Constantin Schroeder

How to translate your dreams into paintings.

His shirts with prominent collars contribute to his image. His paintings contain motifs that could be described in phantasy books. His studio, right in the center of Berlin, is also his apartment. Real environment meets supernatural subjects. Constantin Schroeder welcomed me in his living room and just by talking authentically, we forgot that is was actually an interview.

Date12. January 2017 /

 

Hi Constantin Schroeder! Nice to meet you. How did you gather with artists here?

I never attended an arts academy, so I didn’t know a single artist. Whenever I went to previews, I had way too much respect to speak up to those artists. So it really took a while. Then I went to an art salon with only few buyers or wealthy people, but quite a few artists, some actors, persons from film industry and theater, authors, painters and sculptors, … And slowly, I slid into that kind of social realm. Later on, galleries helped me a lot in networking with artists. Unfortunately, I have to say that talking to some artists is slightly impossible. Because they are weird. And then there’s also those with whom you can discuss a painting together honestly. A befriended artist once told me: „I think it’s weird that you often like artists with a completely different style than yourself.“ And that is absolutely true! Maybe it’s even a good thing because then I’m not trying to simply copy someone.

I prefer painting and watching people. You could basically call this social studies.

You processed those social studies in the display of decadent situations in your former oeuvre, e.g. orgies.

I’d call this social criticism or the portrayal of decadence. Decadence is a good thing since it has to do with good food, nice clothing and a lot of pleasant things. It is like a paradisal island far away from violence, poverty etc. You can find a good as well as a bad side on this. I don’t want to say: “People, you shouldn’t do this or that, don’t do drugs, don’t have sex”, but I want to place a mirror for honest reflection: “You might be great persons, but aren’t you a bit lonely too?” This subject has become less present to me because I pose a neutral viewer’s role and portray melancholic, grave and scary things. I find those ideas a lot more interesting than happiness in my paintings – except in social life because I don’t like when people have a negative worldview. I like my paintings to show something better than mundane truth.

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There are great dreams and figures in dreams – you didn’t meet them in every day life, but they become quite tangible in your dreams.

When I prepared for our conversation I recognized that you love materials, structures and textures.

Yes, exactly! I love materials a lot, but I haven’t been painting them very often. Yet I’m glad that you recognize that! Of course it’s hard work, e.g. painting fur or painting that hair took forever (pointing to a specific painting). I could always make it much more perfect, but that would take a lot of effort – and you should still be able to recognize it as a painting and see how it is made. So when you stand in front of it, you see the layers of paint – some coats are scratched, some are made with a hard, some with a soft brush.

The stature of your motifs emphasizes the hero-looks too: strong muscles, well trained, …

This knight is like a hero to me. Yes, I like to idealize my heroes in how I paint them. Heroes, ghosts, fantastic things are my favorite subjects! Things that you don’t meet in everyday life. I often paint daydreams – situations when you suddenly have ideas. You can develop that story – the figure becomes a hero or the situation turns into something realistic, e.g. interior or lighting. I perceive these dreams and continue painting them. Sometimes, it even changes on the canvas which I’d also call dreaming.

 

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Do those figures re-occur in your dreams?

No, I think there are always new figures. You have to recall memories of spatial settings and lighting in dreams and try to create an image out of these. Things from subconsciousness are in some way truer than reality, more real than the banality of everyday life that is similar everywhere. The probably best thing to do as an artist is an idealization and problematization of human highs and attributes and display these with the help of utopias. Anything not natural or mundane is art to me.

As an artist, I want to create utopias in which you can find refuge.

Being here, I get the impression that authenticity is of high value for you and that your paintings carry that out.

I agree. Sometimes it is not easy to be authentic – I doubt that I always get that right. There are many contradictions between me as a person and the things I paint. There is this fallacy when you believe that every work of an artist completely aligns with his mind, condition and his experience. For example, I believe that you can paint mutilated kids as an artist and still have had a happy childhood. You could paint orgies without ever having participated. Still, you cannot deny the fact that a lot of my works have religious allusions. Some people also ask if I’m from Berlin when they look at my paintings.

Have you completely painted over one of your works because you didn’t like it?

Happens all the time. I value details, but on some days, I am impatient and discontent. That may cause me painting over an artwork. I would even call some artworks unpresentable. When I work on a specific project or idea, I feel a certain inner restlessness. I paint every day – if you’re playing an instrument, you want to practice every day. This is how it works for me too. I wake up at 5:30 AM and start painting latest by 9 AM. Mornings are the perfect time for me to paint. Taking each day as it comes hasn’t worked for me: I used to plan out my time less so that I had to work more during the nights, but that made me mad.

Your paintings carry melancholic gravity. It’s not necessarily places where you feel good at, but where you as a bystander find it interesting that you can be part of that situation too.

Thank you. When I accidentally happen to paint happy subjects, I think about it a lot.

I find gravity much more interesting than happiness.

I found that artists are mainly both sensualists and curious. Do you agree on that idea?

Yes, that’s true! But I’m not sure if that’s only true for artists. Haptic is essential as something perceptible. Tasting and smelling belong to that too. Which is why I have I lot of food lovers as friends who love community as well. Concerning sensualists: The conscious perception of colors is a very dominant element, e.g. when you don’t use factory-made colors, but find and mix them for yourself. Your perception of things gets refined when you mix colors on a daily basis: Watching people, colors, light and nature is essential to me. I now look at things differently or with more focus than I used to.

Colors always transport a mood for me.

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Would you recommend Berlin as a starting place for other young artists?

I think yes. Don’t know about establishing, but definitely for working. Rents are mostly fairly affordable, you can get to know tons of people and I love that special atmosphere here. I could not live without people longterm, that would make me nuts.

Last question: What do you like for breakfast?

I prefer cereals. Easy.

Thank you, Constantin! I love your café recommendation in the center of Berlin: oliv!

How can you stay up to date? Visit Constantin’s Website and follow his Instagram feed.

Interview, Text & Photography: Eva Karl

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