Florian Slotawa opens a new exhibition at von Bartha, Basel

New works are on display in which the conceptual artist pairs objects painted in car paint lacquers with readymade objects in matching or complementary colours.

In an interview for the gallery, Slotawa described how he selects the colours he uses in his works, why he likes using car lacquer as a medium, and how his works are about painting, yet somehow he is not quite a painter.

How did you develop this exhibition?
My previous show at von Bartha S-chanf in 2014 was a starting point for this show, I knew I wanted to work with car lacquer, but I didn’t want to work on canvas. As soon as you work with canvas, it’s a painting; even if it’s on an aluminium plate, it’s a painting, and I wanted to avoid that. So, then I had to look for a material to put the colour on.
I didn’t want to use readymades, because I had been working with readymades before. I had been doing big installations of furniture from my apartment and other objects, and I wanted to separate it, and to take a new step.
I had the idea to apply the colour on to wood, wood from the forest, in its natural form; wooden tree trunks, the branches. I applied it to the branches, and made wall pieces, and a big stack like firewood. The work was more than two meters high, in the centre of the gallery like a sculpture.

Which comes first? The colours or the objects?
It’s the colour. I find the colours on the street. When I’m going around in a car in Berlin, of course there’s traffic jams all the time, so you have a car in front of you. I always think “Oh, that’s a great blue. I want to have this blue”.
From finding these colours on the street, I still needed the objects, so I looked for readymade objects that would fit with the chosen colour. Either a colour that matches, one that was similar, or had a big contrast.

What interests you about the cars and the car lacquer?
It’s not so much about the cars. I’m not a car freak. What I like is that there is a system that I can refer to. There are 20 or 30 companies that produce different cars, and each of them produce a certain number of colours each year.
If I go to Nature, then there’s the question of “What’s the colour of this flower – the red rose?” You can’t go to a shop and ask them to mix you the colour of the rose, because there are so many shades, whereas with the cars there are no shades: You just go to the paint shop, and they can give you the exact colour that you have seen on the street.

What is the relationship between the object and the colour?
I think there should be a tension somehow. There should be a kind of energy in between them, and of course it has to do with the object. For example, there is a tray with pictures of these bamboo grids, and it’s a little bit kitschy, but my grid is not kitschy, because there is a conversation between the tray and my green grid. I don’t know if the piece is funny, but I want there to be a balance somehow.

Where will you go next?
That is always the big question, what is the next work? I feel that this is a work about painting, without me being a painter. I don’t want to take the step into painting, because then I think I would be lost, because there is such a big history of painting. It’s about thinking about painting, without really painting.

Florian Slotawa is at von Bartha, Basel from April 9 — May 28, 2016