This is a preview of the collaboration between sensual photographer and graphic designer Julian Behrenbeck and emotional and destructive painter and installation artist Michaela Leithe. They met up to be inspired by one another and create work on the topic of deja vu, sense of time and repetition.
This work can currently be seen as part of the exhibition DIALOG at Das kleine Schwarze in Hamburg.
What was the first thing you thought after seeing each others work?
JB: I was impressed with the magnificence of her images. If you look closely you can see all these delicate twirls and complex patterns. The accumulation of liquids on the paper form shimmering pools of multi-layered paint stains and due to the pastel colours, her paintings radiate a sense of innocence and tranquility. But when you step away and look at the bigger picture, it suddenly comes crashing at you like a tidal wave. When I saw one of her installations for the first time I also thought: Yeah, that'd make a great fashion collection. She seems to be a very inspiring personality. I believe her work has great potential to become even bigger than it already is.
MIC: Julian’s work is being born out of a very extroverted, fashion inspired background. It is confident, bold and provocative. Where my artworks are very natural, his have a feeling of artificiality and even though both of our works attempt to provoke some sort of emotion, mine does this in a more thoughtful, silent way. I immediately thought we were more alike than we think and the clash of our two characters will be very intense and beneficial on both parts.
Did you notice any major similarities or differences regarding your way of working, or other preferences (themes, colours, materials)?
JB: We are both very focused people with a sense for creating visuals that speak for themselves. However, a big aspect of her work is hoping for and incorporating mistakes and coincidental outcomes when experimenting. I, on the other hand, have everything planned out 95% of the time and if I don’t, I tend to lose it a bit.
The biggest difference is the use of colour though. Characteristically, I tend to work with a monochrome colour palette, sometimes adding a single colour for highlighting. Michaela is just constantly coming up with such amazing colour combinations, that I would never dare to put together.
MIC: I think that sums it up pretty well. I could learn a thing or two from him, like scheduling or keeping my workspace tidy. But I have seen some of his more colourful work and you definitely got it in you, man! You need to trust your guts!
How did you come up with your concept?
MIC: We tried to produce a body of work that incorporated both our strong points. For Julian, this includes working with a model and facial expressions. For me it is thinking in layers and working destructively.
JB: We thought about how the world is changing around us as time passes by and the sensation of having felt a certain feeling or having lived a specific experience before. All this we transported in visuals with a futuristic approach, being repetitive in both the imagery and the process itself to support the desired mood.
Who is your model in the photographs?
MIC: I have this strange habit of pointing out people in the streets and comparing them to other people I know. I believe there are only a certain amount of “looks”, so everyone of us has a doppelganger. Except for one single person – my girlfriend. To this day, I have failed to find someone in the streets or on tv/internet, that even remotely looks like her. I knew she was the only one I wanted as a model, gladly Julian agreed with me.
JB: Michaela showed me a picture and I knew Eli was perfect. When I met her for the shoot, she radiated this pureness and honesty. She is a very strong character that holds many stories within. Her unique, unconventional beauty made up a great contrast to the repetitive nature of our project.
What title would you give your project?
JB: “Living between past, present and future.”
MIC: Allowing myself to be influenced by our model choice and the personal level the project has got for me now, I would call it “Jess”. She has a multi-layered personality, she is very extroverted but her own best company. She can go from being grumpy to laughing frantically in less than a second. Her friendship is addictive and she is both – the poison and the antidote.
Do you think you will work together again?
JB: I definitely hope so. Working together was such a special experience. The workflow was so smooth and creative, you know, I felt myself being completely absorbed in the project. My whole mind was focused on the idea and the outcome. That was just a great feeling. It was quite like leaving earth for some hours and entering a foreign planet. She is so driven, I've never been this captivated before.
MIC: Working with a projector really does make you feel you are leaving earth. It is an incredible feeling to be able to let go and let yourself fall into your work. I am so pleased to hear that our project has had this effect on Julian. I loved how he introduced me to working with people, which has led to so many new ideas forming in my head. I would definitely want to do another project with him.