It’s a rainy day in Berlin, and I snake my way through the damp and cramped crowds at the X Lane Club in frenetic anticipation. The industrial space is home to various events, and on this weekend it hosts the Berlin Graphic Days art fair. As I squeeze my way to my destination, I see two large prints of mesmerizing artwork on brilliant display just waiting for me; they’re big, they’re beautiful, they’re thought-provoking, they’re soon to be mine, and they’re sitting proudly next to their creator, the man I am there to see, Guilherme Maueler.
Thin and bearded, Maueler is terribly handsome with bright brown eyes and an infectious smile - a gem among men. Sipping a Club Mate, he is surrounded by his work, which envelops one in unique experiences of snippets in surreal time.
Maueler is a collage artist with an aptitude for color combinations and storytelling. Illustrating since childhood, Maueler has been professionally engaged in his craft since the age of 17, and has earned degrees in 2007 in Design from Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC) and in 2011 in Illustration in Scotland at the Edinburgh College of Art. He started his own agency, Pira, in 2011 with a friend in Brazil, and focused on video production, motion graphics and graphic facilitation. With such a strong background in illustration and video, I was curious as to how he had moved his way to collage.
Underrated and often subject to a lack of respect in the art world, collage can be a precarious choice for an artist. “I was once one of those people, too,” Maueler responds in discussing negative conceptions held about collage art, “but I used collage as a mock-up for my illustrations, and I realized that I was spending so much time on them rather than the illustrations … I started falling in love with creating compositions.” His sentiment is made quite clear when viewing his work.
The combinations of images, the configuration, and the variety of sources spanning multiple mediums and timeframes is diverse and eclectic and aesthetically charming. Just slightly reminiscent of the works of Terry Gilliam, Maueler’s collages are a materialization of a dream, individually extracted aspects of a story frozen and reworked together in a new narrative. “Remixing reflects our way of existing. Everything is a remix. Your entire being is a remix of your mom and dad,” he explains emphatically. From combinations of Frida Kahlo and cashew nut fruits in fiery tones, to demonic manifestations in a subdued palette, the work runs the gamut in topic, style and focus. Yet, in most of them a certain mathematical undertone offers a sense of traversing the cosmos while still grounded within the parameters of our universe, albeit outside of our traditional constructions and restrictions.
Since 2016 the Brazilian native has been based in Berlin, a city (in)famous for its uncouth and intense night life, unique style and overarching atmosphere of experimentation and openness to predilections less welcome or understood outside of the city.
As a beacon of progressiveness and either acceptance or indifference, Berlin is also quite well known for being a very gay city. This city is home to one of the world’s best Christopher Street Day parades, a host of memorable gay parties, and it has a historical background as the home of Magnus Hirschfield’s Institute of Sexual Research, which forwarded scientific exploration and support of people not beholden to heterosexual, monogamous and binary forms of identity and sexuality.
Talking about his own artistic inspiration and niche in the city, Maueler laughingly says, “The Gemstones definitely started after I moved here (Berlin).” The candor of the statement being both humorous and obvious to an almost silly degree. The Gemstones, are Maueler’s new collection of works, which are dripping in sexuality, and although they are very much not suitable for work, they also show little more than a perfect derriere. Exhibited for the first time in January at BeijosXXXX – Agora’s goodbye party (for which the artist also created the graphics), the Gemstones are a bijou of virility cut together with geometric influence centered upon a vivid background, or as the artist himself describes them, “a series of pseudo-cubist origami pieces of stone and flesh.”
As with nearly all sexually-charged artistic explorations, the Gemstones are also a projection of self and examination. Maueler is very upfront about the ego involved in his work on the Gemstones: “Really, it’s all about me,” he says. But it is not narcissistic as much as it is self-exploratory and reflective. “They also force me to examine myself, and my inclinations towards certain things,” he explains, “I had a friend point out to me that I tended to use very typically handsome men or physiques in my work, and she asked me why. It was a really good question, and I had to ask myself why I was focused on that. I’m trying to work on that now.” He discusses the need for diversity both in his own frame of mind and work, and says it is important for him to stay conscious of that and think more deeply about it—an act of awareness, which is both rare and commendable.
While the constitutional endeavors are long term, the works themselves are created relatively quickly, taking from a few hours to a day or two. A quick process, Maueler allows them to develop as they will under an overarching idea. “I did the first one playing on my iPad on the train to Prague in 2017,” he says. Strong arms, chiseled chests, and muscular legs are carved out and folded back in together in a serendipitous process, and as a collage artist, the collection of images is pivotal to his work. “I get them from all over, it’s a daily hoarding of images.” The works are a puzzle of porn stills, stock photos of models, and Instagram images. “I always contact the Instagram page and ask if I can use the image,” he says, “but I also take my own photos. Sometimes the image I collect is so perfect for what I need that it doesn’t matter if it’s in low resolution, I’ll play with it anyway.”
“Gemstones are something precious and beautiful,” Maueler explained about the inspiration of the title of the series, and in examining both the superficial and more deeply underlying elements of the works, this proverbial pedestal is rather apt. The maelstrom of beautiful and suggestive body pieces are cobbled together and prominently centered on striking monotone canvases, facing the audience with an unbridled sense of pride and pulchritude in a chrysalis state.
While a redolence of hedonism and debauchery is undeniable, the element of situational prerogative allowing for Maueler’s particular exploration and creation instills his work with the projection of the rarity, preciousness and value of such a liberty.