2015 / People

viennacontemporary 2015 | ZONE1 Artist Clemens Wolf

Read the interview with Austrian artist Clemens Wolf, whose solo show will be presented by Galerie Silvia Steinek (booth A24) in the framework of ZONE 1.


Text & Interview: Markus Krennmayr

Visiting Clemens Wolf’s workshop in the fifteenth district of Vienna, one can make out the distinct smell of metal. We enter his studio, located in the rear house of a turn-of-the-century tenement, via a courtyard that is filled with steel sheets, iron rods, and an ancient heavy-duty lift. “How convenient to find an abandoned factory in the heart of Vienna!” one might think.

The impression of abandonment is deceiving: He has a neighbor — a metal constructor who would heavily influence his later work. Clemens Wolf, born 1981 in Vienna, took up his fine arts studies in 2002. He finished his studies within five years at the University of Arts in Linz, won the Diesel New Art Award in 2006 and the Strabag Art Award in 2009, and hosted his first solo-exhibition. In his seemingly classical studio we find sculptures that are milled, melded or cut out of metal. And though his work is rough and brutish, Clemens possesses a sensitive character — an artist who loves to share his, at first glance, possibly not-so-accessible creations.

GOLDEN GATE_BadGastein_2013-2


Markus Krennmayr: Clemens, in your work the fence reoccurs. Would one be correct in seeing a symbol of distance therein? 

Clemens Wolf: Yes, I’m all about distance but also about proximity. The fence is a symbol of sepa- ration, not optical but rather physical sep- aration. The closer I get to a fence, the less it is present — it’s a paradox. Actually it should be the other way around: the closer I get to something it should become more present. But with a fence it isn’t — the closer I get to it the more abstract it becomes and it also becomes less pre- sent because the view of what lies behind opens up.

You gained recognition as an artist for your golden fences. How do you change them and how does their presence change when you gild them?

The golden fence was one of my first works, a gold plated construction fence. The gilding was significant for the idea of a construction fence: on the one hand it should serve as a boundary, however easily crossed. So it represents more of a financial boundary, to remind of who owns what lies behind it. Later I made the installation “Goldener Käfig” (golden cage — a gilded basketball cage along the Wiener Gürtel), which is a symbol for alternate possibilities one has but does not or cannot use. That’s the idea behind all of my gold work: the refining and putting into focus of something that gets no at- tention in everyday life — a construction fence does not cost much, no one cares about it, there are thousands of them throughout the city. I wanted to show the idea, function and especially the barrier it portrays.

Clemens Wolf, All that glisters is not gold. Permanent intervention in public space, Vienna, 2010

Clemens Wolf, All that glisters is not gold. Permanent intervention in public space, Vienna, 2010

How can one envisage your process? 

I find inspiration everywhere in urban areas. I begin with a section of a fence that I adapt according to the work I’m creating. What’s exciting is the transformation from a photo or an object to the pictured medium. I also find it fascinating that the appearance is totally changed according to the transformation method. I cut my steel-pieces out of 8 millimeter sheet steel with a plasma cutter, which I learned to use from my next-door- neighbor, a metal constructor and worker. One of these sheets weighs 140 kilograms. The completed pieces can hardly be lifted by one person, but when the finished creations are mounted on the wall, the materiality fades into the background. Suddenly, such a piece appears to be delicate and light, almost like a pencil drawing.

The finished pieces almost seem to be stencils for street art. 

There is definitely a parallel. As in a stencil, everything has to be connected so that it doesn’t fall apart. What I like about the plasma cutter, is the imperfection of the machine. The result is in a way always raw and flawed. It emphasizes the character of the pieces. In other areas I prefer perfection. I love a shirt that is sewn flawlessly, but in my work, ›perfect‹ does not mean immaculate. The fences I look for are also bent, torn, mended and imperfect.



So you have a reverse street art approach? You bring the street into the studio? 

Absolutely, I don’t distill from the studio into the street, but from urban space
into the gallery. These broken, weathered fences have a similarity to ruins. Through their transformation into sculptures, something like a Monument of the Broken is formed.

With this background, what do you think about street artists who have established themselves and who now only exhibit in studios and galleries? 

For me the two are mutually exclusive. I think that street art or graffiti has no place in a gallery. This form of art and of communications only obtains its force in public space and often through the violation of the right of property. The art form needs the cityscape and at the moment, when it is taking place in galleries, the term is no longer fitting.

With this in mind, no one should complain if, for instance, a ›Banksy‹ is painted
over or disappears. Whoever indulges in painting on the street has to reckon that they will disappear again. That is a condition of the art form. Especially when you call ownership into question with your art, you cannot claim the same for your work in the public space.

In another interview you mentioned that your interest for art was roused by the Old Masters. Assuming your works are presented in an art history museum in 100 years, how do you think they would be perceived, what would they say about the present? 

Difficult question. I like it when art has a sociopolitical context. In mine there is a certain morbid, gloomy touch — there are definitely no smileys in my pictures. Upheaval, incursion, uncertainty. When I think about my time I have to say that the golden cage is really a good symbol. This multitude of possibilities but at the same time a certain lethargy to use them or a lack of opportunity to change anything. Is the cart bogged down? I hope not.


Clemens Wolf lives and works in Vienna. He is represented by Galerie Steinek, Vienna, Galerie Nikolaus Ruzicska, Salzburg.  http://www.clemenswolf.com 

This interview by Markus Krennmayr was originally published in KRAFT MAGAZINE #4, a magazine by Kraft Studio  (http://kraftstudio.net) and Grundtner & Söhne (www.grundtnerundsoehne.com).

At the new venue, Marx Halle, viennacontemporary will allow for galleries to present young artists in solo exhibitions. ZONE1, which up to now has been restricted to Austrian artists, will also be open to international artists this year.

Also this year, the Austrian Federal Chancellery supports the participating young artists from Austria.


Photos from http://www.clemenswolf.com:

  1. Clemens Wolf, Photo: EVA ISAK
  2. Clemens Wolf, Golden Gate, gold spray paint on iron fence, Bad Gastein, 2013
  3. Clemens Wolf, Never ending story, oil on shopping carts, 2011-2013
  4. Clemens Wolf, All that glisters is not gold. Permanent intervention in public space, Vienna, 2010
  5. Clemens Wolf, All that glisters is not gold. Permanent intervention in public space, Vienna, 2010
  6. Clemens Wolf, ‘Untitled – Die Theatralik der Bedeutungslosigke, Installation view, Gallerie Steinek, Vienna, 2013
  7. Clemens Wolf,  ‘Untitled – Die Theatralik der Bedeutungslosigke, Installation view, Gallerie Steinek, Vienna, 2013


One thought on “viennacontemporary 2015 | ZONE1 Artist Clemens Wolf

  1. Pingback: viennacontemporary 2015 | Guided Tours | #viennacontemporary Magazine

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