An interview about my current painting project appears in the online magazine of Gasteig, Munich’s cultural center. I am painting the ongoing construction of their temporary concert hall, documenting the daily changes happening just outside of my studio window. The linked interview is in German but below is a rough translation.
The American artist Benjy Barnhart has had his studio where the Gasteig Sendling is being built at Hans-Preißinger-Strasse 8 since 2011. He documents the changes that happen every day on the construction site in front of his window in a living painting. We spoke to him about art and places for it in the city.
Your pictures have a very direct and momentary effect, at the same time they often have a strong spatial depth and colour composition. How do you proceed?
Yes, I want my pictures to look like they’re “seen” because I want to communicate certain personal or visual experiences. Therefore my paintings refer to situations and places that I have seen myself. To capture these, I often take a few photos and if time allows, sketches. I’m swimming in pictures that I have accumulated. Usually it takes me some time to realize what I want to do with which picture. The painting must ultimately become more than just a picture. I temper the light and colours to create the desired atmosphere.
What is important to you when choosing your motives? What appeals to you?
It is difficult to answer this question, because many things can appeal to me. But I have a special passion for space, the people in space, light and movement. Often I am interested in a certain mood, which I myself have experienced.
How long have you been working in the studio in Sendling and how has the premises there changed since then?
I’ve been here at HP8 since 2011 and for years nothing had changed on the site. All users just went about their work and it was uneventful. I have always liked the way the site was a bit off the beaten track and the unassuming work ethic. Now with the arrival of the Gasteig Interim a new phase is dawning and many changes are coming. Right now we have a noisy construction site in front of us. But I am trying to use these new impulses for my work by painting my view of the construction site every day and reacting to the changes pictorially.
You have been accompanying the off-culture in Munich for a long time now. How has the cultural landscape changed in your eyes and what do you wish for the future?
This example right here shows how little free space is left in the city. Fortunately, creative solutions were found to accommodate the Gasteig houses here together with some of the HP8 users. But not without losses, many had to find new spaces elsewhere, at worse conditions. There is simply not enough affordable space for creatives in the city. That is why many artists have joined forces under the initiative #EXIST Room for Art in Munich. It is important that the major cultural institutions also support off-culture and subcultures.
When you look out the window in a year and a half and the interim Gasteig cultural center has opened: What would you like to see then?
I hope that there will be room and the will for creative cooperation. There will be much potential for cooperation between Gasteig and HP8, because artists, musicians, actors and creative people are already present on the site. It will strengthen the neighbourhood if the Gasteig can integrate this potential into its program. This could create an exciting coexistence in a new creative quarter.
Interview: Benedict Feiten