O-A: What is art to you? Is creating an urge, necessity or maybe an incontournable, essential way of life?
Anja Stemmer: I create non-representational art – abstract expressionism and action painting with predominantly organic shapes, dynamic brushstrokes and vibrant colors. Colors and color constellations are the driving factors, the aspect of my art I am paying most attention to, when exploring abstract themes. My choice of color also reflects to a high degree my inner state, my emotions and mood.
Creating is an urge, an essential part of my life and thus incontournable for me. If I were not allowed to paint, I might become even quite obnoxious.
O-A: What wouldn’t you do without art? What did you discover, achieve with it?
Anja Stemmer: As a painter, you often struggle with decisions like “Is this finished or not?” , is it good enough?” and of course need to take decisions what to do with “half-grown” artworks, parts of which you maybe already fall in love with, whereas other parts need additional work. Sometimes, I have a really tough time finishing them, but I try not to temporarily abandon unfinished artwork in too many cases. My art-making practice therefore gives me confidence that in many other aspects of life, there is no clear-cut right or wrong, and that it often helps to suspend judgement but keep going. This habit of staying focused and solution oriented but with openness to what the solution will look like exactly helps me a lot in my other profession as manager of large scale projects. My process of the “action painting” body of work comes with frequent use of fluid media. Dealing with fluids often requires a lot of fast and partly even subconscious decision making: Often there is no time for considerate weighing up of pro’s and con’s. Like in management of crisis you have to act immediately. And thus making art can be a great personal development opportunity in general management.
O-A: Who or what inspired you artistically; a person, artist, event, experience…
Anja Stemmer: At School my teacher Claus-Dietrich Hentschel, an artist living and working in Konstanz had a he influence on my continued love for art, going to exhibitions and exploring my own creativity. Hentschels art is representational and has some commonalities with the way Max Ernst approached painting.
During school, I was fascinated by Max Ernst and by a few American representatives of abstract expressionism like Jackson Pollock, but especially by Robert Rauschenberg and the coolness of crossing over and mixing media with his collages and assemblages. Travelling to London at the age of 16, I visited two major art exhibitions that still resonate with me: Turner at the Tate and a Francis Bacon retrospective. In both cases their use of color – be it light in landscape or expressive portraits struck me.
Later on, I believe only Joan Mitchell could as much captivate me artistically. Not only the chutzpah and impudence of the way she lived he live impressed me. I can also strongly relate to how inspiration from nature and sometimes small events of daily life finds its way to the canvas.
I am lucky to live in Munich, with a lot of famous museums. Especially the Brandhorst collection exhibits a lot of Cy Twombly’s impressive artwork, whose inner freedom, casualness and nonchalance is a guiding star to assessing the quality my on endeavors.
Looking at contemporary German artists, Peter Tomschiczek and Bernd Zimmer are painters worth mentioning, whose work I appreciate a lot.
O-A: What is a vivid memory of a remark concerning your art that got stuck with you?
“Yeah, you’re a real power woman, it shows in your art”
O-A: What was the most interesting statement you heard about your work?
Anja Stemmer: Children intuitively grasp my art-making process of the “action painting” body of work. So, a young “colleague”, about 10 years old, asked me, a bit envious “how come that YOU are allowed to fling color and drip and pour it liberally?” So I noticed that being allowed to do so is a real privilege and of course sheer fun.
O-A: How do you search for inspiration and themes for your work?
Anja Stemmer: I don’t really search, I rather listen to what’s on my mind: I have more ideas popping up then capacity and time to put them into practice and realize them. Speaking about themes, i.e. continued threads of inspiration worth exploring over a certain amount of time, there is either an underlying element of Philosophy of Science connected with it, or the a common thread of a series of work is my expression of the values I believe in and want others to be influenced by. Let me give you an example for either one.
An epigram of Erich Kästner, Socrates appropriated, asks the question “What does the wind do when it’s not blowing?” Has the possible answer got something to do with the rotation of the earth, with air pressure, with meteorology? Or does the wind simply not exist, when not blowing – since the phenomenon is defined by the movement of air? This theme is about knowledge and searching, learning and exploring…
The second theme is somewhat related. It’s all about inner freedom and the lucky moments that may happen when the subconscious takes over and guides decision making in action painting. As Joan Mitchel stated it: Art making is like riding a bicycle hand-free, a well-controlled liberty.
O-A: How has your art changed over time? Why?
Anja Stemmer: My art had turnend only recently to a more light-handed, aerial approach to gestural expression. Given the current circumstances of the corona pandemic, at the moment my inner state of mind is nor really light-hearted, seeing how dramatically the virus affects our economy and society on a larger scale, and how social distancing affects our community and lifestyles. Since my art is a direct expression of my inner state, emotions and feelings, my works on paper have become much bolder, with strong mark-making and darker palette.
O-A: Are you a synesthet? Have synesthet ever commented on your paintings? How?
No, I am not a synesthet by highly sensitive to inter-personal relations.
O-A: What names do you give your artworks?
Anja Stemmer: The names I give my abstract paintings stem from associations I have looking at the finished work of art. Sometimes I am well aware of what moved me when making it, so I can use this somehow in the title, sometimes I’m not so clearly aware of the driving forces during the creation process, so I let associations flow freely. I observed, that visitors of an exhibition, where there are maybe just numbers next to the artwork and no titles displayed, have very similar titles in mind, so obviously, the associations are interpersonal and more fundamental.
O-A: What do you usually talk about with your collectors?
Anja Stemmer: With collectors I often talk about my creative process and they share their associations regarding my artwork with me.