The paintings of the artist Jan Muche, born in 1975 in Herford, East Westphalia, are abstract works with a three-dimensional effect. They show a juxtaposition and superimposition of supporting and tensioning structures of bridges, electricity pylons, old factory buildings and are composed of many contrasting color surfaces. "Many [paintings] show modern machines and apparatus. The motifs come from old magazines and books. ... Playing with color surfaces and forms, making visible and at the same time dissolving structures - these old machines are better suited for my form of painting. ... The motifs are pretexts to be able to paint," explains the artist. 1992-1995 apprenticeship as a lithographer, 2001-2006 master's degree in painting under Prof. K.H. Hödicke at the University of the Arts, Berlin, 2008-2011 teaching position at the Berlin-Weißensee School of Art, 2011 guest professorship in painting at the CDK Hangzhou / China. Jan Muche lives and works in Berlin.
We wanted to get a deeper insight into sources of inspiration and working methods and asked some questions:
Who are you?
I am Jan Muche, painter and sculptor. I have lived in Berlin for a long time and work here as a freelance artist.
Why did you become an artist?
For me, painting was the logical consequence of a whole series of attempts to pursue other professions. Somehow it never really worked out that way. This job-related work was not for me. I have to deal with myself, do something that comes out of myself. So painting was somehow an obvious choice. At first it was also an attempt, but I stuck with it. Besides, painting has guaranteed me a pretty self-determined life, and that's why I've focused on it the most.
What does painting give you?
Painting gives me an incredible amount. A good example is: In some phases of my life I would have liked to become an architect. But I always lacked the discipline to do so. Painting is a great way for me to transform architectural forms and fragments into something tangible. Because it enables me to depict things in a way that you can only imagine and realize for yourself.
What does painting mean to you?
Painting means freedom to me. Freedom of expression and the creative possibilities to transform my interests into a pictorial object. Painting is also simply my bread and butter, my profession. It is important for me to say this, because there is always a lot of talk about creative impulses. I think that is nonsense, because this is the smallest part of the work. A favorite quote of mine (I think it's from Chuck Close) is: 'Only amateurs wait for inspiration, the rest of us just go to work.' I think inspiration is a buzzword that professional artists don't really like to hear. There's something rather amateurish about inspiration. If you take a pottery class and you've never done it before, you need inspiration. The ideas are already there with me, I don't need the inspiration for that.
Is there a world without art for you?
A world without art is hard to imagine for me. On the one hand, I would have to find another job very urgently and on the other hand, I would find it very boring. That would be a hard blow for me.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I'm working on large-format works on paper. That also has to do with the current pandemic situation, because I've been working a lot at home. Paper is much easier to handle than large-format canvases. Paper also has a very special appeal for me because it has a completely different materiality than canvas. The colors unfold differently there and also react differently.
The current series includes architectural works on paper, which refer to old industrial buildings and structures. These works have a very unique form of coloring, some of which can be very dark and somber. These are color schemes that I take from my surroundings. In East Berlin, for example, almost everything used to be done in these slightly Mediterranean shades of beige and brown. That radiates an incredible warmth and intensity, but in November, when it drizzles, it can also turn into a very depressive mood. Both still have a charm for me to depict atmospheres.
How do you go about your work?
The structure of my images and how they develop is closely linked to laser methods. That means, I set a certain color scheme, glaze over it, thereby also destroy it, and then I have to tease it out with lighter or darker colors. This results in patina layers, which I simply find appealing. They convey an impression of aging processes, of soot coating, and that fits Berlin, because in the past there was very much heated with brown coal. I like to bring that into the pictures, because these are very specific colorings.
What makes up your individuality?
Patina is not very popular in contemporary art, for example, when a picture looks at first impression as if it were already older, because it is patinated. So the association with this new art is very difficult. But that's exactly what appeals to me. What bothers me in contemporary painting is this permanent 'now' assertion of topicality. I'm more interested in the inversion. Can a highly topical painting also look as if it had been hanging on a house wall in Bitterfeld for years? I also have a claim to timelessness.
What kind of paints and tools do you use?
I paint mainly with acrylic paint and ink. This is a relatively inexpensive material, which allows me to work rather generously. But I also work with found materials, such as ash, soot secretions from chimneys, old house walls or coal cellars. With them I can achieve a patination and coloration that I can hardly produce with commercially purchased paints. What also appeals to me is that I get material from the structures that I then want to depict.
What's going on inside you while you're working?
That is very difficult to say. Sometimes it's just color, sometimes it's the structures. It varies depending on the process or process step I'm in at the time.