Olaf Breuning interview

June 18, 2020 4:50 PM

OLAF BREUNING Interview is now available!

QUERIES OF A QUIRKY MIND 

Olaf Breuning is the Woody Allen of the art world. Breuning is a self-professed “complainer,” and his work pokes fun at himself, art, culture, and the paradoxically inescapable and inane politics of day-to-day existence. For Breuning, an artist who switches mediums so effortlessly that they could be instruments of his own one-man band, the absurdity of modern existence is a point of particular interest. He is no artiste above the fracas of mere mortals; he’s one of us, and as much as he complains, he’s happy to be here. His work is often laugh-out-loud funny and ingeniously simple despite that it addresses weighty topics like war, violence, cultural identity and environmental destruction. Inspired by his “Art Freaks” series—a collection of photos of models’ bodies painted to recall the signature works of famous artists, we asked Breuning to paint the body of Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir in Yayoi Kusa- ma’s iconic polka dots. Before he got to painting, we sat down for a chat.

What artistic ventures are you working on now?

 I just finished a movie called Home 3, and showed it in New York last week; I worked for about half a year on it. It’s a story about New York City, and this crazy guy who runs through the city and does weird things. That’s done now, and at the moment, I’m working on drawings. Very simple drawings on letter-size paper, very simple thoughts about life.

What role do you think humor plays in your work, or in art in general?

I can’t stand people without humor; I never get along with them. Without humor I couldn’t be alive, and that reflects in my art. Humor is often put into the area of stupid or trivial, but I think it’s actually a very intellectual tool to get along with this life, this world. Like Woody Allen movies. Woody has a lot of humor, but always at a serious level. I like that very much. I couldn’t be without it. 

Would you say your personality matches your work? 

Probably I have a sick mind or something, but I would consider myself normal; I’m not eccentric. Often, artists do something because they want to explore something that they aren’t.

Is there an artistic medium that you’re specifically interested in right now?

I do photographs, drawings, films, sculptures...now I’m doing drawings but then I’ll get bored of it and I’ll focus on something else after a couple of months. 

How about concept-wise—is there something you’re exploring at the moment?

Oh yes, always the same concept in my work. It’s always life, life, life. I’m always interested in that. I’m always interested in asking very simple questions about our existence. 

Do you see your work as reflecting the world? Criticizing the world? Changing the world? 

My work is holding up a mirror. I’m never someone who would force my language on other people. I just do it because I need it to go through life, to have a happy life. I would never say what I do has to influence you or a culture of people. But I’m a complainer; I do criticize a lot. I have negative comments and I like to address them, but not with the motivation to actually change anything. More to get it off my chest and move on. 

How did you get drawn in to creating art? 

My father gave me a camera when I was 16. I was hooked. Before then I had no idea what I wanted to do, but then it became obvious. 

If you could go back in time and visit that 16-year-old self, what advice would you give to you?

I don’t really have any regrets, I’m quite happy so far in my life. I think I would tell myself, “when you hear about the company Apple, buy all of the stock.” 

If you could be anyone alive or dead, who would it be and why?

 I’m quite happy with myself. Let’s say... (glances at Man Ray coffee table book) Man Ray. I love Man Ray. 

If you could be anything at all, what would it be and why? 

This is a stupid question. A grape.∞

 

WRITTEN BY CHARLOTTE O’DONNELL 

PHOTOGRAPHY: DAVID SCHULZE

EDITED BY KAREN YABUTA 

 

 

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