VISIONS OF THE FUTURE
Stefan Saalfeld searches for a style that reflects the digital age
by Maria Raposo
Like a broken television screen, the abstract paintings of Stefan Saalfeld recall the garbled, visual language of technology. The Munich-based artist uses digital tools in his search for a truly modern aesthetic, belonging exclusively to our time. We spoke to Stefan about how he transforms stripes of color to look like weather-beaten stone and how architecture affected his art:
KOD: Why did you start making digital images?
Stefan Saalfeld: After many years in painting I found it difficult to create a visual style or atmosphere that belongs to our time; an age which is dominated by technology. Using the computer helps me to achieve a certain aesthetic that combines technology and organic or romantic elements.
KOD: How do digital tools compare to using more traditional materials?
Stefan Saalfeld: Digital tools create very clean and perfect results. I find it interesting to break this perfection – to create gaps, to rip and split elements and to layer.
KOD: Can you walk us through how you make your images?
Stefan Saalfeld: Over the years I have created a large stock of "interesting" visual material and image data that I organise in different layers. These elements are cut, formed, rearranged and manipulated in many ways.
KOD: What kind of visual material?
Stefan Saalfeld: Some of the elements have a very long history. A few years ago I started working with small stripes and line structures. But I felt that they looked too hard and perfect, so I filtered and twisted them until they started looking like old wood or weather-beaten stone. Other materials are just color fields or tiny stripes; these bring different speeds to the images. And then I introduce patterns.
KOD: Do you think working in architecture and design affected your art?
Stefan Saalfeld: Working as an architect gave me a sense for space – something important for the works I do now.
KOD: Aside from a modern aesthetic, what do you want to communicate with your work? Do you ever weave in personal feelings or anxieties?
Stefan Saalfeld: I’d like to share a certain spirit and attitude with my work: a feeling of an open and floating space, different elements side by side, things are in motion, forming new constellations. The pictures are personal, yes, but there is no psychological message.
KOD: We live in a culture which is saturated with images – how does your art respond to this?
Stefan Saalfeld: I try to play with this. I have a series of abstract works, called STREAMS. The conception here is to imagine all paintings and images you have seen, build an enormous stock of conscious and unconscious memory, that form an endless stream or movie, running on an inner screen. When you stop this fast motion, it comes to collisions and eclipses of forms and colors. The STREAMS are a kind of inner screen shots of this stopping process. The result is one merged image, but also an exercise of concentration.
KOD: Do you think technology could spark a revolution in abstract painting?
Stefan Saalfeld: I think working with digital tools will increase and extend the field of painting. It will open new ranges of visual experiences.
See more of Stefan's work here