Heiko Müller – The Opposite of Civilisation

Imagine a mash up movie of “The Wizard of OZ” and “Evil Dead” and you’ll get a feeling of my irritation when I saw Heiko Müllers paintings for the first time. In a very special, unique way the german painter from Hamburg brings together all kinds of different elements and inspirations from fairytales and comics, Bambi and King Kong, religion and nature, naturalism and surrealism, Kitsch and Horror. So if you are in San Fracisco, Bristol, Hamburg or Barcelona within the next months – don’t miss one of his exhibitions. He was so kind to answer a few of our questions about his art for us on bushwah!

How did you get started with painting?

Two years ago my then 3-year-old son Louis said that he’d too like to paint a picture in my studio. He had never painted before. I set everything up for him and then continued working on my own picture without looking at what he was doing. Suddenly a voice next to me said: “Finished!”. I had completely forgotten about him and suddenly was a little scared he might have made a big mess or ruined my brush. But that wasn’t the case at all. Everything was clean. Even more amazing was his picture. It was beautiful, with all colours place neatly side by side. Apparently he had always cleaned the brush before using a new colour. I asked him who had taught him that. His reply was: “You”.
It must have been similar in my case, only that I didn’t learn from my father but from my two big brothers. One (10 years older) drew, the other (16 years older) painted.

Why are you painting? What does it mean to you?

When I was young I probably just wanted praise for my pictures, just like my brothers. Then I noticed how wonderful it is to create something. Today I mostly aim at capturing an experience that can’t be pinned down in a photo. Everyone experiences reality in a different way. Thoughts, feelings and the imagination play parts in every moment of experience. In painting I’m better able to approach what I actually perceive. For example, I used to keep a sketch book when I was travelling, and often enough the sketches tell much more about the trip than the photos I shot.











How would you describe your paintings?

My paintings are often about nature. You can see landscapes and animals. There are realistic and unrealistic bits. The unrealistic ones are doodles and comic book elements. They complement the realistic parts, standing for thoughts, associations or emotions. Apart from that I try my best to have my paintings convey a realistic atmosphere. I like it when paintings have an effect on the rooms in which they are hanging.

What are your main influences and your favorite artists?

Man, that’s a sad topic at the moment. My two favourite artists are Cy Twombly, who died last year, and Mike Kelley, who died recently. I almost met Mike at an exhibition in Berlin. Too bad I was too shy to say hello.

Apart from those two there is of course a long list of well-loved artists who continue to be an inspiration. Since 2006, I’m a curator for the annual group show “Don’t Wake Daddy” at Feinkunst Krüger. This will give you an idea whom I like. Artists as different as Brendan Danielsson, Fred Stonehouse, Femke Hiemstra, Ryan Heshka, Anthony Pontius belong to the inner circle. There is of course also a great number of artists I like who are not associated with Don’t Wake Daddy, among them Patrick Farzar, Olaf Fippinger, Till Gerhard, Henning Kles, Tilman Knop, Jan Köchermann, Stefan Marx, Thorsten Passfeld, Dennis Scholl, Jörn Stahlschmidt, Jürgen von Dückerhoff, Boje Arndt Kiesiel, Isabell Kamp … the list is endless.

You seem to mix up traditional painiting styles and motives with popcultural influences from comics, movies, music and religious elements, fairy tales and childhood memories. How does it come to this specific mixture?

I didn’t paint between 1997 and 2005. I thought about so many ways I could position myself in the art scene that I almost completely forgot about concentrating on the things I love. When I took up painting again in 2005 I vowed to dedicate myself only to them. So that’s where the mixture comes from.





















What are you main influences besides painting? Which music, movies, books or comics etc. inspire you?

Every weekend, I try to take my family somewhere. We often visit the Baltic sea, woods or deer parks, and it’s almost every time an inspiration. I always take my camera and many of the motifs make it into my paintings. The comic book artists that I find most influential are Daniel Clowes and Charles Burns. I read their books regularly. What I like most about them is that they always radiate a great sense of calm, regardless of how bizarre they may get. When it comes to movies, I prefer the classic directors: Fritz Lang, Luis Buñuel and Alfred Hitchcock. And the Beatles made the most inspiring music.

What topics and themes do you prefer to work on – and which are you not interested in at all?

Mostly my painting are about nature: animals, the forest, the coast – things you could define as the opposite of civilisation. I don’t like painting buildings that much. I do like Neo Rauch’s architectural series, but couldn’t picture myself painting something like that. I like using my wrist when painting, and that’s not the best technique for houses.

You created some certain characters like the “Deer Hunter” and “Winged Doom” that remind of comic characters. Will this characters ever come to life – for example in a comic or a series of paintings? As I read “Winged Doom” has its own life as a mascot for a russian town?

While I won’t be giving any impulses myself, I’ll be happy to watch someone else breathing life into my characters. What the Russians have done with my red bird is great fun. Not only are there innumerable variations of it in painting, they also made it into comics, plasticine characters, plush toys, there is a cup in the shape of it and a comic book store bears it as its logo. There are even songs about the bird. My favourites are people visiting manga festivals dressed up as the bird. Just type Winged Doom into YouTube, you’ll find them. I would get bored rather quickly myself though if I were investing this much into one of my characters.











What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’ve almost finished preparing my single show in San Francisco, which will open in May. After that I’ll have to finish two paintings for a group show in Bristol, after which I’ll do about ten brush drawings for a Korean art zine and a single show in Barcelona. Apart from that, I’ll have to think of something for the Index exhibition, and in December there’ll be another Don’t Wake Daddy group show. Next year I’ll have an exhibition in Milan and in 2014 a museum show in Long Beach, CA as well as a single show at Feinkunst Krüger. Seems like I have to paint more…

Is there something you can do better than painting? Or – is there something you ever wished you could do better and make it your profession?

I used to be pretty good at driving a fork lift, but that’s a long time ago… Just kidding. It’s great to be able to paint. I don’t want to be able to do anything else.

Please complete: never ever ask me to … dance my name.


See more of Heiko’s works and buy it on his Homepage: www.heikomueller.de



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