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April 08, 2012

Legato :: Olaf Hajek

legato :: in a manner that is smooth and connected

Olaf Hajek
by Jenny Doh

Olaf Hajek lives in Berlin. A big city filled with beauty that ignites his imagination as an illustrator and painter. He describes himself as complex, which is how many describe his  paintings, where he masterfully packs the space with layers of imagery and color. "With my images, people actually have to enjoy the process of delving in and decrypting them," he says.

Olaf Hajek African BeautyJD :: The faces in your art ... they are gripping. They grip me. How do you do that?
OH :: I am happy that you see it that way, but ist hard to say how I do it. I don´t have a real explanation for it. I just try to combine realistic and simple, nearly naive elements with each other. 

JD :: Are they renditions of real people or fictitious ones?
OH :: It depends on what I am working on ... I did a lot of commissions for portraits for magazines like Rolling Stone. But most of the faces are fictitious ones.
Olaf Hajek Burgbad
JD :: I love the diversity of the people in your paintings. Some have lighter skin. Some have darker skin. And some feel like bright and sunny while others feel darker and cloudy. Tell me about how you think diversity of culture relates to your work. And also your thoughts about what you may have observed in different cultures that you've been around.
OH :: Different cultures, their special aesthetics and different history and people are a big resource for my work. As an illustrator I worked for many clients all over the world. As an artist I see myself as a "mind traveler" who travels the world and collages all the different cultures which each other.
Olaf Hajek Sebastian cookbook
JD :: I'd really love to know what your process is like when you paint. I know it sounds like an elementary question ... I'm interested in anything you might feel like sharing ... like what comes first in terms of your process ... or maybe what the studio feels like when you're creating ... and maybe what is going on in your mind when you are in the process.
OH :: My studio is a very important place. I love to work there and I am happy in the morning when I open my door!  If I have to work on an assignment, I go through some routines. Sketching, talking to the client, and paint the final illustration. Working on a personal series for an exhibition or a project is sometimes more complex. It can be very hard and desperate but it can be the biggest joy as well. There is a process where I don´t like the painting at all and have to overpaint it, but then most of the time a creative process is starting. There is color and surface which leads me int a new direction. The painterly element of my work is becoming more and more important.
JD :: In the Preface of your book, Flowerhead, you describe your preference for processes like finger painting or acrylic ton cardboard or canvas, versus computer-generated templates. This preference is attributed to your attraction for the immediacy of the process. Tell me about immediacy. Is it synonymous to urgency? To impatience? 
OH :: I love the process of the painting. I feel a much more personal relation to my painting. The computer is a different tool, a different style! It has nothing to do with being impatient, it has something to do with immediate experience and the feeling for the work itself.

JD :: For an artist of your stature and experience, do you still feel that experimentation is part of what you pursue or do you feel that it's more about refining what you know?
OH :: It's somehow both, but its always a big decision to start to experiment something completely new. Its a question of time and energy. But there is still a lot if things I need to refine as well!
JD :: What's the best thing you learned at art school?
OH :: I learned much more at the time before I went to art school, when I visited some drawing classes as a young kid. My portraiture  teacher at that time told us ... if you are not able to draw the nose ... then just leave it ... as long as the painting will be good ... I love that advice.

JD :: I know that you were born in a small German town. Where in Germany do you currently live? For those of us who haven't been, describe your town to us. And tell me ... do you fit in? 
OH :: I live in Berlin and I would say its the only german city I could live in ... it's a big, creative and innovative city, but there is a lot of contrast ... this city never leaves you indifferent. I sometimes have a love/hate relation to it, but it is home at the same time. I live in a very creative circle, which is wonderful.

JD :: Do you feel that you are a complex person, much like the way some regard your paintings?
OH :: Of course I am..who isn´t?
Olaf Hajek
JD :: Think fast and tell me a word or two when I say the following:
  • protest :: commitment
  • tattoo :: skin illustration
  • cigarettes :: smoke
  • Germany :: native country
  • New York :: energy
  • California :: sun and size
  • beard :: nature man
  • dress :: fashion
  • skin :: canvas
  • mask :: mystery
  • caterpillar :: butterfly
  • snow :: winter
  • coral :: jewelry
  • Kurt Cobain :: rock´n´roll
  • Playboy magazine :: client
  • human :: dignity
  • divine :: heavenly
olaf hajek
JD :: What's the first thing you eat and drink when you rise?
OH :: Flat white and muesli and ginger water.

JD :: Tell me about the piece or pieces that you are working on right now. What stage are they in? What do you plan to do next to them?
OH :: I am working of a series of 5 Antoinette figures. It´s a personal commission from a collector in Israel. I am working on the 4th painting right now. My next big thing will be a new monograph about my work at the GESTALTEN Publishers. It will come out in June and there will be a book launch and a show in berlin in July. I will work on a new gallery show in berlin for autumn this year and have a new solo show in South Africa next spring.
Olaf Hajek Winterson oranges
JD :: Is there anything in life that you feel ought to happen quicker than it does?
OH :: Winter.

JD :: Is there anything in life that you feel ought to happen slower than it does?
OH :: Sunshine.

All images shown here are provided courtesy of Olaf Hajek.
To learn more, visit www.olafhajek.com.


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Sigh. (that is my sound of happy contentment after reading your interview and viewing the pairings here)

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