This artwork is the result of merging Kai Jonas' luscious and surreal illustrations with Stefanie's honest and self-doubting (sometimes paintings but mostly) photographic portraits.
What was the first thing you thought after seeing each other's work?
KJ: If you study other people’s work, you should not start off with thinking, but instead with just taking it in for a minute or two. Then you can come to a conclusion, and I have to say I was utterly impressed with her photographs and her other artworks, too. I especially liked that she has no inhibition regarding materials. She combines, mixes and layers anything in her reach. This opened up a whole new way of working for me. I hope some of it will stick with me.
STEF: The first thing I noticed was that hair is always very prominent and detailed in his images. That made me like him instantly. Hair plays an important role in many of my portraits, too. It made it easy for me to connect with his work. Besides this, I liked that he adds tension to his pictures through the use of different materials and makes clever use of colour to direct the viewer’s attention. I was impressed with his thought processes and the maturity his works reflect, considering his young age.
Did you get into a workflow straight away or did it take some time to get used to one another?
KJ: Well, getting into a flow isn’t as simple as flipping a light switch. We started off by exchanging ideas and expectations for the project and how we’d best proceed. We worked out a vague plan and then just went crazy.
STEF: That’s not entirely true now, is it? By the time we started planning our piece, two hours had already passed and two large cups of coffee had been emptied, because we got caught up talking about each others work.
KJ: Oh wow, we sound like real artists. Well, once we got into it, I noticed that Stefanie was very self-critical. I don’t mean this in a bad way. I like people who feel that good is not good enough. Mentally we were definitely in tune with each other and never lacked topics for conversation. There were also times when we fell into this silent rhythm, both concentrating on our parts and quietly working away. All in all I can say our collaboration was absolutely fucking awesome.
STEF: I am not used to painting or drawing in front of people. In the beginning I was really self conscious. Every line he drew and every single brush stroke of his seemed to be planned and perfect, whereas I felt that the bits I created were just messy and weird. I feared that I would destroy the beauty he was creating. I have to admit, when we finished for the day, I returned to the piece once he was gone and removed some of the parts I had made, because I disliked them so much. Thanks to his positive feedback, eventually, I was able to let loose and started to appreciate that we contributed different talents and styles. Kai Jonas is incredibly easy to talk to and so much fun to be around. He radiates positivity.
Did you notice any major similarities or differences regarding your way of working, or other preferences (themes, colours, materials)?
KJ: Definitely! We share the same passion for beer, caffeine and music. We had tunes blasting through the air the whole time we worked. We also agreed on the colour scheme for the painting, instantly and we both like to work with inks and to corporate stains.
What impressed me was, that she didn’t really seem to care whether the materials she used were going to work for the technique or style she wanted. I, on the other hand, was very hesitant when I worked on the details of the hair. I always have these pictures in my head and get disappointed when it doesn’t turn out exactly the way I envisioned it, so I work extra carefully and precisely. I am very happy with the result though!
STEF: I agree! One major difference though, was that he likes working with the canvas laying flat on the floor and I usually have mine propped up against a wall. He also wanted to jump right in and started painting immediately, which really threw me off, to be honest. I like to think about a project for a couple of days and do some research and try things out in my sketchbook. He was so energetic and spontaneous. I felt out of my comfort zone and wished we had chosen a project that had more photography in it, so I could have led the way and could have felt more in control. But his ways are contagious and soon i was just as enthusiastic as he was.
Your artwork consists of many different layers. Is there a specific reason for this, or did you come up with more and more things and just kept adding them?
STEF: To work with different layers and contrasting techniques and materials was quite obvious to us right from the beginning, I think. It supports the topic’s depth and also both our personalities.
KJ: The issue’s topic revolves around self censorship which we used as our jumping-off point. A character is made up of different aspects and layers. Some of them you want to show, some of them you don’t. As I mentioned before, we had the basic idea planned out at the beginning, but after that we cleared our minds and just let things happen. It was a back and forth of voicing our thoughts – a series of chain reactions. Her encouragement to include different materials pushed us from visual to visual as well as supporting our original plan.
What title would you give your project?
KJ: “The image of split identity”. The triangles’ sharp edges stand in contrast to the running ink and twirling hair. With this, we tried to visualize the doubts, sadness, aspirations and feelings of joy we encounter on a daily basis. Just like in our painting, they come and go in irregular turns.
STEF: I think the word “split” is too negative. For me, the artwork is more about the different sides that, when assembled in certain combinations, make up a character. So I would go with something along the lines of “Assembly”.
Do you think you will work together again?
KJ: I most certainly hope so! It was so much fun to work alongside her and has influenced and inspired my way of working a lot. If she doesn’t agree, I might just have to put her on drugs, tie her up and force a pencil, brush or feather into her hand so that she’ll have no choice but to work with me again!
STEF: Oh, no need for violence. I volunteer happily. The two days we worked on the project passed so quickly. We didn’t know each other, but within minutes we became friends. You can talk with him about art and god knows what and always count on him giving you honest, constructive criticism. You don’t find that often. I am sure by the time this interview gets published we have already planned the next big thing!