1883 Magazine
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Epic, is really the only way to begin a description of both the work of Wolfe von Lenkiewicz and the artist himself. His masterpieces are indeed just that. His most recent body of work set to be unveiled at the All Visual Arts gallery this week, introduces in his work a seamless ability to re-create existing works, challenging conventionality and displacing environment and context. Be warned however this is no typical cut and paste affair, von Lenkiewicz knows exactly what he is doing with an extraordinary breadth of knowledge in art history and history itself, he’s on his way to creating a startling new visual language. We talk with him to catch up on understanding his intentions... 

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Hi Wolfe, we’re so looking forward to the opening of your solo exhibition at All Visual Arts gallery in London tonight. For those who are perhaps unfamiliar with your work to date, can you perhaps sum up what your practice is all about?

Thank you Maresa. The focus of my work is to find entry points into different zones of history that have previously been forbidden due to a linear reading of art history, chartered progressively from Alpha to Omega. I have developed what can be termed as a “post-historic practice”. This method allows for total creative freedom.

Your work generally takes traditionally iconic images, well-known within the study of Art history and forces them into modern day discourses. What first interested you to want to create in such a way?

I can answer this by giving an example of an iconic image that we are all aware of and why I am interested in using it: the Abraham Lincoln statue at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC created by Daniel Chester French, was created in marble and was a symbol of great patriarchal white enlightenment. It was originally inspired by a lost ancient Greek sculpture by Phidias from the Temple of Zeus. The intention of the Lincoln memorial was conceived without knowing future events that surrounded it, such as Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. The huge gathering in the 1960’s around this statue to do with Black Civil Rights, radically shifted the meaning of the work. Ironically, the statue at this point had not been cleaned for years and was soot black. It was cleaned after the speech to make it whiter. My point is that icons contain a density of meaning that is constantly in flux. They are not static even when made in marble. I use them as flexible potential.

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Your work has often come under critique being described as controversial, what does being an ‘artist’ mean to you?

I used to be attracted to the work of the French writer Geoges Bataille and his perceptual notions of rupture. The idea that any form of violent disconnection with the norm may engender a new and stimulating approach to language. I have since then found this approach limited. There are more subtle methods of developing new meanings. Being an ‘artist’ for me is about approaching and gathering inspiration which can involve controversy but is not dependent upon it.

How do you choose the works you reference, what has to appeal to you in a past work to make it relevant to your ideas now?

This is the most interesting question because it is near impossible to answer. I will avoid a clicheyed answer such as ‘intuition’ or ‘stream-of-consciousness’. To simplify, I do not see any boundary regarding potential subject matter. For me, I can use, like a good chef d’oeuvre, unusual components together. I am as happy to use the restraint of Pierodella Francesca and the Humanism of Tarkovsky alongside say, the irony of Warhol and the Futurism of David Mitchell for example.

 

Scale seems to be a pretty important factor. Your piece titled The Journeys End is 6m by 9m, or thereabouts right? Why was it important for you to create a work of this grand size?

My attraction to scale is simply that when I work with different centuries, they are coded into the world view scale that is, if you are working with material that is mid-ninenteenth century it will necessitate Napeoleonic monumentality just as if you are working in the 17th century Holland it may involve work on the small scale of Vermeer. Leonardo da Vinci may work on the intimate scale of the Mona Lisa or the monumental scale of the Anghiari. I am attracted to these anti-podal points because they also reflect our own phenomenological experience of living in a day-to-day existence that we can control and capitulate to in contrast with the sublime and awe-inspiring vastness of our planet’s external ether.

I understand you have a background in philosophy… So there’s likely to be some pretty big ideas influencing your creativity. However your works’ ironic cross-referencing often offers a humorous and easily accessible engagement for viewers. Is that something you would agree with, or are you striving for something else entirely?  

I completely agree with this and I am glad that you view the work that way. It is important for me to communicate to a mass of people and for everyone to understand the visual imagery immediately without it being exclusive or difficult to understand. However, if people wish to find a more layered meaning within the work it will open up to these possibilities. 

Who or what are you looking to at present for inspiration?

At the moment I am very interested in Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline and creating a series of artworks where these two artists become entangled with one another. I feel there is very fertile ground in their inspiration from pre-historic art such as de Kooning’s Woman 1 painting and the Venus of Willendorf. I intend to resurrect a new abstract expressionist from them.

Have you got a favourite piece in the show? … If so, what piece is it that you most enjoy or are excited to share with us?

My favourite piece is ‘The Raft of The Medusa”. The best way to explain this work is for people to go and see it.

I recently painted this work in Rome where Gericault himself was painting his famous “Barbary Horse race”.

If you could offer any advice for aspiring artists today…

That is very simple: use your hands.

 

The Raft of Medusa at All Visual Arts runs from 13th September until 20th October 2013.

See here for further information: www.allvisualarts.org

Interview by Maresa Harvey

Photography by Luoana Negut (opening image) www.luoananegut.com

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