. I transferred that grid matrix onto all the other paintings, meaning that the smaller the canvas, the fewer the painted strokes. Also, all the colors of the show derive from that big painting in the first room. Basically the whole exhibition consists of fragments of that starting point. Composition-wise, I was looking for a good balance between non-colors, pastel colors, primary colors and black. I wanted to make a harmonious, pretty exhibition. 

When do you know if a painting is finished?

With the new method of planning the number of strokes per canvas, I don’t have to make that decision anymore. The painting is finished after the strokes have been sprayed. 

What criticism do you hear most often and how would you personally respond to it?

I often hear that what I do has been painted thousands of times… show me. 

To what extent does art need an audience? Does it need to be liked and understood by everyone?

I can only speak for myself and I don’t work for experts blessings. I want everyone to like my paintings. 

If you look at the Berlin art scene now: How consumers view art and how artists speak about it amongst themselves – is there anything you would like to change? What developments do you think the scene needs?

I think everything is quite perfect in the Berlin art scene. I just don’t think it is my place. 

As is the case with every field by now, a large part is shifting to the digital. What advantages and positive developments for art could be triggered by this, and what do you lose, to a certain extent, as a result? What could never be replaced by digital implementation?

I much respect the interest of my colleagues in the digital space. My work though is about the real world, the human body, and interactions between those two entities. To me, a blank canvas is artificial enough. When I’m traveling, I use the drawing tool on my phone to capture ideas. I realized how tempting it is to withdraw actions. To me, one advantage of the digital is its ability to simulate: just like Notes may simulate a composition for me. But I am drawn to the un-erasable and factual. I work with the amount of risk that it takes to leave a physical trace. It excites me to interact with my environment physically, just like drumming does. 

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