Berlin and Münster-based visual artist Filipp Jenikae curates the latest FF Mixtape, and talks to us about painting album covers, fake art, and how he’s found inspiration during lockdown.
How did you first get into music and what were some of the first tracks you started listening to?
I was introduced to a lot of music initially through my older sister and my parents. One of the first albums I bought was Phenomenon by LL Cool J. I remember buying my first burned CD from my neighbor—which was full of songs he’d downloaded from Napster, mainly movie themes I think—for 10 Deutsche mark. In 1997 it was really mind blowing to be able to choose any number of songs that you liked and to create your own sampler. In 1998, I was really into a lot of artists signed by the label RAWKUS. The album Black On Both Sides by Mos Def was one of my favorites back then. I still like it a lot.
You’re a visual artist. Can you describe some of the themes that you explore in your work?
I like huge, abstract paintings that are colorful and bright, and that have new shapes and forms to discover each time you look at them. I also like creating work inspired by city environments, nature, and everything that you come across if you are outside and have your eyes open. I take photos of things that I see and like. I try to sample buildings, color combinations, people, photos in magazines, works by other artists, street names, and shop signs from screenshots stored on my phone’s photo library. This being said, I also like figurative art and still life. Recently I’ve been painting athletes, recording artists, and political figures that I like or that I find interesting.
“Inspiration now comes from surfing the internet, reading, listening to music, and watching documentaries rather than going to museums, galleries, pubs, clubs, and visiting other cities like it did before. I miss the latter.”
How do you choose the people you want to portray?
I am a huge basketball fan so American sports culture has greatly influenced me. There are still various 90s basketball players that I want to paint. You should check out Jonas Wood’s paintings of Basketball players, they’re fire! I just browse the internet looking for photos that I like or screenshot certain angles in videos. The first album cover I painted was Mos Def ‘s Black On Both Sides. I really enjoyed it and looked for more album covers to paint. I found several that were really inspiring and I still plan to paint more for that series.
I also like history. I watch a lot of documentaries so that informs the people I choose to paint as well. Recently I came across Ghanaian politician Kwame Nkrumah, Nigerian military officer Odumegwu Ojukwu, and Amazigh political leader Abd el-Krim. They all left an impression on me so, naturally, I painted them.
Are you influenced by any particular artistic movements?
My paintings have different styles, but you could generally describe them as modern, abstract, or neo expressionist. The figurative paintings are inspired by the era of the New Objectivity and Expressionism which evolved 100 years ago during Germany’s Weimar Republic. It was a time that is comparable to now on some levels in terms of political polarization, economic depression, and technological revolution. My bigger paintings are definitely inspired by American Expressionist painters. My favorite artists are Picasso, George Grosz, Otto Dix, and Jonas Wood, who is a brilliant contemporary artist.
How does music inspire your work?
I always listen to music when I paint. If a song is really annoying me, I switch it off. If I like a song, it drives me to paint. There’s a connection in that sense.
You’ve lived in various European cities including Berlin, Kiev, and Münster.
I’ve been based in Münster since the beginning of lockdown. My girlfriend became pregnant so we started (and still are) nesting. We plan on moving back to Berlin as we both miss the big city. I was born in Münster and I like it here, but my girlfriend is from New York City. Smaller German towns can be hard to handle. During my studies I moved around in between many European cities: I travelled and partied a lot with friends. Those experiences gave me a lot of visual inspiration for my work, which makes it easier for me to now come up with ideas.
I never actually lived in Kiev by the way. I only have it in my Instagram bio because when I started posting on Instagram, I photoshopped my paintings into galleries that I invented with friends of mine. We dressed up and posed as art dealers, collectors, and so on. We called it “fake art” in reference to the Trumpian era’s obsession with fake news. It helped me to market me work and build up my Instagram… and it was also a lot of fun.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
After lockdown I’m going to have an exhibition at FYAL in Münster. I’m painting a piece about colonialism and the city of Bremen for a contest run by the Focke Museum, and I’m also collaborating with a gallery in Berlin for Gallery Weekend.
How has lockdown affected your practice?
During lockdown I started painting more and got into more of a routine. It’s been harder to acquire painting tools and sometimes you have to wait longer to get stuff that you desperately need, but all in all, I’ve been painting more because there’s not been much else to do. Inspiration now comes from surfing the internet, reading, listening to music, and watching documentaries rather than going to museums, galleries, pubs, clubs, and visiting other cities like it did before. I miss the latter.
How did you select the tracks for this mixtape?
On Spotify I put all the songs that I like into playlists continuously and re-distribute them again from time to time into other playlists in order to filter them differently. I selected some of the songs from those playlists and chose some from memory from records I own. The playlist consists of several genres that I like. It has an introduction, a climax, and then it winds down before it ends, kind of like a good story.
Filipp Jenikäe is a German visual artist based between Berlin and Munster. To find out more about his work, check out his Instagram and website. This interview was produced as part of our Mixtape series, in which international creatives curate playlists of music that inspires them. Head over to the Mixtape section to find out more.