Anna-Lena Werner: Do you look at your paintings as one work-in-process or as individual series?
Tobias Buckel: They are a work-in-process. Some themes or motifs do recur and I like seeing works from different times set in relation to each other.
One of these themes is the geometric and graphical form. What kind of space do they suggest in your paintings?
They describe a transitional space that is rooted somewhere between figuration and abstraction. I often have an idea of something figurative when I start with a new painting. This can be a picture, a certain shape or even a concept or a word that I am interested in. During the working process I try to get rid of these cognitive thoughts and ideas.
Can you make an example of a picture or a word that has been relevant for you?
There are many paintings that derive from pictures of interior spaces and stage settings, and others that started with the words “panel” or “display”.
Why is it necessary to get rid of them?
As long as I have concrete ideas in my mind, the paintings are just illustrations of my thoughts. It gets interesting, when I give up control and let things happen that couldn’t have thought of before. I am more interested in the abstract qualities of a painting than in narrative structures.
One of the abstract qualities in your paintings are the colours, which range from heavy dark browns to bright pastel pink tones. How do you pick them?
My use of colour has become pretty much intuitive and the tones often stay within a scheme that reflects my personal taste at a time. The new ones have a lot of blue and grey tones – they appear more graphical.
Your application of paint is extremely thin, often even revealing several previous layers. Why do you choose to make the history of the work visible?
This is my pondering working process. I start something with a few brushstrokes, then add some decisions, wash them off or paint them over again. I often let canvases rest for some days or even weeks before I go on.
Do you choose the materials intentionally or instinctively?
I mix different materials intentionally, but the range of mediums is carefully selected. For example, after using oil and turpentine for a while, I experimented with using water-based paint that worked even better for a thin and washy application. In some new works I tested mixing paint using pigments, glue and acrylic binder, which is somewhere between acrylics and gouache, and I can still wash it off with a lot of water.
Not only spaces, also depths play a major role in your paintings. What made you choose the medium of paint and not, say, sculpture?
Painting feels most natural to me. With a pencil or a brush I am able to formulate what I want to say. I tried other media during my studies, like video or sculpture, but I didn’t want to deal with the third or fourth dimension. Paintings have a virtual quality that fascinates me. Although it is flat, you can create the illusion of space or experience something that is not really there.
You play with light and shadow – perhaps one of the few traditional and figurative elements left in your paintings. If you think about painterly traditions, who inspired you in the beginning of your career?
I used to be excited about really painterly stuff – abstract expressionism and some CoBrA artists like Asger Jorn. But in retrospect, I think that Sigmar Polke was most influential. I was around eighteen at that time – quite a while before I studied art. I come back to his work from time to time. There is still something about it that I don’t understand.
Both Polke and the CoBrA artists used a sense of playfulness in their art – has that aspect also grown on you?
Yes, maybe. I wanted to work with a variation and add the lightness that I reach in my paper works also to some of my paintings.
Tobias Buckel (born Nuremberg 1978, lives and works Nuremberg) obtained his MA in Fine Art (with Distinction) from Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2011 and his Meisterschüler with Prof. Thomas Hartmann, Academy of Fine Arts, Nuremberg in 2010. Awards and residencies include Cité Internationale des Arts Paris (2014), PULSE Prize Runners Up (PULSE Miami, 2013), Postgraduate Scholarship London (DAAD, 2010), Annual Student Award (Academy of Fine Arts, Nuremberg, 2008).
Selected shows include Tobias Buckel at Peter von Kant, London (2015); Form is what happens, Archiv Massiv, Leipzig (2015); Connexion en cours, Goethe-Institut, Paris (2015); Between fluid edges, Galerie Bremen, Bremen, Germany (2015); Q2051, Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris (2014); Volta10, Basel, Switzerland (2014); Parallelaktion, Kreuzbergpavillon, Berlin (2014); Ching Chang Chong, Haus Kunst-Mitte, Berlin (2014); Display, Galerie Sturm, Nuremberg (2014); PULSE Miami 2013 (solo presentation); Sichtbarmachen, Kunstverein Nürnberg, Germany (2012); Jerwood Drawing Prize, London (2011); Chelsea Salon Series, Chisenhale Gallery, London (2011).