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Shining alien suns - The visual effects of lighting and atmosphere in deep space

Many of my paintings show star landscapes with deep and open galaxies. I find my motives in astrophotography magazines and work with film stills as quotes from science fiction movies. In addition, I use recordings from the Hubble Space Telescope as the starting material for my spherical image compositions. In this sense, I am fascinated by imagery documenting observations of the sky, and I love painting a wide variety of light phenomena. Light plays a fundamental role in our thinking in the form of metaphors and images. To translate terms such as glow, sparkle or shine into a visual language, I use an unusual and finely nuanced palette of blue shades. The current series on celestial globes and star nebulae examines the depth of light in deep space. The untouched nature in the vastness of space is, at the same time, unseen nature and opens up scope for interpretation.

My paintings show the glow of the stars in the nightly darkness as a moment of calm. The colour spectrum of the light is intended to astonish the viewer and take him away to a world of romance and silence.

I do not want to thematise the forlornness of the human being in the great expanse but try to ground the viewer's gaze in detail. I want to create a visual experience that touches through sensuality and strangeness by exaggerating the pictorial representation.

By working with the method of collaging and sampling, I test the boundaries between art and reality.

As a teenager, I read science fiction novels, such as Return from the Stars by Stanisław Lem and Roadside Picnic by the brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. Since then, I have read tons of science fiction novels with entirely different cultural backgrounds. For that reason, I assembled a vast collection of books, which I have built upon the two first novels.

My artistic work stands in the tradition of American artists Vija Celmins and Russel Crotty. Celmins's East-European roots and aesthetics resonate with me and my way of seeing and sensing art, especially when focusing on astronomy.

I think my interest in the concepts of travel, including space travel, has something to do with the cultural divide that existed before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It fascinates me to read about past generations of painters, architects, and writers in the former zone of Soviet influence and their limitations concerning travel.

The planetarium in my hometown of Jena was one of the rare places where dreaming about travelling (to the stars) was allowed and not restricted. The town's main attractions were the simulations of stellar skies and demonstrations of planetary runs at 360-degree shows. I attended countless performances in the planetarium during my childhood, a place conceived as a walk-in celestial globe. I experienced the highly enveloping experience of an artificial starry sky at an early age.

My enthusiasm for astronomy and space travel awoke at this place and continues in my work today.

The most significant question over the last 15 years of my career remains the same: How do I make a respectable living in a creative career that does not compromise personal values?

There are different types of artists, and depending on, for instance, the medium used, there may be drastically different production workflows.

My painting process is prolonged because of the many details I try to depict in the vast space. Sometimes it seems that it takes thousands of hours in the year to make my art. It always comes the moment when I get itchy that I will never get my painting finished. Many artists like me work long hours, seven days a week, and hardly ever take holidays.

The main problem is that artists believe – and are often taught – that their primary function is self-expression.

Today, I know that art is a visual language, and its purpose is communication. My challenge is how to meet my needs for self-expression while remaining in contact with my audience and art collectors.

Every day I keep learning about my craft and painting skills because the better I understand them, the less time and effort I will have to expend to finish my next painting for you.

Anne Wölk


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