The painter Max Diel was born in 1972 in Freiburg im Breisgau. He studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin, where he was also a master student in 1999. In Hamburg he taught at the University of Applied Sciences in 2013 and at the Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig in 2016. Since 2000 his works have been regularly shown in solo exhibitions in Berlin, Cologne, Bonn, Basel and New York. Every year he is also represented at numerous group exhibitions in Germany and abroad. The artist lives and works in Berlin.
We wanted to get a deeper insight into sources of inspiration and working methods and asked some questions:
When did you start working as an artist?
Painting has accompanied me my whole life, art has found me. Apparently, in Kindergarten, every time I walked in the door I would say, `Where are my pens, where is my paper?´
Who and what inspires you?
My path into painting led me through surrealism, Dalí and Magritte. When I was a child, my father drew my attention to the fact that artists are often dreams. I remembered that. When I came across these two painters at the age of 15, it immediately became clear to me that this was a representation of dreams. For me, it was a kind of introduction to painting and a conscious perception of painting and its aesthetics as a part of the adult world, in which I also had a part, but which was otherwise separate from me. That´s probably why Dalí´s art is so appealing to teenagers.
Before that painting was for me more like a kind of game and fun. I suddenly realized that I was a serious developer or ‘connoisseur’. Through my encounter with the artists of Surrealism, I realized for the first time that I can and that I want to be part of the world of painting, that there is a certain seriousness behind it and that painting is not only a game, but also conveys seriousness.
I always try to find something like a kind of junction. Something like a big subway station like Alexanderplatz in Berlin, for example, where you can dock from all sides. I assume that if something in me is virulent or if it really stirs me up, someone else can also be moved by it.
How do you do your job?
It has always been important to me to experience moments in my life and situations I encounter as moments of inspiration. Then I usually take a photo or an object with me to the studio and try to make something out of it.
And then an open process begins on the canvas. I let myself drift and trust the moment of this inspiration and approach a picture rather than having the idea in my head of how the picture should look like. I see this as a fusion of the inner world with the outer world. For me, the photograph or object I take from real life is the outside world. The process in the studio is something like a journey into the inner world and then the fusion of the inner and outer world takes place.
I am interested in experiencing individual moments in which I experience an inspiration and from these moments I want to create an image. I refuse to have an artistic ‘hobbyhorse’.
Which techniques do you prefer?
I often use collage. In the collage technique, the reality of the picture is questioned, which is an art-historical theme of modernism. There the focus is on the image carrier and its texture. The moment I make a hole in a sheet, the paper becomes an object. The moment I cut into the canvas, the canvas becomes an object. By using collage technique, I address this subject area.
What is important to you with your art?
I see myself as a kind of conservative anarchist. The conservative part of me tries to bring art history forward. The anarchist part wants to negate the genre and go its own way. Basically, you can say that I am trying to unite contradictions. But I just want to evade pigeonhole thinking.
What are your goals?
If I had goals in the sense of strategies in my life, then they have never worked. My strategy is most likely to open up to life and painting and see what happens.
Why did you start working as an artist?
After graduating from high school, I did my community service in Amsterdam. During the day I worked with drug addicts and at night I painted as a counterbalance - my view out of the window - and from that my window paintings were created. The view inside the room was always as important to me as the view outside. And in addition, the glass pane that separated the inner and outer world from each other was important to me. I also always thematized the glass pane. In the form of mirrors or contamination of the window glass. This is interesting in the sense that it has continued to this day and always returns. This theming of `interior space´ and `exterior space´ and what I have connected with it with myself: What is my interior - what is my exterior? What is the outside world, how do I relate to it and where is the border?
For me, these window pictures count as the first pictures that I would accept in my artistic career.
Is there something or someone who influences you?
In general, you can say that art history is a big motif in my painting. I don´t understand art history as a science, but as an artist I approach art history. When I see a coin from the 16th century, I feel the time that lies between me and the coin. However when I see a picture of Michelangelo or Hans Baldung Grien, I don´t feel any difference in time at all. I have the feeling that the painting was painted yesterday because I am convinced that the artist has put his spirit or soul into the painting. When I paint pictures I talk to artists.
Basically, one can say that mental processes like in my picture Blue-Eyed lead to psychological moments that are an essential characteristic of my paintings. The mirror also plays a special role. It has to be said that since the Renaissance painting has always been depicted as a mirror or a window into another world. In the modern age, people began to question this function of the panel painting. Artists like Picasso, Matisse or David Hockney have alluded time and again to the fact that the panel painting as such is obsolete. Because the mirror in my picture is broken and also depicted in a shifted perspective, I have brought it into language, or more precisely, into the picture.
What materials do you work with and why?
I mainly work with oil paints on canvas. I use gouache, crayon and chalk mixed up in paper works.
Do you want to say something with your art?
I understand my painting as a connection between the inner world and the outer world and the border between them. I have literally seen that. I am inside, the others are outside and the glass pane is the separation in between. However, it is also important to me to merge inner worlds with outer worlds in painting. Basically, I paint my life.
Gesture is an important theme of my art. That´s why the people in my paintings are seldom seen frontally, because the gestures of the person can be better represented in this way.
The picture Blue-Eyed represents something like a cinematic moment and is at the same time a psychological moment. That´s something that keeps returning in my pictures. For me, pictures are like the search for oneself or a journey into the inside.
In Blue-Eyed, two different friends of mine have come together. You don´t know directly that they are two different women, but you can feel it and that´s important to me. Of course, I could have portrayed the same woman who is reflected. But that´s part of the process of making the picture. Suddenly a mirror situation arises from which another woman comes into the picture. One has the feeling that a woman does not recognize herself in the mirror. This is reminiscent of Narcissus and the imperative of `Know Yourself´, which has played a role since antiquity and which in turn has been taken up in painting by Caravaggio and many other artists.