Gabrielle Graessle sits down with Erik Sommer to talk about The Forgetful Angel, her two greyhounds, her desire to open an artist residency, and the pros and cons of living in nowhereland.
(ES) Describe your work for us.
(GG) I draw a lot, all that surrounds me. What I see, what takes my interest becomes form: news, films, books. Also feelings, images from childhood up to now. Everything that surrounds me visually enters into my drawings, without restrictions. In a further process I develop the ideas from my drawings into paintings, transform them.
For my paintings I choose a drawing or several and make a painting on the base of it. The drawings give me the base for my paintings. I paint what comes to mind. My paintings are colourful, kitsch….
Tell us a bit about your background. Where did you grow up?
I grew up on the outskirts of Zürich. My parents were both working in the drogerie parfumerie shop of my father. This gave me a lot of independence and freedom. At 3 my mother gave me my first pencils. Also in kindergarten I prefered to paint and not to play with the other girls or with the dolls. I grew up surrounded with grassland where I was able to express my creativity in many forms, playing outside. I love nature very much.
Music was also very important at home. My father was a jazz fan and bought me a turntable when I was 7 years old. Music is still very important when I am working.
Where do you live and work now?
I live and work in the east of Andalusia between Málaga and Almeria. I live in an old cortijo 3 km from the seaside in nature. The cortijo I renovated with my partner. We live here with water from a well for us and our garden, solar for electricity and a solar water heater. I love to live here with my partner and our two greyhounds, without any noise, surrounded of nature, with the sound of the cicadas and birds. In 10 minutes car drive we are in the next village.
There is no distraction and I can be concentrated completely on my work. I love to work in my studio at home, to withdraw into my world. At the moment I establish contacts with the art world especially via Instagram.
How do you think this has influenced your work?
I live in a nowhereland. There is little distraction so I can concentrate fully on my work. This has a positive effect on my work. I can concentrate.
On the other hand, this kind of isolation makes me somtimes unsure. I have a lot of questions and I have to answer them myself, follow my way on my own. Years before I lived inside the artscene of Zürich. Now I have to find on my own a way back to the artworld.
This can be the negative part of living in nowhereland.
I often question my work and I don’t know how to evaluate my work on the art market. My contacts with other artists are purely virtual. I hope this will change one day.
I thank you for inviting me on your platform to speak with you. I am very happy to be able to talk to you about my work now.
Do you remember any artists as a child that captured your attention?
Oh yes. When I was about 4 or 5 my mother had a book about Paul Klee and I was fascinated like a little child to look at these simple pictures. At that moment I didn’t know that these drawings were from a well known artist. For me it was only funny to copy them. One I prefered more then the others- the picture’s name was The Forgetful Angel, Der Vergessliche Engel. But I loved all of them. I have still this book.
Then I was very interested in comics, the ones with not too much text. I loved them more than the others. Later when I was a little bit older I loved a lot Matisse, for his colors, and his simplicity.
Any artists today you are looking at?
I am fascinated by the diversity which there is to discover. I like so many things. Art is simply the greatest thing. I love Jeff Koons, Joe Bradley, Chris Martin, Rose Wylie, and a lot lot more.
Do you consider your work abstract or figurative?
My work is figurative and often very colorful. If I get stuck with a picture I also fall back on more abstract moments.
I like it when I am blocked with a painting, just playing with colors and shapes and forms.
Basically, however, I would like to convey something concrete, which can be freely interpreted by the viewer.
Are you more concerned with the process or the end result?
When I am drawing the process is important. It gives me the freedom to move, act without a goal. I may start with an idea. It can then take on a life of its own, go somewhere else entirely. I draw without thinking, pin the drawing on the wall and no longer look at it. Then the next one goes on like this. The wall may get full, or it goes on the next day or after a week. That determines the desire to draw.
The drawings are not looking for a result.
For painting I often use a drawing from my fund as a basis.The goal would actually be to convert the drawing into a painting. The process becomes less important. If I do not achieve the result it can also be that I destroy the picture and paint over and then a new process begins on the painting without knowing where to go. But when I am painting I prefer the first form.
What is your normal studio practice like? Any routines or superstitions?
I hate routine, but I always listen to music when I paint or draw. I go to the atelier, which I enjoy after having my tea in the morning and got the walk in with my two greyhounds. I turn the music on and then I let it happen.
I often paint on several canvases at the same time. These can also be different topics. In between I also draw from time to time when I am blocked while painting.
What about your working technique? Walk us through how you start and develop a piece.
I work normally on 4-6 canvases at the same time. I also work on drawings and canvases at the same time which frees me again and again and also leads to new topics.
For the canvases I often use the drawings as a template, the starting point, but the interpretation is often free on the canvas. The walls of drawings as I post them arise spontaneously, unintentionally, have no red thread. It is a snapshot of the week or the day.
Any recent or upcoming projects?
I have mostly rebuilt houses with my partner for the last 20 years. That was a very exciting and very creative time. Before that time I mainly drew and had expositions in Switzerland and Germany.
I have only been working on my personal work again for the last 4 years, especially on the big canvases. I have been on Instagram for 1 year now and slowly get contacts with galleries and collectors.
In September I am invited to a group exhibition in France. In October I am with an Argentinian gallery at the Swab Art Fair in Barcelona, which takes place digital this year.
And for sure painting….
A heartfelt wish from me that has existed for a long time now is to complete 2 artist studios in our house, which we want to make available in the form of a residence program. One of the studios is almost finished; the kitchen and shower are still missing…we will see.
Finally, what is your favorite color?
Surely black, but due to lack of light this is no color. So orange in my paintings. I also use a lot of rose.
More simple would be which colour I like less. That is definitely blue.