Johannes Wewetzer, the Berlin-based visual artist tells a story about the emotional bondings and its processes inspired through the majestic beauty of the human body. These stories begin from “lustful intricate shapes” and are completed at the physical connections between the models.
The Catholic environment of his teenage years and his studies in Christian iconography formed the basis of his classical interpretation of his works, which serves as the core of his art and to which he adds the hedonistic impressions of Berlin life to make his pieces even more alive.
The timeless photos of Johannes with the dynamic nude figures are reminiscent of the Baroque in which he interprets the intimacy in human relations looking for deeper meanings.
He tells us about the ways of his expressions and passion for the forms of the human body , the increasingly exhausted enjoyment attitude in his generation and the situation of the contemporary art scene in Berlin.
COR: Please, tell us a little about yourself and how did you start making art!
Johannes W.: I’m a 26-year-old photographer and sculptor from Berlin, who recently moved to Dresden to fail as a stone sculpting apprentice. My early pictures are nudes of girlfriends and acquaintances, but I moved on to asking people in the streets whom I found interesting. It was kind of exciting, the idea of taking pictures of someone you knew or just met and timelessly preserving their beauty. I guess at the end of the day, being a degenerate really helped me get into art.
COR: What was the reason for choosing the human body as the main focus of your art?
Johannes W.: The most exciting subject to humans is other humans, in my opinion. I think about people all the time, more than other things. I also find human bodies to be the most beautiful things around, millions of years of evolution, opposable thumbs, and a decent brain for most of us. We really won the lottery!
COR: You take some elements from the Baroque, like the play with light and contrast, dynamic naked body movements… What makes these elements so important to you to express?
Johannes W.: For me, those days are the peak of our shared western culture, find me a more graceful sculpture than Apollo and Daphne by Bernini. It was perhaps not the most comfortable time for the common people, but the art of the times showed what was possible for humanity to achieve, and I think this level of brilliance hasn’t been reached since, in my view. Artists started getting into their professions relatively young and could build up their skills while their brains still had a lot of room to develop.
Few offer this level of learning today; the only ones I can think of right now are the schools in St. Petersburg and Florence. I think it’s always a good idea to look back and see what has worked in the past. Which elements carried over culturally and survived the last centuries. Doesn’t mean you have to be able to copy Caravaggio, Vermeer, or Rembrandt but bless your heart if you’re any good at it.
Suppose you’re able to take a few of those stylistically timeless elements refined by the years of studies from previous generations and add a little bit to them to fit our Zeitgeist. In that case, I think you’ve got a winner and something that has the chance to last.
COR: There are some poems on your website next to your photo projects. Can we interpret them as symbols, which can help the viewer to understand your visual art?
Johannes W.: My Texan friend Robert Rutz wrote the poems. They resonated with me. He was significant to my youth in Berlin, and the themes about solitude and isolation reflect our experiences in the city, the ups, and downs, quite well. After Robert went back to the States, but there was still an echo of our times. I made those images during my studies at the Ostkreuzschule for photography in Berlin; they’re darkroom experiments, it was very volatile, though, and you never knew what you would get. These are the results of hundreds of pictures that didn’t turn out so well, and I didn’t like that you couldn’t control the process well enough. Later, after spending a year there, I decided to focus on working with bodies, developed into a different visual direction and continued my studies independently.
COR: Your photos reflect the attitude of Western societies: the “striving for constant pleasure and joy.” What are your views on this hedonistic perspective and its “deficits in emotional experience,” and how can we reconnect to each other by art?
Johannes W.: Among my generation, many strive to maximize the pleasure in their lives but end up getting depressed because their actions lack meaning, and they’re not building anything. My current models are porn actors, rope artists, and people from other alternative scenes; many also struggle with a lack of a deeper emotional connection to other people. I’m not sure if I have the right answer on how to reconnect, but I think showing positive values (grace, truthfulness, kindness, commitment) in your work is a good start; you don’t have to be overly preachy or political about it. Probably my Catholic upbringing, but people want to strive for a higher goal, and bringing people together with your art has the potential to go a long way.
COR: You are also interested in sculpture. What inspires you in this kind of art? What is that you can express more effectively than through photography?
Johannes W.: There’s a lot of exciting art, especially sculpture coming out of eastern Europe right now. Grzegorz Gwiazda, for example, who, in my opinion, manages to add just the right amount of abstraction to the anatomy of his sculptures, similar to Rodin at his time, who I also quite like. I think this whole idea of a silhouette and creating beauty from every angle is something that photography can’t deliver. Something might evoke a particular emotion if you look at it from one side but another if you view it differently.
COR: What is your next project? You work together with your girlfriend, right?
Johannes W.: Mostly practicing my modeling, I’ve been trying to translate my pictures into sculpture, quite time-consuming compared to editing photography, but I’m getting better. Usually, I take a bit more time at my photoshoots to scan the bodies, model them in 3d and then print them out before I refine them and turn them into either bronze or concrete.
I recently got accepted for the “Swatch Art Peace Hotel residency” in Shanghai, so we’re planning to move there once they reopen the border for foreign artists to go there. Xiaowei and I are working on a video project for our move and documenting our time there, so it’s not directly related to my artistic practice but more like a vlog. We’re hoping to get the interest of some galleries and people in the cultural scene there.
COR: How do you feel about the current state of contemporary art in Berlin? Is it still the same, wild and free world as it was formerly? Is it heading in the right direction?
Johannes W.: Too many buzzwords, not enough meaning.
A piece of string hanging from the ceiling with a 5-page text next to it won’t do it for me; if you go to larger museums, you can see people checking out classical to modern exhibits, stuff like the aforementioned string don’t get any attention. And no, I don’t think it will take time for people to adapt to this nonsense. As long as there’s skillful art for people to look at, that doesn’t just “subvert their expectations” they’ll prefer that.
I think the pendulum has swung too far in one direction. Most shows I see in contemporary galleries are loaded with ideology and preachiness and scarce in real beauty and uplifting emotion.
Don’t have the right skin color or gender? Sorry, we can’t show your work as we don’t want to be labeled racist or sexist by enforcing “heteronormative standards,” or whatever the week’s word is, on them, the irony is lost.
Luckily, not every gallery is like that, but art schools and grants in Berlin will hold you in high regard if you display their kind of thinking or superficial features. This cult of fake progressivism has been taking hold in Berlin’s cultural scenes. It makes it easy for art grifters and propagandists without skill or original thought to propagate themselves and alienate artists that don’t fit their narrative. Dogmatic thinking is always a wrong move, and quite restrictive to new ideas and people, and this particular case will take some time for people to figure out, we’ll get there eventually. I’ve always avoided political messaging in my work because I don’t think it ages well or that there’s a demand for it in the general population. People don’t go to art shows that preach to them. I partially blame this development on the postmodern movement, which I think was a step in the wrong direction. It doesn’t create any value for society and only seeks to break things down without anything new coming out of it. It makes it easy for people to get into though. It will take some time but I’m confident we’ll figure this out as well.