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Public Provocations IV - Interview with Stefan Winterle

Insatllation view: Public Provocations IV - Artist: A1one

This is an interview between Beatriz López and Stefan Winterle, chief curator of The Carhartt Gallery:

AfN: What is The Carhartt Gallery? Is it mainly to sales or do you have a curatorial mission?

Winterle: The Carhartt Gallery is an exhibition space for contemporary urban art. Yes, we do have a mission. We want to show the immense variety and forms of expressions that can be found in the scene right now. Like Graffiti writing, Character painting, Stencilling, Paste ups and many, many more.

AfN: What is the connection between the clothing brand and the gallery?

Winterle: The gallery itself is located in the second floor of the big Carhartt Outletstore in Weil am Rhein where the European headquarters are. We are very free from the core business of the brand thus we like the combination and use possible synergies we have in-house.

AfN: What´s your background and how did you come to The Carhartt Gallery?

Winterle: I am a painter myself. Coming from a graffiti background I started stencilling in 2002 after having some stress with the strong arm of the law. Together with the owner of Carhartt - work in progress, Edwin Faeh my friend and studio neighbour Sigi von Koeding a.k.a. DARE founded the gallery in 2006. Sigi was sharing his experiences, questions and problems of curating the house with me. Sadly Sigi passed away too soon in 2010. After one year of uncertainty I took over his job.

AfN: Who would you say that has been another crucial person in this project?

Winterle: Running a gallery in this size can only be done with a big team effort. First of all I am glad we are having a generous owner who has been into urban art since a long time. I have two great guys Rudi Anker and Daniel Künzler who are taking care of the gallery day by day. There is Francesca Fresta and Bianca Porcelli who are taking care of public relations and organisation. And Kevin Reinhart from Carhartt who is backing us up in administrative things and a lot of helpers when we are having shows.

AfN: How many exhibitions do you have per year?

Winterle: We have two shows a year. Each show on display for 5 months and for renovations we have a one month break in between the shows.

AfN: How do you choose the artists? How many artists do you invite?

Winterle: We invite 10-13 artists for each show. We choose them by different factors. First of all we have to like their work. Second is that we want to present a mix of experienced artists that are well known next to newcomers. A mix of styles is also very important for us. Quality and authenticity are the two main criteria.

AfN: Tell us something about the current exhibition.

Installation view: Czarnobyl

Winterle: The current exhibition is called Public Provocations. This is the 4th issue of this show which has become a fix date in the yearly urban art calendar in Europe. This time we focussed on showing figurative painters that means that we are not showing graffiti writing this time. Right now we are having world famous artists like Jef Aerosol who is a stencil pioneer from France. Chaz from The London Police with his well known figures and SatOne with his latest series of paintings called “Chromologue”. Honet from France is presenting his strong and very mystic paintings within an inspiring setting. Czarnobyl from Berlin brought some stencil magic and Dave the Chimp some of his positive illustrations. We are showing A1one from Iran with his amazing characters for the second time. For me it`s always great to introduce upcoming artists like EME from Spain, Klaas van der Linden from Belgium and Marco Zamora from Los Angeles. Tasso from Germany and Bezt from Poland are showing their amazing painting skills. If you want to convince yourself feel free to find photos on our website:

Installation view: Honet

AfN: What does it mean to you “Urban Art”. Could you tell us the difference between Urban Art and Graffiti Art?

Winterle: Urban Art is an umbrella term for art that is applied outdoors, mostly unauthorized. Under that umbrella you can also find graffiti or stencil art, paste ups and so on. I am not a friend of dividing terms like urban art and graffiti because they are one big family. Graffiti is the grandfather of all the other outdoor art forms and was describing this art movement for a long time. Then Banksy came. By the way, a former graffiti writer and it was necessary to find new terms. So the Term Urban Art came up. In the end it does not matter which term you use. All of those terms describe art that is not depending on art classes, universities, galleries or auctions. They are made out of fun, protest or just to get up your name. It`s pretty free from dogmas and welcomes everyone who wants to try it. Art history will tell in a couple of years but in my opinion Urban Art is the strongest art movement since Pop Art. I just love painting, following the scene, see the masters and younger generations coming up with new ideas techniques and styles. It`s something that fills out my life completely.

AfN: Could you tell us a little about the history of Urban Art and Graffiti Art.

Winterle: This answer is filling books. You can find very good articles in Wikipedia for example. Please excuse my short answer on this question. But it`s way too much information to put into three sentences.

AfN: In the early 80´s in NY, Art galleries started to show graffiti works. Why do you think this happened?

Winterle: Graffiti Art was highly visible in NYC. It was fresh, exciting, free and innocent. And I also think there was a curiosity to find out who is behind the artworks that were rolling on trains through the city. For the Graffiti writers back then it was a chance to earn fame and money with painted canvases. Same with the galleries of course, who dared to be the first ones to present an upcoming form of art. It`s those trains and canvases that made the kids to legends and whoever bought one of those paintings back then should consider themselves a lucky person.

AfN: Is there any place you think there are more opportunities for Graffiti Art? Why?

Winterle: There are opportunities for graffiti for sure. I cannot tell exactly where and how. But if “urban art history” has proven something then that it’s changing steadily. I can definitely say that there is a comeback of Graffiti writing going on and styles are developing and changing. Let`s see what happens.

AfN: Could you tell us a little about the movements within Urban Art and Graffiti Art.

Winterle: I think concepts and messages are getting more and more important to the artists. In Graffiti writing there`s a style coming up called “anti-style”. For me as a fan of old school writing it`s sometimes hard to get. In the first impression the letters look pretty weird. But if you take a second look they follow their own rules. It`s very exciting to follow this development. We are planning to present the avant-garde of this development in the Carhartt Gallery very soon. Also in character painting you can see that figures get bigger and more and more complex and detailed. In Urban Art in general there`s a tendency to go big. All over the world there are festivals held that are focusing on mural paintings. These are massive walls that cannot be too big sized.

Installation view: Klaas Van der Linden

Installation view (detail): Klaas Van der Linden

AfN: What techniques and styles are used in Urban Art and Graffiti Art?

Winterle: It`s similar to music. There are basic declinations of styles and more detailed ones. In the end every artist is proud to find an own style and combined to that is his or her technique. So there are as many techniques and styles as there are artists out there. As 90% of the artists present themselves in the internet I can only recommend you to find your own favourite artist! Or you follow us at the Carhartt Gallery, as we are trying to cover this big spectrum one by one.

AfN: Do you prefer to exhibit a special style?

Winterle: No, I love all of them!

AfN: What are the motivations for doing Urban Art and Graffiti Art: activism, a powerful platform for reaching the public, a way to talk about political issues. Others see urban art as a personal artwork.

Installation view: The London Police

Winterle: I think you cover the motivation with your question very well. Motivation is something very diverse and has to be requested from every artist individually. If I may speak for myself it`s just the love for painting, being creative and bring or leave something unseen to this world. For others it`s a political tool, or to bring some aesthetics into ugly places, or to have a night of fun with friends. In the end it`s definitely self-expression.

AfN: Thank you so much for letting us making this interview and after we finish, we would like to know if you have any project coming soon?

Winterle: You are very welcome. Thanks to you for giving us the chance to present our gallery on your platform. Of course I am working on new projects. Me personally I am building up a new studio which is almost finished. And for the Carhartt Gallery we are planning the next show that starts December 8th.

Interview by: Beatriz López Mourín


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