Art is a language spoken by few but understood by many – or perhaps all. As an artist, I, Albrecht Behmel, create my own language, my own words and grammar hoping to be understood even by those who don’t have time to listen. All I need is a single moment and a mere glance at my work. This is the major advantage of the visual arts, because they are fast and attention is a rare commodity.
Books require time to consume, so does film and even music. An image, however, travels at the speed of light. Our eyes take in a new visual language immediately and our minds make sense of it almost as quickly, from the retina via the nerves to the brain – It is all the same thing: the sense making machine which is the foundation of culture.
Then miracles start to happen when we recognise a pattern and instantly know the artist. “This is a Mondrian!”, we exclaim. That which we recognise is what we call “style”. It works wherever humans are active, the arts, technology, morse code and even the way we drive a car or a bike. A recogniseable style is an assett worth defending wherever you might have it, because you either have no style, then you cannot be identified or you do have a style then you will be copied. Having no style means having no identity and that feels like torture. Humans crave identity and are willing to do almost anything to achieve and protect it.
It happens in business, it happens in war. It happens in fine dining and engineering. Some are flattered, some are annoyed because of it, but in the end – there it is. Like a truth created during endless hours.
Artists have several styles, because a style stands for a certain individual identity and over time such an identity will change. Deliberate practice sets real artists apart from amateurs. As we develop a certain style, we explore ourselves in order to pour as much soul into a work as possible. Call it soul, call it spirit or creativity. It doesn’t matter. The more you explore yourself the more familiar you become with yourself which in turn changes who you are. It is like mechanics. This will result in a changed style – cruder, finer, louder, stronger, weaker… It could go anywhere from there, as long as there is development at all. Movement saves lives. Movement makes happy.
I am obsessed with style. It exists on so many levels and operates like a great teacher. Style of artistic expression, choice of themes and colors, handling my tools, documenting finished works and presenting them to the public. Every part of this machine can and must be improved constantly which leaves very little room for genius or inspiration. The muse is not a faithful friend. She is notoriously unreliable and will do nothing in terms of style. Style is up to us, and so is discipline.
In my visual language “The Magic of the Swarms”, I dissect silhouettes. Shapes of human beings, animals, symbols, plants and even words interact with each other in a geometrical way. The Magic of the Swarms is all about multitudes and connectivity. Just like the chemical elements appear and reappear all over the galaxy, complex human connections are interconnected and ubiquitous. It allows me to tell stories on canvas, to combine unlikely pairs and create landscape effects that are both abstract and figurative. When I look back at the line of my artistic ancestors, I can see Keith Haring and Penck, the makers of medieval church windows and even the artists of the cave paintings in Lascaux.
These ancients, too, played with light and outlines, created .
colorful stampedes of forms in motion. They told stories and celebrated color. Silhouettes fascinate me. They are both part of the thing they define and not part. Silhouettes are halos, as they are a two dimensional thing which describes a three dimensional object in a four dimensional world. Canvas is never plain. Not on a microscopic level and not in a spiritual sense. I don’t usually share such thoughts during shows or viewings. People don’t ask about it either, and perhaps I am secretly happy about this. My philosophy is not a secret I would guard like a magician would. There is no secret ingredient. Anyone can see what my paintings are all about and how they are made. It takes one second to get it, and yet, people keep looking, so I enjoy watching them explore my work as their eyes follow the intriguing black lines from silhouette to silhouette. It is all in their faces, when they understand the meaning of style and the possible story behind it. Then they smile – and so do I.