Workaholic // Wolfe von Lenkiewicz

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The art world is hardly devoid of characteristic and idiosyncratic individuals, yet even among these, Wolfe von Lenkiewicz stands out. At first glance his work is a reproduction: a painstaking recreation of works that have defined the canon of art history and the visual culture of today. But look closer and and a wealth of innovation is revealed, subtle changes that render his paintings considered, philosophical, and undeniably appealing.

Von Lenkiewicz revisits everything from Picasso to Dürer, da Vinci to Disney, creating canvases that are far more intriguing than simple reenactments. Punning on the greats of former times, they subvert the ideas at the very cornerstone of artistic greatness: those of originality and irreproducibility: his predecessors are twisted and melded together, the whole with a dark and subtle humour that provokes and entrances. Nothing is safe under his transformative brush: the most canonical works, works of ‘genius’, coexist with the most replicated icons of popular culture, while his skilful depiction of his subjects counteracts the ‘lack of technical skill’ so often touted in criticism of contemporary art – it gives the works their arresting impact, and renders von Lenkiewicz a force to be reckoned with. With a host of solo exhibitions under his belt, and a new and comprehensive monograph set for release in January, we caught up with the artist to discover more about the processes behind his work, and discussed questions of identity in the awesome surroundings of his Belgravia studio.

Von Lenkiewicz in San Lorenzo, Rome, 2013 working on the ‘The Journey’s End’

Von Lenkiewicz in San Lorenzo, Rome, 2013 working on the ‘The Journey’s End’

Who are you and what do you do.

I’m not sure i have any identity. i had to sacrifice myself and paradoxically became an artist. I’m like a method actor walking through different centuries.

Where is your workspace?

My studio is in Belgravia in the heart of London, near the embassies.

What made you turn to this direction? Was this always your dream job?

My father and mother were artists so I thought it was the only commendable profession. It’s not so much a job as a way of life.

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How much of the week is work, how much is play?

How honest do I want to be! I can’t be honest. If I were to be honest it would be utterly shocking. Maybe Charles Bukowski could talk about it; I can’t talk about it.

What has been the most exciting thing you have done with your work, and what is a dream situation you’d like to find yourself in?

A dream situation… I would like to build Étienne Boullée’s cenotaph to Issaac Newton to Hyde Park corner. But it would involve moving the arch – though that’s been done before. It’s not a problem. And demolishing the west corner of Buckingham palace… it’s quite possible.

But excitement gets in the way of my clear vision… no – completely numb, nothing. Not in my work. Maybe in my life.  I was walking by the Serpentine yesterday and I saw a black swan.

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How do you define the personal style of your work?

All styles. And all future potentials too.

You’re always working with the material of other artists. Do you ever feel competitive, intimidated?

I have a profound respect for most of the artists I work with. But I have to make them collaborate with other artists. And it’s also important to work with mediocrity. Everything has to be democratic for new ideas to generate.

Wolfe von Lenkiewicz, Man with a Pipe, 2014–15, oil on canvas, 300 × 200 cm

Wolfe von Lenkiewicz, Man with a Pipe, 2014–15, oil on canvas, 300 × 200 cm

What’s something someone may not know about you?

Some things have to remain secret. What’s not illegal? I had a dead corpse under my bed for some time.

Anything else you would like to say or for us to know?

I think that’s a good start.

Wolfe von Lenkiewicz’s monograph, by Anomie Publishing, will be launched at Waterstones Picadilly, London, on the 21st of January. His ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ is on show at Musée de Quai Branly, Paris, in early 2016.

Interview & photography – @_elenaellen

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