marco zumbé




Tell me a little bit about you!

I’m a German artist, based in Cologne. I studied illustration and fine arts at the Acadamy of Applied Science Hamburg. In 2015 I held a studio resedency at Artist Alliance in New York for 4 months, which ended in an exhibition at Cuchifritos Gallery based in the Lower East Side.

My current exhibition (which ran through January 14. 2018) takes places in a museum within a 500 years old cathedral, where my works correspond with the art from the Middle Ages in their collection.

When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?

I stepped into contemporary art very late. I studied illustration to become an illustrator for children’s book and comic. During this time I mostly spent my time doing free illustrations, paintings, and a lot of sketching outside — painting and doing a lot of printings, like silkscreen or etching. When I found out that children’s books were not very successful and hard to publish; the lecturers argued that they were to depressive and my figures too scary.

So I decided to work on free art, and over a period of time, the paintings moved from figurative statements to totally opposite minimal imaging. During this time I felt a little bit lost. The turnover began with my studio residency in New York, where I first submitted a minimal installation project, but the first day in my new studio I decide to leave this all behind to start a completely new method: painting on foils and combining them with collage elements.

I think this was the really beginning of doing art, as I understand it: to find an individual unique way to express the internally fight of a person against or within the circumstances of the external world.

What ideas are you exploring in your practice?

When it comes to my abstract paintings I’m focusing on the “line“ as the essential element in arts, but I’m always trying to be somewhere in between the abstract line and the real shape and figure. I’m interested in the observer’s perception and interpretation of lines. The moment when an abstract line can be recognised as a figure or an object plays an essential role, and I’m always working between these opposite statements.

After I make the series of collage works on foil, where I’m creating different layers of plastic sheets and mixing them with fabrics and paint, I wanted to come back to the traditional way of painting on canvas. I found out that I always wanted to be a classic painter, although I was totally afraid of the brush and didn’t find a way to get a unique style. I decided to use more unconventional tools inspired by the time I was illustrating with Copics. These special marker pens are very expensive, therefore you can use cartridges with the alcohol based liquid ink to refill the markers. When I work on the canvas I only use these cartridges and markers to get my own characteristic style.

What is your process like?

First there is always a composition of (actually it’s always 3) lines over- and under-run each other, which I bring in an unconscious gestural act onto the canvas. I use the cartridges directly by dripping the liquid ink onto the canvas. The canvas is unprimed and soaks up the ink. By overdosing the ink, the lines spread out and becomes forms and objects by themselves.

After this very fast and emotional act, I develop a concept of how to fill the space in and outside of this construction. This second step tries to deal with the situation I arranged in the first step. Therefore I use the marker pens on both sides of the canvas. When I work on the backside filling out space, you as the observer see on the frontside only the traces of this act of painting. I’m always saying that it’s more like staining the canvas than painting on it!

So I get a very smooth surface and it seems like the picture is crystallizing out of the canvas.

Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?

There are a many American painters from the Abstract Expressionism movement that I really adore. I’m also working part time as an assistant for the German artist Andreas Schulze, who’s inspiring me in the way of working in a very simple, direct way of painting.

Describe your studio.

My studio is great ;).

Its about 40m2, it has also the equipment for doing silkscreening.
The floor which leads to my studio is very big so i can use it as a little show room for studio visits. There is everything for living too, so I can spent a few days or week there if I want.
And it has no Wifi, which is sometimes a problem but mostly perfect to work, focused on my painting. My newest purchase is a vintage turntable, so I always stop at a record store before I go to my studio ……

What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?

Like always in life I think the pros and cons are related to each other…..

It’s a gift to devote your life to follow your inner calling, in the best way to finance your life and your family by doing something you love to do. But even if you are financially somewhat unsuccessful, I think it’s the greatest luxury to work in such an “unnecessary” territory called art, and to work out creative projects with other artists, curators, etc. On the other hand, it’s getting sometimes frustrating to be part of this really isolated inner art circle, and I see also a problem sometimes in the way how we communicate within this circle, and how the levels of friendship and business fuse together. Sometimes the art world reminds me of the Catholic church. We have popes and bishops and we feel very in a very restricted system of codes and ritualised behaviours.

If you could sit down for dinner or a drink with anyone, who would it be and what would you chat about?

The problem with heroes is that they fade into normal human beings if you meet them in person. So I prefer to have dinner with some good friends and talk about the artist we adore, or to rail about artists we don’t understand.

What do you do when you find yourself in a creative rut?

Go into my studio with some new records.
Go on holiday with my family.
Sometimes stay in bed being frustrated

What do you love most about your medium? What challenges or surprises you most about it?

For me, painting and drawing is the supreme discipline in art, because it’s the most direct and easiest way to express your thoughts, dreams, and fears. If it’s getting good enough it’s a statement for itself, and doesn’t need any other explanations or even information about its creator.

In my personal work I see the challenge in creating an unconscious construction as a given condition. This situation forces to me achieve an image, which has his own and outstanding authority of being — which is unconnected to the material world.

What do you need or value most as an artist?

Time in my studio is the most important. The artist of today has always to work for his next exhibition. There are way to many exhibitions in this world. So more studio time and less exhibitions should be beneficial for every artist.

What keeps you creating?

The time in my studio, when i can working focused and forget time and space is like a day off in a spa, and keeps me fresh to struggle the life as a free artist.

What are you working on right now?

My project for 2018 named “Secondary Places”. It references the expression “secondary pleasures“ reviewed by Joseph Addison in his Essay “On the Pleasures of Imagination“ (1712).

These “pleasures“ are differentiated into primary and secondary ones. As the “primary pleasures“ developed from visually observable subjects from our nature, the “secondary pleasures“ on the other hand arise from our imaginations, which are not presented by visual objects, but more by memories or by observing an artwork, which brings back ideas and lead to a new complex perception.

I’m transferring this principle into abstract landscape paintings, looking like topographic maps which is an allegory to the discovering spirit of the 18th century, also known as the beginning of modern aesthetics.

These abstract works on canvas refer in their titles to virtual and mythic places, which suggest desires or even fears in our collective cultural behavior. Like a Fata Morgana is generated by a physical phenomenon of redirecting light, you can see the “secondary places“ as a projected area for individuals (within their social and historical context) helping them to get away from their trouble and hustle of their existence.

In our era, the definition of reality is getting more and more diffused and fanned out into virtual reality, which brings out the question how far reality degenerate from our perception
and therefore is developed from a collective medial memory.

The exhibition in the catheral tries to transfers romantic desires from the age of reason into our digital age and mapping the Fata Morganas of our post fact generation.