London Paint Club

Artist Studio Visit
Lexia Hachtmann

Lexia Hachtmann’s artistic journey is a testament to the power of exploration and the transformative nature of art. From her early inclination towards non-traditional forms of art, such as installation, to her unexpected love for painting, Hachtmann is painting and probing painting as a medium itself.

Lexia Hachtmann (LH): The structure of art school in Germany allowed me to explore my creative interests freely. Although I was quite young when I joined, I had a strong inclination to experiment with everything but painting, like installation, print and photography. I was also always very much drawn to writing.

Kelly Foster (KF): Exploration seems to be a crucial phase.

LH: Absolutely, and this exploration led me to painting, the last thing I ver thought I would be doing. I worked exclusively with a specific canvas format, 45x35cm, for two years. It was good for me, to work through this format and to really understand it before expanding.

KF: So, mastering the process before moving to a bigger canvas was key for you.

LH: It helped me handle the complexities of painting without feeling overwhelmed. Interestingly, during the lockdown, I rediscovered the charm of working on a smaller scale. The interaction with a smaller canvas differs greatly from a larger one.

KF: Your small pieces have an object-like quality, almost sculptural.

LH: I’m fascinated by paintings extending into space, influenced by my experience with set design. These small works on wood can be hung or stacked, adding a dimensional element. The spaces in my paintings are also somewhat disjointed, creating a dialogue with the viewers.

KF: And your interest in installations influenced this spatial concept?

LH: Definitely. I’m intrigued by the distortion of space both within the painting and in the room. Lately, I’ve also been exploring into the fresco, as a way of working directly in conjunction with the architecture of a space, as well as mono-printing, which is adding another haptic as well as fragility to the work. 

KF: There is a series you are working on that depict video call aesthetics. I think artists using framing devices within painting create distinct viewer interactions.

LH:  Painting gives you the freedom to defy norms. In this series the viewer becomes the video caller. It is playing with notions around the self-portrait. On a material level I have been experimenting with disruptive grounds here to build a diffusing image with water-colours to mirror that moment, when the image freezes during the call due to a bad connection for example. I am also interested in the idea of the “non finito”, inspired by sculptors like Rodin and Michelangelo. Leaving something out is like composing the empty space, framing your narrative. 

KF: Lucian Freud did this, emphasising certain parts while leaving the rest blank. It’s like an architectural drawing.

LH: Freud’s unfinished pieces do this, while Rodin mastered this with intention. The fragment becomes the whole. I’ve been exploring the relationships between drawing and painting, questioning the nature of line and space. Light and colour often perform the same function as line in my works.

KF: You’ve also touched upon the nuances of language and communication.

LH: Yes. Language and communication can be intriguing. I feel that there is a gap between what we say and what we mean. Painting provides a space for me to express things that words sometimes cannot.

KF: So, do your paintings serve as an autobiographical medium, expressing personal ideas?

LH: It’s a mix. Some works emerge intuitively, and others derive from personal experiences, whilst others follow ideas. I think painting is a space of intuition and I’d stand in for this. That’s probably why I never work directly from photographs, only from drawings. I believe we need to discuss the nature of images in today’s fast-paced digital world.

KF: Could you share the process of translating an idea into a painting?

LH: To me, painting is like a stage. I introduce characters, feelings, or moods, and let them interact in a pick n drop way. The initial idea is just a starting point. Color and light are always paramount. I often ask how I can bring light into a monochrome palette, or use just a few colours to create depth. These technical questions also guide my painting process.

KF: Your framing techniques, body language, and dark colour palette effectively convey emotions, even with the absence of specific context.

LH: It’s about creating suggestive narratives that let viewers explore their own interpretations.

KF: Your artwork suggests a strong connection with the night, introspection, and dreaming. The faces in your works have a particular stylisation, influenced by German expressionism and the frescos of Francesca and Angelico. They seem to serve as placeholders for universal feelings.

LH: That’s true. I’m striving for a universal feeling in my figures. Even though my works are often described as dark and gloomy, they still hold a sense of harmony. I’ve also been told that my depictions have a sculptural quality.

KF: Do you have specific narratives behind your works? They seem to allude to different scenarios.

LH: Narrative is fascinating, but I don’t like to be too explicit. I strive to maintain a certain ambiguity in the works. I think the idea of the unknown, understandable or myth is underrated in a world in which we always try to understand everything.

KF: It reminds me of the theory of ‘the shadow’. We all harbour a dark side, abstract yet existent. Your work seems to explore these suppressed ‘demons’.

LH:  Revealing your work is like exposing that side of yourself. The connection to the work is crucial to provoke emotional responses. Even though fact and fiction lie close to one another, often overlapping, they are still different things.

KF: Your works do emanate an aura that encapsulates you more than words could. It invites discovery and forms a connection between the viewer and the artist.

LH: A sense of ambiguity urges more engagement from the viewer. The dynamic relationship between the observer and the painting is something that fascinates me. I think a lot about the way that the viewer situates themselves to the work in a space.

KF: The artist’s choices in their work, if not too literal, invite deeper examination and make the work more engaging.

LH: Yes. How you curate someone’s viewing experience of your work is essential to seeing it.

KF: Absolutely. The selection, sequence, and scale of artworks, as well as the gallery environment, all impact the viewer’s experience. Moreover, with the digital age and social media, our perception of artists is continually evolving. Displaying artwork involves careful consideration of format and scale. It’s interesting how smaller pieces draw viewers closer, while larger works evoke strong emotions.

LH: Or when rearranged, they tell an entire different stories, like a comic strip.

KF: It aligns with your exploration of communication and the unsaid, how we often talk past each other.

LH: Misunderstandings are common. It’s scary to me. It becomes even more apparent when navigating between languages. Words often fall short of capturing true intent. Humans communicate all the time – and love doing so – and, looking around, I still feel like we are quite bad at it.

KF: Indeed, there’s a deep-seated need to be heard and understood. Misunderstandings can cause disconnection and distress.

LH: Cultural differences in communication also play a significant role. The directness of German language can be perceived differently.

KF: Cultural nuances in communication are fascinating to observe. Different countries have unique approaches and attitudes.

LH: Absolutely. When traveling, I notice distinct attitudes and behaviours. For example, how ideas about rudeness or humour works differently in England and Germany.

KF: Are there any contemporary painters who inspire you?

LH: Luc Tyman, Jennifer Packer, Mark Lammert or Michael Armitage and non-painters, like Cyprien Gaillard, Anne Imhof, Hito Steyer or film-makers like Kaurismäki and the film-collective Total Refusal. Most artists I like have died.

KF: Many contemporary artists today expand their practices, blurring boundaries between mediums. Painting has an expansiveness that allows for diverse ideas.

LH: The boundary between figuration and abstraction seems to be dissolving. Painting encompasses various ideas and mediums. Maybe I say this because I am a painter, but these are interesting and challenging times for painting.

KF: Yes, painting has its own unique allure and expansiveness. Artists who stay true to their ideas will endure.

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