Clemens Behr is an artist whose growth has been visible year-on-year, his deconstructed installations being something that he's grown into, carving a unique niche in the contemporary art scene. He recently spoke to us about his connection to found objects and the inspiration behind his giant origami style artworks.
Behr didn't start out with installation and sculptural art, but the idea was always there, even unknowingly. During his earliest years, experimenting with different graffiti styles in various contexts, his pieces were often sprawling, exploratory motions in abandoned places, creations deeply imbued with imagination. His art was already a personal investment, the kinetic pieces a part of his daily being.
Colour and shape were already case specific and contextual, utilising the lived environment as a part of his art. What was around him became a part of the piece and in turn, the piece a part of the place. Physicality was important to Behr, even in those early stages, "To paint with materials gave a work not only colour and shape, but also the materiality."
Materiality is the physicality and kinetic aspect of the piece. It goes well beyond colour and form and reflects on the idea of texture and, in some cases, the processes involved in the material. Wood ties with the natural world where metal sheets jar, contrasting with his environment. Others, the pieces become a part of it.
The ideas continued to grow through his own travels, finding new materials, learning how to use them and then learning how to use them the "wrong way". Deconstruction permeates the whole process, from materials used to how they come together.
Although some of his materials are organic, its in the Brutalist mode of architecture that his angular works find a soulmate. Spotting particular facades, ones that, true to their name, feel brutal in their surroundings, truly not designed for people, yet are mesmerising in their beauty. Behr's pieces, particularly his earlier works, have the same aesthetic qualities to those modes of design.
Inside of his studio, Behr's output tends towards the more sculptural. It seems more thought-through and concept driven. But on-site pieces have another appeal entirely. They seem spontaneous, which makes sense. Just like his earlier days playing around with graffiti, Behr uses local materials, helping the pieces to always have a feeling of familiarity, even if we aren't actually aware of it.
Akin to the graffiti ethos is the ephemeral nature of his pieces. They're not permanent, rather constructions built for a purpose, which afterwards resume their initial form, planks, sheets, boxes and frames - some of which will be reused. Permanence is on Behr's horizon though. He's clear that the future holds great change, pieces that not only interact with the environment on a material level, but also physically.
Ideas involving drum-machines as a way to channel real kinetic energy, to transfer movement from the body to the art and, like his desire to use long-lasting materials like metals and concrete, show a willingness to keep experimenting, reinventing and building. The core idea has always been the same. Create something that feels, that experiences and in turn, gives the audience those same things.
Movement as concept has now developed into physical movement and materials are now something that Behr has grown to understand intimately, and wishes to commit them to history. Built to move and built to last, ideas that will take up the future works of Behr who, since a young kid painting, already had them germinating in him.
Art itself has lost a degree of interest to Behr. It can be tiresome and repetitive, but the ideas of space and how they can be used runs through his pieces and particularly his other main interest - music. A disciple of Gordon Matta-Clark, himself architecturally inclined, gives context to Behr's progression. Matta-Clark explored the notions of space and space seemed to be the underlining concept.
Space is everywhere, used positively and negatively, filled and left empty. Balanced or not. A voyage through space means Behr can answer the niggling questions in the back of his mind. Like the minimalist music that hinges on the pauses and found sounds, Behr's pieces promise to become more interactive, a cumulation of his work. Up until now we've looked at his world, soon we will be able to step into them.
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