Raum Vollreinigung has existed since October 2016 as a project- and studio space. It's located in Kreuzberg, Berlin and hosts all kinds of artistic works, monthly exhibitions, concerts, workshops, performances and other presentations. The space is run by artists Clemens Behr, Julius Dörner and us (44flavours).
For the most recent exhibition we invited our friend, the artist Lars Rosenbohm (b. 1971), that we know from our time studying in Bielefeld. He was teaching in the painting department, and we were already working as a team on big scale paintings, that we printed in the screen print workshop.
We have always been fans of Lars’ work, his approach and the way he sees the world. Please find out more about him, his exhibition here in Berlin and his philosophy of life in our conversation below.
Julio (44flavours): Hey Lars, first of all introduce yourself please!
Lars Rosenbohm: Hello Julio, thank you for doing this interview with me. I’m an artist, mainly working in the field of drawing and painting. My studio is located in an old factory building in the center of Bielefeld, a city in NRW, Germany. I also studied here at the University of Applied Science, Department of Design although I am not a designer and chose classes for fine art. After finishing my studies in 2001 I went on developing my artworks, doing exhibitions in Germany (and some other countries) and working together with interesting people on different projects. I really like this way of living – with a lot of new experiences, even if it’s often hard to earn the money you need for life. But it has worked well like this for the past 16 years.
Julio: I remember we met during my studies, when you were teaching in the painting department of FH Bielefeld. Even though I never really studied with you, I remember we had quite some interesting conversations and I still like how you opened up my mind. For me your younger spirit in comparison to the other professors was giving me a really good perspective. I felt supported with the idea of trying out different techniques and not to be too careful, but more easy and playful with my own work. I have the impression that, even though your work has some rough and raw sides to it, you were always someone really sensitive depending your personal work.
While building up your exhibition at Raum Vollreinigung you mentioned, that you wanted to be less careful with your works, and you brought in a suitcase and two big paper rolls. I thought: "Yes, interesting" but I still had the feeling, that you had to repeat it to yourself in order to remind yourself not to be too careful with it. In the end you seem to be a very organised kind of guy. I understand that you are actually trying to be less careful, because you like, that your material has some marks of the time, is that right? Can you explain more about that? From what I understand technically you are painting on paper and then recently you have been cutting these paintings up to collage them into a new body of work?
Lars: I really like to hear, that I could give you some support for your work, back then. I remember that Sebastian (the other half of 44flavours, ed.) and you worked in the screen printing workshop at the university, and that I visited you there. At that time, I think it was in 2003 or 2004, I made some very valuable experiences. For instance I met Jan Hoet, director of the documenta 9. I showed him my drawings several times, and he exposed them in a very constructive way. Once he said: "I can see that you have learned a lot about how to make a good drawing, but you are too young to work in that kind of aesthetic way. You have to take a risk!"
The next day, when I sat in front of an empty sheet of paper, I thought: "How the hell is it possible to go on with my drawings without working in an aesthetic kind of way. A black line on white paper is always aesthetic.” It was a problem in the beginning, but as I went on drawing, I understood what Jan Hoet had ment, and I developed into the "risky“ direction. So, the most important thing was to go on, to forget about the things that I'd learned for some time and not to think too much about if it's good or not – or if it makes sense. You can reflect on your work afterwards. That is maybe the thing that I've tried to explain to you, when I said: "Just do it".
I really like to be an organized person, who is well prepared for a situation, in a way that everything is under control. In my drawings and paintings, you can maybe see another side of me: It is not out of control, but it’s kind of explosive, open, spontaneous and not careful or fearful. In my works I show something that I would not do in my "real life“. That’s my freedom. The main thing about my work is the process and the experience that I gain with it. So, I think it is good not to be too careful with the works – although that is a thing that I still need to learn. It is also a process to me.
And you're right, in my latest wall collages, the sheets of paper are more and more in the moving. Paper is a living material and my idea is to go on working with it in a more dynamic and playful way, which is still sensitive and serious. I never was a fan of making collages, because I thought I wasn't patient enough, but in the past months I have found a good way of working and it has developed more and more in that direction. I cut very spontaneously and raw, and I try to put parts of different drawings together.
Julio: When did this overpainting thing start? I’m thinking of the collaboration with G117, where you all did photo shoots together and where you painted over the prints. I remember that we invited you all to take part at the d’accord group exhibition and I was fascinated by the ease, you came up with. I also liked the humorous part in the work, even though it might just be my personal interpretation. Did you think about it in a classical way of overpainting, like in your other paintings, or how did this concept start?
Lars: I actually started very early with the overpainting. I've never hesitated on destroying my own works and I've found a way to let something new grow out of it, that never could be planned. It is a constructive way of destroying – of covering and recovering. In the collaborative work with G117, I enjoyed working on the photographs, because it's different to working on a white sheet of paper. It created a new level of method for me, by bringing together photography and drawing/painting. The G117 group (three graphic designers and a photographer) had already worked together several times, in playful ways, when they asked me if I was interested in reacting to their work. It started without a concept, but developed with new ideas. They also reacted to my motifs. It was a very productive collaboration. I also produced some self portrait overpaintings on prints and posters. That is maybe the “classical way“ if you think of artists like Arnulf Rainer for example. And yes, I also can see the sense of humor that you found in these works.
Julio: I mentioned this, because I saw that there were still fragments of that work in your show at Raum Vollreinigung, where some of the larger, black formats in the background were almost completely overpainted prints from that collaboration. Are these prints just paper/material to you now or do you like to keep fragments of older series in your work?
Lars: I like to put materials and works together to create something new. It is all about the process. There are still works in my studio that I would not overpaint or cut, but there is also a lot of stuff that gains a new character in my work. I do not know where it will lead to, but I like to do it and the first outcomes are really good. It is just another step for me.
Julio: You told me, that recently you are not painting new canvases, but instead you work with older canvases, that are already painted. You are not overpainting them, but attaching them together to make sculptures, installations or what would you call them? Are these still paintings?
Lars: One point is, that I have so many drawings and paintings in my studio and I like the idea not to build new canvases or to buy new sheets of paper, but to create new works out of the given materials. So, I started to nail the canvases together and glue drawings onto them. Now I work more and more with collages and assemblages. I think these works show more about the idea that the creative process is important and is never finished. I also like that the works now are more three dimensional and that they grow into the room step by step. I never thought about if they are still paintings or not.
Julio: I remember a visit in your studio in Bielefeld at Artists unlimited (the association you are a part of and where you also work and live). You had a tiny television in the middle of your studio, surrounded by a lot of works on paper, canvases and overpainted prints. We were talking, and at some point you said, "ah! The Simpsons will be on TV" and we watched it together in your studio and had tea. I really enjoyed that moment and think that it made your studio feel more like a home.
Lars: Yes, it was like that in the past, but it has changed a lot since then. The TV is still there, but it is more a relict from those times. I switch it on very seldom. Maybe I can describe it like this: Before I moved to Artists Unlimited in 2009 I lived in a "normal“ flat with "normal“ neighbours. It was an apartment where I also did my drawings and paintings. Since I moved to Artists Unlimited, the cosy "living room“-space has disappeared more and more. Also the sofa is not there anymore.
Julio: Are The Simpsons or comics in general an inspiration to you? I heard from our common friend Tim Rehm, that you are also watching some of these soap operas. Is that true and would that be an inspiration to you too? Are you actually a Spießer? If yes, why? And if no, why not?
Lars: I like the kind of humor of The Simpsons, but I do not think that it, or comics in general, have inspired me directly. It was more this idea of routineness that I liked about TV serials. At that time I also watched soap operas, that's right. Maybe it was a thing from the past. When I was a teenager, I was really a so called Stubenhocker – watching TV even when the sun was shining in the summer and everybody was outside.
Julio: Tell me about what your studio means to you?
Lars: My studio is my work space. It is a place of my personal freedom. It is kind of intimate to me. On the other hand, everybody can see me, because it has huge windows and no curtains.
Julio: Tell me about Artists Unlimited and the way you’re all combining your work and living situation, and how that works.
Lars: Artists Unlimited is an artists community which was founded in 1985. At the moment we are 28 members living and working together in a house. We all work voluntary for that project and try to create an interesting programme of exhibitions, concerts and other events. It is a lot of work and sometimes it is also tricky to keep enough time for your own work. But it is really an inspiring place and I like to be a part of it. We also have a residency programme and every year we invite about three international artists to live and work in our house for three months. I very much like the exchange with artists from different countries and different cultural backgrounds.
Julio: Let’s talk more about your work and the reappearing elements, like the tongues and dicks in earlier works, in your installation at Raum Vollreinigung – I just discovered one big group of dicks. Your element these days seem to be skulls or some sort of masks or even demons, red eyed and with wild teeth, pointing out here and there. Tell me about that. Are you telling stories, or is it a closer look into your own psyche?
Lars: Most of my drawings start with a spontaneous line or brush stroke coming from inside. Very often I do not have an idea of what I want to draw. I like to surprise myself. It often leads to a kind of head, mask, skull or grimace between a human being and an animal. That is one of my recurring motifs. With my works I like to confront the viewer in a way in which the drawings are looking back. It is supposed to be a dialogue. It is about recognizing and revealing, but also about secrets, fears, anger, humor, life, death, the things that we would describe as primitive, things that people try to hide... I think my work offers the possibility for everybody to create an individual perspective if you are open for it. I do not tell a concrete story, but the combination of the works is very important to me.
Julio: The way that you are attaching/hanging/overlapping your work I think is really strong. It’s really physical and the materiality seems quite important to you, right? I also like the different layers of paint, from matt to glossy, that you use – what kind of mixture is this?
Lars: I really like to work with these materials. The layers of paper, canvases and combining them. I am interested in crossing the borders of disciplines such as painting, drawing etc. In the materials and methods that I use, you can see my process of working. You can see all the traces of engagement and trying. In the last years I turned my focus more and more to the materials and the way they appear. For example, I like it when a glossy material such as acrylic binder meets a raw and broken charcoal line on a cheap sheet of paper. All materials that I use are kind of classical like acrylic paint, ink, charcoal, canvases, paper… All growing together.
Julio: Why did you call the show at Raum Vollreinigung "Die Nacht“? Are you fascinated by the darkness in general?
Lars: When I thought about the title for the show, my first idea was “one night“, because it was a show for one night. But then I changed it into "Die Nacht“, because in german it sounds tougher. I am interested in the darker parts of life. Things that people try to hide or never would tell anybody. I also like the darkness from the outside, that makes you a little frightened. I mainly work with black ink, charcoal and acrylic color. A black line on white paper. A strong contrast and a decision. It can show something very clear, but under a surface of black ink you can also cover a lot of things.
44Flavours is a Berlin based art and design duo run by Julio Rölle and Sebastian Bagge. 44Flavours have contributed to idoart.dk since 2013.