Lioba Brückner’s strong female protagonists coalesce with the enchanting flora and fauna of her darkly mysterious world, and beckon us into narratives overflowing with magical delights. The confluence of inspirations Brückner has derived from the lasting impressions of a youthful fascination with fairy tales is ever present, and bestows her imagery with intoxicating symbolic sentiments, that both exude warm flavours of familiarity and also nurture feelings that anything is possible. Brückner’s visual aesthetic has naturally evolved to a point that emphasises these suggestions of unlimited possibilities, and it is through her expressionistic mark making that we are encouraged to open up and put something of ourselves into her brushstrokes; embracing the beauty of our world and life’s ambiguities.
Lioba Brückner was born in 1988 and is a painter based in Oberhausen, Germany. She studied with Markus Lüpertz and in 2012 received her diploma under Tony Cragg at the Academy of Arts in Düsseldorf. Upon graduating, Lioba discovered a community of artists through social media that she felt an instant kinship with; she has never looked back. Lioba now exhibits her work internationally and has a developed a devoted following worldwide.
WOW x WOW is immensely honoured to have a brand-new painting by Lioba in our upcoming WOW² show; a group exhibition of square works. ‘Die Froschkönigin’ is a painting of true regal elegance, all wrapped up in the ethereal, dreamlike wonder that Lioba is known for. We recently caught up with her to chat about all things art. Enjoy!
Hi Lioba, thanks very much for making the time to have a chat, we really appreciate it. To get us started, can you give us some background on what has lead you to this point in your professional life, be it your formal training, serendipity, etc.?
Hi Tim! Thank you so much for the interview! I’ll start at the beginning. I always felt the urge to draw but everyone told me that I could never live from it so I didn’t even consider it! When I met my partner, who is an artist, too, I learned that I certainly could make a living from it and I decided to go that route! I studied at the Academy of Arts in Düsseldorf, received my diploma and left with very mixed feelings towards the competitive atmosphere, weird artists in general and the German art world. Although I did make contacts with galleries, my colorful style didn’t (and still doesn’t) really fit into the German art scene. Later I learned that other pop surrealists face similar problems in Europe. So, I concluded, that I had to get a ‘real’ job and applied as a programmer in a local agency. I got hired – loved the job, was good at it and if it wouldn’t have been for the itching feeling that I missed out on honing my skills and becoming a professional artist, I’d probably still working as a programmer!
So I quit my job, started to visit galleries in Berlin and talked to countless gallery owners at art fairs to figure out how to earn a living as an artist. But only after I discovered the social media art community and searched the internet for resources about the art business, I finally learned how to market my brand and how to be an independent artist. On social media, I found both art collectors that love my style and buy my art, and aspiring artists with whom I can share my experiences with and who in return support my artistic journey on Patreon and Youtube.
We’re interested to hear about where you’re currently living and what you like about the area? What is the art scene like there and do you feel a part of that community? Are these aspects of your life that are important to your creativity?
I live in Oberhausen, a multicultural city in the Ruhr Area in Germany. Except for the anime and comic fairs that I love to attend, the local art scene doesn’t resemble anything that I resonate with, so I don’t feel close to it. What I really enjoy though is that we are surrounded by a lot of nature, we have parks and zoos, and people love gardening here. Also, living here is so affordable, it’s the perfect environment for an artist with an online business. Or maybe it’s the other way around! I adapted and made a business possible where no pop surreal art scene is!
My surroundings strongly influence my art – I’ve almost painted every flower that I’ve ever owned and looking at my garden calms my mind while I paint and makes me happy.
In what ways did your childhood and upbringing affect your relationship with the arts?
My father had a creative talent and introduced us to drawing. He would tell us fairytales that he invented himself and drew the characters for us. When I was a child I loved nothing more than animal and dinosaur toys – I would play with them, draw them and invent my own creatures. My parents also went on vacation a lot and my sister and I roamed from morning til evening through wild nature. These memories are the best I have from my childhood.
Female beauty is an important aspect of your imagery. What are the intentions behind your integration of pretty female subjects and what are your thoughts about the male gaze and the objectification of women in art throughout history? Do you feel that things are changing now that women have a stronger voice within the art world?
I think every artwork uses its subject to tell a story or convey a message, so in a way it already objectifies the depicted person, or object, or scene. As humans we love female beauty, both women and men, so painting a person only to celebrate their beauty or to use their beauty to make a good painting, in my opinion, is legit. There should also be a space for art that delivers to the ‘male gaze’, that celebrates sexuality, or even pornography. There should be a space for each kind of art and every taste. What I find troubling is when a culture only focuses on objectifying the female sexuality, as it was within the last centuries in Europe. I think there is still a long way to go in reaching gender equality in art, but I share your opinion that our society is changing and I see many female artists emerging and sharing the same vision as myself. I depict pretty female subjects mainly because I love to explore the concept of beauty without being critical or imposing an ideal on women. I enjoy playing with it and some of my paintings depict female sexuality in a subtle and unobtrusive way – in a way that women can identify with, without feeling uncomfortable.
Tell us a little about the symbolic content of your work and whether you place any importance on creating your own symbology or if you prefer to tap into the power of a more universal symbolism?
With some exceptions where I would depict a Japanese poem or paint references to a medieval tapestry, I prefer using a universal language in my paintings that is visually understandable and appealing to everyone.
How personal or autobiographical do you allow your art to get? When you look back at certain pieces or larger collections of your own works, do they remind you of certain events or eras in your life? If so, we’d love to hear you talk about a good example of this.
My artworks are personal in the way that they mirror my wish to accomplish an aesthetic that emerges from my experiences in childhood and adult life. Some paintings remind me of their creation process and of the state of mind I was in at a certain point like a journal. One of my paintings ‘Shi’ from 2014, is a self-portrait that I did for my first solo exhibition. My boyfriend took the refrence picture for me on a very hot summer‘s day in front of this beautiful lion statue surrounded by a little bamboo grove. I remember sitting there, everything was quiet and so surreal. It was a very peaceful moment. I believe that the painting captures this atmosphere well.
Your paintings contain areas of very expressive mark making. How important is it to you that your hand is visible within your paintings and how do you approach this side of your work?
This is a very important aspect for me. I enjoy breaking up my images – the difficulty is to maintain a balance between distortion and realism. I’m not interested in depicting a portrait just like a photo and I think we don’t need another photorealist who paints an exact copy of an image that already exists. The creative part comes with destroying and adding and leaving those parts that are necessary to maintain the image or tell the story.
As we move through life we continue to grow and change. In what ways have you seen your work evolve since you started down the path of being a professional artist?
When I was at the start of my art career, I would paint for a whole month or more on only one painting, without ever thinking of marketing it or managing the time I‘d spend on it. Now I have to follow deadlines and schedule my time strictly – which in some cases made me paint better and faster and made me acquire skills that I hadn’t dreamed of before, but on the other hand, because I have to focus so much on the business side of art, I can’t always give my art the time I believe it deserves.
You have previously talked about the inspiration you have derived from your use of Instagram. In what ways have your IG connections had an impact on how you approach art making and your career in general?
Instagram changed my life immensely. When I started my account I couldn’t believe my eyes and what seemed possible in art. I spent months discovering one amazing artist after another. I learned a ton of new techniques just by seeing work in progress pictures. The people I met virtually helped me a lot and I too, could inspire and help other artists. I enjoy being part of this incredible art community so much. We live in an unprecedented time of technology that changes with such speed that no one could have ever imagined, and I‘m both excited and a bit anxious about what we will encounter in the near future. Maybe AI will decide that humanity isn’t worth the hassle and wipe us off the planet.
In order to get a better understanding of the personality of an artist, it can help to get a peek behind the curtain. Would you be willing to share a story from your own life, possibly one whose memory you find yourself returning to for inspiration, or maybe just a tale about a hardship you’ve overcome which has helped define the person and therefore artist that you are now?
There are too many instances! Every new struggle helps me to prevent a similar situation in future. I think this is just a part of becoming wiser with every year that passes. One eye-opening moment as a result of a crisis was when I suddenly realized that I had to rely only on myself and on my art to make an income instead of relying on other people. That taught me to take responsibility, instead of waiting for something to happen sometime.
If you could own one piece of art from any of the world’s collections what would it be and why?
It would be ‘Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose’ by Sargent. Sargent and Waterhouse created the most beautiful and mysterious paintings that I’ve ever encountered. I just haven’t found any other artists with whose work I can resonate as much as I do with theirs. For me, they are unmatched masters.
‘Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose’ not only expresses the infantine seriousness of young children occupied with igniting the lanterns, it also catches the otherworldly beauty of an evening atmosphere with these glowing lights, this incredible movement of the grass and the lilies, like a whirl that hypnotizes me every time I look at it.
What’s next for Lioba Brückner?
Too many things – seriously! I’m having a bunch of upcoming shows in the US and commissions for the rest of the year. I’ll be having my first international solo show in Scotland in April 2018 and there’ll be a lot of new videos in the making for my Youtube channel and for Patreon – I never thought that having a Youtube channel could be so rewarding! And sooner than expected, 2017 will be over in a rush!