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DSCENE Exclusive Interview With Artist JULIUS HOFMANN

German artist Julius Hofmann talks exclusively for DSCENE Magazine.

Vertigini © Julius Hofmann, photo by Plan X Art Gallery Milano, courtesy of a private collection Germany/Leipzig

Artist JULIUS HOFMANN sits down for a conversation with DSCENE Editor Katarina Doric to talk about calling oneself a digital artist, video games, and heroes.

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Poupées © Julius Hofmann, Photo by Uwe Walter, Berlin, Courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Kleindienst, Leipzig

What is important for young artists today? – It may sound trivial, but listen to your inner voice, and if you don’t hear it, go find it. Hint: watch your screen time.

When I paint or draw, I feel empowered and in control. The motif is only a vehicle and has multiple symbolic meanings. On the other hand, the deeper, more intuitive abstract language of color, brushwork, and composition is what I consider the strength of a good painting (independent of time and context). If you look a bit closer, all my paintings share a similarity. Don’t take them too seriously; you will find (dark) humor and hope.

The world you create in your art is pretty dark. Why is that? – It’s hard for me to ignore what’s happening in the world right now. Pretty dark is well put—close to my definition: Bitter Sweet. All these conflicting incoherent opinions from the news, social media, the pandemic, the ongoing war, and the climate crisis—so much fear and confusion everywhere. When I paint or draw, I feel empowered and in control. The motif is only a vehicle and has multiple symbolic meanings. On the other hand, the deeper, more intuitive abstract language of color, brushwork, and composition is what I consider the strength of a good painting (independent of time and context). If you look a bit closer, all my paintings share a similarity. Don’t take them too seriously; you will find (dark) humor and hope.

Is there a source of light in your work? – Yes, you! I was always fascinated by Pythagoras’s idea of the observer’s eyes sending light rays into its surrounding environment (paintings included). Think of today’s bright LED cones as manifestation flashes from cell phones, cameras, and headlights. They create an aesthetic that would very much please him. I guess [laughs]. The light source in my paintings is mostly very basic. Like when you launch a 3D suite for the first time. It’s a single spotlight with heavy drop shadows, always pointing from the left side. This direction was chosen for the dominating Westerners’ left->right reading bias.

Strepmes © Julius Hofmann, Photo by Uwe Walter Berlin, Courtesy Private Collection, Leipzig

Is there a connection between your work and some idea of the future? Or is it entirely based on the present? – It’s more of a universal, timeless language. At least that’s what I’m looking for. Things don’t really change under the surface.

Would you call yourself a digital artist? – Even though I worked a lot in CGI and enjoyed these developments, I also see the dangers. Most importantly, in the end, it’s nothing more than the caveman with the stick but in fancy pants. I try not to let technology do my job.

I hope we stay separable from our digital selves. Technological advancement is going at light speed, and I think we need to reflect more often on how this is impacting our existence.

Are we separable from our digital selves, and how do you see the digitalization of the world today? – This is a very philosophical question. Yes, I hope we stay separable from our digital selves. Technological advancement is going at light speed, and I think we need to reflect more often on how this is impacting our existence.

Do you think painting in a digital age is still relevant? – Yes, definitely! Its cumbersome creation process (compared to CGI) might be its biggest strength in today’s breathless presence. The painting will flourish when put in dialogue with modern digital media.

Deutsche Glasfaser © Julius Hofmann, Photo by Uwe Walter Berlin, Courtesy of the Artist and Galerie Kleindienst, Leipzig

Virtual reality and video games seem to influence your aesthetic. How do you see technological evolution? – Digital tools and video games helped me massively to advance in analog painting. In my youth, I enjoyed years in these digital realms. The biggest difference in today’s situation was that most of it happened offline. Today’s interconnectedness feels both frightening and empowering.

Are there any artists from the present or past who particularly resonate with you? – It’s a large field, often not paint-related—movies, early 3D games, and music. When it comes to painting, the biggest influence might obviously be the German movement Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) from nearly a hundred years ago.

But more recently, I was really in love with AI-generated images. This field has vastly improved since Google’s DeepDream. As traditionally trained painters, we had this speculation (Potential of AI Art) over and over, but now we have proof. In many areas which were considered important qualities of human craftsmanship, the computer left us in the dust. This doesn’t mean there is no point in painting anymore, quite the opposite. But maybe some goals should be shifted.

Mea Culpa © Julius Hofmann, Photo by Plan X, Courtesy of Plan X Artgallery, Milano

What are you reading right now? – I am reading Vernon Subutex by Virginie Despentes.

Who are your heroes in real life? – It’s hard to name a particular person. There is so much creativity going on. I think I adore people with a vision who don’t start sentences with “But.” On the other hand, the naysayers might be the real heroes when it comes to digital devolution.

What’s next for you? – I had my first solo show in Milan in May and new projects are outlined. Luckily I have a big list of rough sketches to build upon.

Is there anything you regret not doing? – Starting integrative purple earlier.

Keep up with Julius Hofmann on Instagram – @hofmann_julius

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