Alina Grasmann: The great world theater

Alina Grasmann painting in her studio.

Studiovisit with the Munich based artist Alina Grasmann.

Munich – Alina Grasmann is a painter based in Munich. In the Interview with RE:MAGAZINE she talks about painting interiors, her work process and what inspires her.

The interview was conducted in January 2020

Could you tell us about your work?
I am a painter and I mostly work in series and in large scale and oil on canvas. Each series is based on a specific location, that I try to examine more closely in my paintings. I have just finished the work on my last series „Sculpting in Time“, which was on view at Fridman Gallery in NYC until early January. The paintings show rooms of the urban utopia Arcosanti, which was designed by Frank Ilyod Wright student Paolo Soleri in the desert of Arizona. Ideally, my work is shifting somewhere between fact and fiction. The rooms shown in „Sculpting in Time“ become chambers of wonders, in the sense of baroque imaginariums. I try to fill a ruin, so to speak, with life again. But you will never find people in my paintings.

What are you working on right now?
Last week I started working on a new project. New year, new series. Since I need a very long time to paint one of my large scale paintings (approximately 1-2 months), the work on one series usually takes one to two years. The new series is located in Florida. I am also very interested in the idea of the „Theatrum Mundi“, the great world theater, at the moment. I am positive that this concept will have an impact on my current work in one way or another.

Paintings by Alina Grasmann. Image credit: private

What drives you to do what you do?
I am more than grateful that it is possible for me to work and life as a painter. I can‘t think of any other profession that I would rather do every day. My work routinge can be split into three parts. I am always starting with a journey. I specifically search for a place that I became aware of for whatever reason (like literature, film, news, …) and that I would like to examine more closely.

When I am on site I proceed very intuitive. I can tell very soon if I want to dedicate an entire series to a certain place or not. Then I try to be alone with the place and fully immerse myself in the environment. I collect inspiration and capture moods with my camera. Usually a longer period of time passes between travelling to a location in real life and painting a series about the place on canvas. During this time I intensify my research and try to develop a more specific concept for my series, based on a rather vague idea or feeling. Painting then takes place in my studio in Munich. I am very happy to have this place, which on the one hand really is a personal retreat for me but where I can very much concentrate on my work because nothing distracts me there on the other hand.

What kind of atmosphere do you like when you work? Why?
I love to be alone. I am what you would call a night owl. And I do love stories. When I paint, I listen to audio books or podcasts all the time. And my working hours are probably a bit delayed from a normal 9-5 job. I spend my mornings on everyday life tasks and oranizatorial or bureaucratic things. So when I start painting in early afternoon I have already done everything else and the best case scenario is that there is nothing left that I have to do later, after work. This allowes me to work till late night with an open end every day. When it starts to get dark and also qieter outside I can completely immerse myself in and fully concentrate on my painting.

Alina Grasmanns studio. Image credit: private

When you feel stuck, how do you get un-stuck?
I would travel somewhere or just go away for a few days and try to get some distance from the current series. I would then try to focus on a future series and try to develop new ideas. But studio visits with friends and colleagues and an artistic exchange in general usually are helpful too. Being confronted with new questions help to see things from a different perspective, which sometimes is already enough to get un-stuck.

What are your favorite items in your studio? Why?
My brushes and my painting cart. I always try to take good care of my brushes and I guard them like the apple of my eye. I really can’t understand how some painters can leave their brushes in oil or even turpentine overnight. I am super picky about that. I think I do have a very intense relationship with my brushes, I treat them like a part of my body, so to speak as an “extension of my arms”. The painting cart was a present I gave to myself when I graduated from Academy. We had multiple versions of the exact same model in our studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. At the time, when I was leaving university in order to be a full time painter I had developed a great respect for the future in general and for being alone in my studio in particular. The paining card was somehow standing for my time at the academy and I wanted to take a part of that time with me into my new work environment.

What are you curious about? What would you like to explore further?
As I said, I am still standing at the very beginning of my new series about Florida. However, Florida won’t be that important as a specific location in the series. The state serves more as a blank space of sorts for my thought construct and a further development of the baroque concept of the Theatrum Mundi as a contemporary phenomenon. Most of my series are located somewhere in the US. I have the wish to paint a series about my homeland, about Germany, at some point in the future. I just don‘t feel ready for that yet.

Which artwork, exhibition or piece of media (publication, podcast, music, movies,..) inspired you recently?
I do love the Judd Foundation (both, his New York home and the one in Marfa, TX). Due to the pandemic these museums are currently closed but when I was in New York in November there was a great Judd exhibition at MoMa and one at David Zwirner. Judd just never gets old. The way he is dealing with the concept of space and color is a huge inspiration for me and I admire his objects and also his furniture. Even if his Minimal Art seems to have nothing in common with my realistic paintings, I do see parallels: less in the approach and implementation but the questions he has seem to be similar.

Alina Grasmanns Work in an exhibition and in her studio. Image credit: private

Where are you based and what do you like about the local art scene?
My base is Munich. I was born and raised here. It is very important to me to live abroad from time to time or at least travel once a year and stay for a longer period of time. But coming back is almost as important. What I like best about Munich is probably that I‘m already very familiar with everything and that I don‘t have the feeling of missing out on anything when I‘m working alone in my studio. I can fully concentrate on painting here.

Who are your favorite artists, curators or other art world people to follow on social media?
I‘ve been following the Scottish painter Caroline Walker @carolinewalkerartist on Instagram since using this app. I love her work – both in terms of content and the way she paints. I am particularly touched by her latest series „Janet“, in which she portrays her mother while working in the artist‘s childhood home. Last week I was able to visit an exhibition again after a very long time. It was such a nice experience especially since the lockdown lasts forever and all museums and galleries are still closed. My Munich artist colleague Gabi Blum @gabiboom decided to open her installation GALERIE BOOM in Lothriger 13 to the public again by arranging individual appointments. I want to warmly recommend to visit this exhibition while it is still on view. Gabi‘s work is very interesting and exciting and it is fun to walk through it. I always have the feeling that we are concerned with similar questions, although we deal with them in different ways.

Find Alina Grasmann online

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