THE ALBERS FOUNDATION'S
ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE PROGRAM IN
WEST CORK, IRELAND.
A look at the residencies that could have happened during the pandemic. This time with German Stegmaier.
"I WOULD HAVE..."
"At first, the lockdown was a disaster, emotionally and economically. And I was very disappointed that I couldn’t go to Carraig-na-gCat. But on the other hand it was an occasion to stay calm, and focus with more silence and concentration on my work."
German reflects on the past 15 months from his apartment in the center of Munich, where he lives with his wife and 13 year old daughter. Unlike his wife, he didn't have to completely swap his work space for a home office. As an artist, he could continue using his art studio, located only a short walk away, in an old building in the backyard of an apartment complex.
I felt so lucky that I could just walk over to my studio. Being three people constantly together in an apartment would possibly have made me crazy!
As a large part of the world is opening up and life becomes more social again in Munich, as in many other parts of the world, German looks back at the lockdown with mixed feelings.
At first, the lockdown was a disaster, emotionally and economically. And I was very disappointed that I couldn’t go to Carraig-na-gCat. But on the other hand it was an occasion to stay calm, and focus with more silence and concentration on my work.
German enjoys attending residency programs. He sees them as a chance to redefine his own position; a possibility for newness. And at the same time, he is aware of the risk leaving everything behind implies.
Being in a new place involves a sense of starting anew, so I never know on forehand if it will actually work out. I’m always aware of the potential risk of failure - that I might be completely unable to do anything. In a new place, you're a stranger, and you have to find your way, and that makes you look at things in new ways. But this also means the usual structure is gone..and that there is no guarantee.
I have never been to Ireland before. I was ready to go, and mentally prepared for it, so I was very frustrated that it could not happen. It’s hard to tell how my time would have been there..I would imagine that living surrounded by beautiful landscapes would be very special. I always work with the space around me in some way, so surely my work would have been influenced by the landscapes in one way or another.
German did, however, end up taking a break from the lockdown days in Munich, even though he didn’t make it to Ireland yet. In November last year, he spent a month at Zink Gallery’s artists-in-residency program.
It’s located in a small village with just 27 inhabitants! The studio is in the gallery, located building on top of a hill, so from the windows I had a view of several kilometres. Everything was closed, so there was nothing to do but to read, work and walk in the woods! It was a nice break from being home, being all on my own and work whenever I liked, day and night. I really enjoy the time and focus a residency offers.
German’s work does indeed require a lot of silence, time, and focus. He works on multiple pieces at the same time and elegantly shifts from one to the other, following his own impulses during the work process.
The process is very fluid. I often work on one piece for a long period of time, then leave it for a while, and pick up at some point, and re-work it again..it's not a short, direct journey from a to b to c, rather it goes back and forth.
I find it hard to describe what I do..my work comes out of impulses and gestures. I have decided to devote my life to following up on these visual gestures and make them a part of my everyday, just like getting up in the morning. And out of that comes my work.
While artists may have had an easier time adjusting to the circumstances, compared to office workers, it can be hard to fit a process oriented art practice into a busy family life with fatherly responsibilities and homeschooling. It requires a lot of determination to actually take the time to embark on an open-ended journey and dwell on artistic experiments without knowing where the work might be going.
Sometimes I’m jealous of people that have a regular job and a more straightforward work schedule. As an artist the process is very different, you spend most of your time alone in the studio, and there are days when I come home without having made any progress. It’s so hard to predict, because it isn’t based on logic or on practical solutions.
I question why I do what I do every day...but I do my work anyway because I have that impulse...The question is part of the process itself and maybe that’s what keeps me going when I’m in doubt.
German loves painting and appreciates being physically present with his work, as much as he loves meeting new people and traveling to other places. Shifting social meetings to online interactions for over a year, and being unable to cross the national border, hasn’t been easy.
I remember in the 90's when the EU borders opened and everyone was enthusiastic. It was an incredible thought, back then, to open up borders among nations that had once been at war with one another. There was a sense of optimism that I don’t see now. I fear a roll back to nationalism, because people are fearful and seek separation.
As the pandemic is coming more and more under control and people start meeting up physically again, there is hope for more physical interactions and real conversations.
We need to meet other people and exchange ideas! I hope people will cultivate conversations, learn to disagree and have arguments and healthy debates, without being hateful. Social media doesn’t really encourage that. I think what we need most of all right now is real connections. And we need to travel, because traveling opens people’s minds. That is why I hope I can go to Ireland very soon.
Untitled (Top left to right) Exhibition view (Bottom)
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