When sunday hits Berlin, the streets turn quiet and on a sunny one like this the urge for escapism among the cities inhabitants reflects on closed storefronts and overpopulated parks. The S-bahn takes us to Friedrichshain – to a space that creativity created and where visual expression is in abundance. We have come to visit artist Andrea Wan.
We enter the grounds of Urban Spree, a creative hub with a gallery, concert hall and a whole floor of artist studios, and Andrea welcomes us. After a quick tour around the space and a rhabarberschorle in the sun, we walk up a dark and overpainted staricase. “This is an installation we did at Pictoplasma, here in Berlin. It’s two heads with hooks so people could plug on different facial features. Someone turned the face upside-down to make the hair into a beard.” Even though Andrea only moved to Berlin about a year ago, it seems like she has already made the city her own.
We enter the light studio and are met by a beautiful new series of paintings of dreamy landscapes from Andrea’s hand, tons of sketches on the walls and in notebooks, rolled-up treasures and bright nuances of water color in small bottles. Even though painting with watercolor didn’t come easy at first, Andrea’s accurate pencilstrokes always ensures brilliant use of geometrics side by side with organic shapes and fascinating compesitions.
It’s a pleasure to let our eyes wander freely around in Andrea’s tiny universes of plants with hands and eyes, ghosts in jungles, heads with tipis as hats and lazy sloths playing computer.
Hong Kong, Vancouver and Kolding
When Andrea was only 10 years old, she moved with her parents and grandmother to Vancouver. In 1997 Hong Kong was handed back to China by Britain, and Andrea describes how many people, including her parents, were a bit affraid of the changes that would follow the governmental shift and so they emigrated to England, Canada and the US.
After graduating from the film studies at Emily Carr University in 2007, Andrea moved to Denmark to study Illustration at the Design School of Kolding. “I was allways doodling in class, and had also been painting a little, but it wasn’t until I moved to Denmark I really started to do illustration.”
After a semester in Kolding almost without any illustration courses at all, Andrea explains how the danish illustration style inspired her and how she was quite happy not to be trained as an illustrator. It gave her a more free approach to drawing and ensured a personal feeling in her art. Because even though the scenaries of Andrea’s drawings seem wierd and as taken out of a distant reality, the stories often arise out of very near matters.
Ghosts, horses and Jurassic Park
Both of the big cultural changes that Andrea experienced at this point in her life, made a big influence on her and have worked almost as a catalyst for a lot of the thoughts that lay beneath the bright colors.
“Ghosts and horses are the first things I remember drawing, but now I use the figures as representations of myself or my friends in my works. It’s a bit like telling stories to myself, using elements from my childhood in a context of now.” Andrea charaterizes her preliminary body of work as a coherent series, but the constant urge for shifting enviorments that have been a major part of her inspiration so far, seems to have laid off a bit and maybe this will develope into new artistic paths.
“The artists lived together in a handbuild house in the middle of the jungle. We had to go through a huge Jurassic Park-gate that played the theme song when we entered.” Andrea tells us about her recent trip to Hawaii where she was invited by the Pow Wow Hawaii festival to do a mural. Actually it was only the third wall piece that she ever did, but it’s easy to feel, from the way she talks about it, that she wants to do more bigscale work. “There’s a very different feeling in the process, and I want to explore it more.”
Petanque, Berlin and Corny Moments
Andrea shares her studio with Cyril Vouilloz aka. Rylsee, who is sitting on the other side of the table, experimenting with a new paint that contains steel that will make it rust. Right now he is working on a piece for a group show in Switzerland about pétanque, a game that he has played every summer since birth. Cyril is originally from Geneva in Switzerland, but after graduating as a graphic designer he wanted to get away and ended up in Vancouver.
“I was working in a space very much similar to here (Urban Spree). Only two weeks before I was going back to Geneva we had an open studio slash doodle night and I invited Andrea’s roommate to come by. She brought Andrea with her. We had never met before, but got to talk and just stayed in contact.” Cyril went back to Geneva but after six months, still being in close contact, Andrea again had the desire to move. In April 2012 she moved to Berlin “and I followed her” Cyril adds with a laugh.
Like Andrea, Cyril is a really warm person and the passion for his art is easy to feel. Coming from a background in graffiti and graphic design Cryils approach to his work seems light and humoristic, and his sharp lettering often contains some kind of ambiguous or ironic twist. “My ideas often come out of something really ridiculous” Cyril laughs again and browses through one of his many sketchbooks that, just to give a few examples, present a banana-hamonica, detailed robots and black-metal logos with statements like “Little Cute Cats” or “Corny Moments”.
Low rent, powerful imagination and chance of rain
The two young artists have already lived in more places than most people even get to visit during a lifetime and the lucky coincidence that brought them together, about 2 years ago, is almost unbelievable. Now they have based themselves in Berlin, but even though the vibrant artscene of the german capital seems to be the perfect condition for young creatives, the majority of jobs and exhibitions Andrea and Cyril does are outside of the city. “People here don’t have the budget for art” explains Cyril, and Andrea adds “here almost everybody is an artist themselves.” The life of a freelance illustrator/artist fortunatly makes it possible to live where the environment is creative but the rent is low and to do jobs for clients from all over the world.
After about 4 hours in good company, the conversation has wandered in many different directions. It’s amazing to experience two people who have seen so much and have so many ideas floating around in their minds. If it’s about telling stories or portraying the odd in daily life the two explorers really manage to communicate their thoughts. When we leave the Urban Spree again, clouds have covered the burning sun. We are filled up with impressions, a wonderful feeling of being inspired and a clear sense that we will meet with Andrea and Cyril soon again. Right now the S-bahn takes us back through the warm city. It might be raining soon.
Rikke Luna (f. 1988) og Matias Albæk-Falk (f. 1988) er stiftere af idoart.dk, og driver derudover formidlingsbureauet I DO ART Agency samt I DO ART Books.