At some point, Andreas Golder feels art chose him – although he hates the implicit cliché. With his parents as artists and art historians it was really no surprise. His story is one of success. Andreas is now considered one of the most notable visual artists in the Berlin. However, it wasn’t like this from the beginning. Andreas Golder had to flee with his parents in 1990 from his home in Yekaterinburg, Russia, to Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. After seven years in the South of Germany, love was the reason for his move to Berlin in 1997. This is where he started to study at the University of Arts, Berlin, and still lives and works. While waiting to get into an art school in Berlin, Andreas inevitably got caught up in the night life of the city – a lot has happened in between. Here, Andreas offers a tour of his Weißensee studio: an industrial complex, half in ruins. Almost everything in sight has been covered with graffiti and from the distance loud punk music can be heard, confirming the inhabitant of the building.
Andreas opens up about his painting and sculptural practice that consciously appropriates imagery from art history to popular magazine covers. His work is attention grabbing to say the least with mutilated and oftentimes grotesque and brutal figurative imagery that conveys an expressive directness and dark humour connected to his personality. But let’s start at the beginning, in Russia…
Andreas, you’re originally from Russia. When and why did you come to Germany?
We came in 1990. My parents had to flee Russia and I came with them. We were living in Ekatarinenburg, in the beautiful Ural Mountains. It is in the middle of Russia and is the country’s third-largest city – a fact not many people know. During World War II, the government even considered moving the capital there. The weapons sector and other heavy industries were moved there as well, because the area was rich in iron ore and was inaccessible to enemies – they would have had to go through Siberia first.
Do you still visit Russia?
Yes, I still have family there.
So which German city did you end up in?
In Heidelberg, then Ebersbach, then Jagsthausen, then Oeringen and then Widdern.
None of these is the third-largest city in Germany.
Actually, Widdern is the smallest city in Baden-Wuerttemberg. When Widdern was officially incorporated, Berlin was still a swamp.
Did you already speak German at the time, or did you have to learn the language first?
I had to learn it. I went from the fifth grade in Russia to a remedial third grade class in Heidelberg, and our lessons consisted of us annoying our teacher and going swimming. Then she wanted to put me in a less challenging secondary school, but with an IQ test I managed to get into a better school. I finished with a 1.0 average and entered a Gymnasium, although I did not stay there long.
You went to a school for gifted children.
That was in Russia, up until fifth grade. There was normal lessons in the mornings, and in the afternoons there was ballet, and, interestingly enough, art history and painting classes.
Did you do ballet?
At first, but then they kicked me out.
They thought I was better suited for boxing.
When did you come to Berlin?
What brought you to Berlin?
Not art or your studies?
No, a girl.
And how long did that last?
Six years. I’m rock solid.
So you came to Berlin for love.
Yes. I also did my civil service here, and then I started painting.
Did you start painting in Berlin, or had you painted before that?
Before. I learned all the basics in school, and when I came to Berlin, I had a little teenage rebellion against everything I had learned and stopped. When I was about 15 or 16, though, I started painting again almost automatically. I set myself before a skull and sketched it for 8 or 9 hours a day. Since I never finished my high school Abitur, I had to figure out another way to study and live a life of leisure. Painting was the only thing I was good at, so I thought to myself, I’ll try it. I applied to the Berlin University of the Arts six times and was never accepted because of a lack of talent. Maybe they were right, but now I make up for this lack with other things. Even then, I had already had sold-out exhibitions.
You spent several months earlier this year in Beijing, working and creating an exhibition at Urs Meile. What were your impressions, and is the market for Chinese contemporary art still booming?
I don’t really enjoy the majority of Chinese paintings. The Chinese are much better at performance, video and sculpture. There are a few good paintings that I liked, but now in the second generation, which concentrates less on China and more on the history of painting, there are a few strong figures emerging. I also have to say that the art scene in China is incredibly strong – we could take a leaf out of their book. It is a lot more intense. Here, more and more, we hang around parties, talking about record prices and other such nonsense, name-dropping – it slowly becomes unbearable. Now even the German tabloids tell you who was wearing what at which opening. All this glitter and lust for glamor is totally out of place. It’s a strange craving people have.
What made you want to go to Beijing?
Because I was afraid of getting diarrhea and decided I needed to confront my fear. And I never ended up getting diarrhea in Beijing, the food was really excellent.
Then you were in New York again.
Yes, but that was only for show, to shake hands. Champagne parties, easy women, fat limousines…
But I’m sure you saw some art, too.
Yes, the George Condo exhibit at the New Museum was pretty cool.
Do you like George Condo?
Yes, I like him very much.
His last exhibition at Sprueth Magers was impressive.
I also liked the exhibition very much. He is really a very good and intelligent painter.
What do you mean by “intelligent painter”?
Oh dear — trick question.
You chose to say “intelligent” so consciously. You could also have said he’s a talented painter.
Be that as it may, I would rather talk about myself than George Condo.
But this statement interests me.
George Condo is a man who knows the full spectrum of painting and drawing. He does not paint like the Leipzig School, whose members take the shortcuts the Impressionists used. He doesn’t copy — he really has something. He makes interesting pictures, makes use of history, but has his own visual language and is both very funny and very profound with it — he makes perfect Pop paintings with classical pretensions.
Find more information on Andreas Golder at Gallery Urs Meile.
Photography: Alex ‘Foley’ Flach
Interview and Text: Lisa Bosse
Translation: Sylee Gore