American painter Brian Ruthenberg runs a video series on YouTube which has changed completely how I looked at painting. With 40+ years as a painter there is bucket loads to learn from this man, but the one thing that has resonated with me like nothing else is the idea to paint from exactly where you stand. Because that is your view and your view only.
So I followed his idea of putting a nail down into the ground through my foot exactly in the very place I was born and paint only what I see whilst turning around and around. Circling the same space, with my point of view in the center.
Yes, I hear you... and you're right: me, me, me! In general life I don't like this idea of being self centred either. But it's also true that for whatever we create to make sense, it has to be born from someone's very own inner perspective into the world. Otherwise it's just going to be a little pointless.
With this in mind I will follow the same principle in my blog. In the center though isn't me but what I see around me. Which is mainly walls in a post-industrial, urban setting.
So let me drive the pin into the ground: after many years in Hamburg and London I am now back in the Ruhr metropolitan area in Germany, which is where I was born and raised. We call this area "Kohlenpott" (or just "Pott", in English: "coal pot", you might have guessed it). This used to be Europe's largest industrial region, known for it's colleries and steel production. Today it is still large with about 5 Million inhabitants across it's 53 intertwined towns and cities, but the former industrial powerhouse has definitley passed it's expiry date.
In short: this is not where you'll be going for your next holiday! Despite a lot of forests and even rural parts it really isn't that pretty here. On top of that it's not hip or cool either. There is a somewhat rebellious lack of engagement for paying 6€ for an oat latte just to be seen as being someone who spends 6€ on an oat latte. So really, there is no oat latte here at all - imagine that!
And still I have put my nail in the ground here, in the land of little hope and latte. Hamburg, Berlin just hours away - why am I here? And why on Earth would I make walls inspired by this dam*** place?
Fair enough, marketing paintings inspired by the walls of hipster Berlin would be easier. Filling an Insta profile with pictures of bohemian Hamburg, too. Gelsenkirchen however is a really hard sell - even for myself.
But of course the beauty of this place lies in it's complete imperfection and apparent hopelessness. You have to make an effort to find beauty, and as always in life, whatever takes effort feels so much better when you achieve/find/get it.
In the melancholy of this place, there is always a glimmer of hope. These walls, with their weathered paint peeling off the surface, 80s graffities and shopwindows they stand here testament to their resilience. Awaiting transformation which might or might not come, yet there is always a second chance to reclaim their place in the urban narrative. Walls are stories, they evoke a blend of melancholy and drama. In the city you migth be surrounded by many but your vantage point is yours alone.
It's exactly from that lonely little place in the middle of this post-everything-town where my paintings are narrated from. A bit raw but never without hope.
Off to catch a coffee now. Take care, S
PS: Here's how to make a good oat milk latte yourself. Just in case you're feeling it today. (Other coffe and oat milk brands available)