The online editorial and curatorial project for reductive, geometric and systems artists working in the UK
Interview with Lothar Götz by Hannah Hughes
August 2015, recorded at the artist’s studio
©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock All rights reserved.
HH: Lothar – I’d like to start by talking about your drawing process. What is
the starting point for your recent works -
LG: Lots of these drawings are the ground plans for imagined spaces or situations;
they are sometimes very clearly for a certain person or situation. I did a series
called Houses for Bauhaus Masters -
It has changed a bit for these new line drawings, where I would say that the formal
aspect is not so important; they are more about a setting and more vague in that
aspect – more about over-
Lothar Götz, Connection, Whitechapel Gallery, London Open, 2015, Photograph by Andy Keate, Courtesy of domobaal
HH: I was intrigued by the surface of one of your recent drawings Purple Rain
(2014), in which the wood grain remained visible through the background wash of gouache.
Is the quality of the surface material important to your drawing in general, and
does this relate to your negotiation of pre-
LG: I want to see the material. The wood does kind of break up the line a little bit, I like that quality because you can see the irregularities. This is similar in the wall paintings… I like the history of a wall, even if there is unevenness, or if the wall curves a little bit. Before you start working with a wall, you don’t really notice lots of things. I find it quite interesting that spaces that look, at the first view, really perfect, the moment you start working with them you realise that it is not true. Or the moment that you stop the wall being all white, you notice what is added or different. I enjoy it more to work in spaces which are slightly difficult or are slightly muddled up. I find the perfect space a little bit scary, because if there are no imperfections at all, the first statement is quite radical.
Lothar Götz, Untitled #11, 2012, Photograph by Andy Keate, Courtesy of domobaal
Lothar Götz, Purple Rain, 2014 Gouache, pencil and coloured pencil on board 120 x 90 cm Courtesy of domobaal
HH: Are your colour arrangements pre-
LG: I do plan, partly – I obviously choose the background colour, and then I choose
a set of colours – usually I select around eight. But I do break these rules; if
I want a different colour I add that, it's quite responsive. I think of it like painting
with pencil. In the site-
HH: Are the formal ideas for your site-
LG: I start with connecting elements in the space to form my shape for the painting.
The most important decisions are probably made in the space, and then the fine-
The works are all about tension or discrepancy between the reality of the space and
an abstract idea. I see the space, and I design this abstract painting in my studio,
which then changes again completely because of the reality of the space. The moment
it’s painted onto a wall, it becomes part of the space -
HH: Is there ever a process of revision involved in translating the painting into that space, once you arrive on site?
LG: There is a time where it is getting adjusted to the space. Even having done it for years, I find it staggering that the moment you come the second time, it looks so different. You always overlook tons of things. The colours are usually fixed; they are decided. For the shapes, sometimes you have to make decisions on the fringes of the work. Do I stop with a line here? Do I leave that white? Do I paint the skirting board? Usually they are quite conceptual decisions; do I paint only the wall and nothing that sticks or will be painted? Or do I paint it and make it disappear?
HH: You originally started out studying design at university in Germany – how has this influenced your later practice?
LG: I started in Aachen where I studied visual communication. I chose design because
I was a huge fan of modernism and Bauhaus. I didn’t want to go to the Academy, because
I thought they were just drawing horses there! Then I did theory mainly – I did an
MA in aesthetics at the University of Wuppertal with Bazon Brock, which was quite
an experimental course where they had architects, designers and artists, and they
did their own kind of MA. Afterwards I studied at an academy at Dusseldorf, and then
painting at the Royal College in London.Architecture was always a big influence,
and I was probably more passionate looking at buildings than going to an art gallery,
for a long time. I think that I love the spaces where I can transform myself into
a different identity or world. I was never really interested in the functionality
of places – it was mainly either non-
Lothar Götz, Festival of Love, I Have a Dream, 2014, Photograph by Andy Keate, Courtesy of domobaal
HH: I was interested to hear that you were influenced by the Baroque as well as Modernist architecture?
LG: Yes, this is something that I discovered later. Baroque is something that
I grew up with, because in Southern Germany you have lots of Baroque churches and
castles. We had one church where we always went, which had an amazing ceiling painting
and it was a fantastic late Baroque, almost Rococo, architecture. When I was a student,
I loathed Baroque and didn’t want anything to do with it! I wanted the opposite –
it was later when I realized a connection with the way that I look at space; I was
hugely influenced by the idea of Baroque architecture, which is a celebration of
HH: We first met during a recent panel discussion hosted by Saturation Point at Flowers Gallery. During this, the question was raised as to whether the modernist notion of a Utopian dimension to abstraction was still relevant to the practices of artists working with systems and geometry today, or whether it was a failed experiment. You responded by saying that you were interested in finding your own ‘personal utopia’, but that you were also interested in exploring a ‘darker side’ of abstraction. How does this manifest itself in your work?
LG: When you work in the public realm, let’s say an entrance hall in a public
building, and you make an intervention through colour, I think you do add a different
layer of meaning to the space. Any person going in there has the possibility to
escape into that space. They can transform themselves. And this has something to
do with Utopia, because anywhere that you can transform yourself into something that
is not the day-
When we talk about visions, we think of something positive, but there are of course negative visions and how would you then abstract that? If I wanted to dig a little and discover the ‘dark side’, I found this extremely difficult… to explore that with colour – is everything then black? The thing is that black is immediately stylish – so dark feelings just start looking elegant – and I found this personally difficult.
Lothar Götz, Untitled 2012, Photograph by Michael Franke, Courtesy of domobaal
HH: Your public art projects include the Festival of Love at the Royal Festival Hall; the London Underground; and at schools and hospitals. Do you respond to these in a very different way than you might in an art gallery situation?
LG: I think what is different in a municipal space, for example a hospital, is
that you have a given context to which you can respond, and that is completely out
of my control. In a gallery space, you can change things; it is more of a blank canvas
and not everything necessarily has to stay the same. Along with the architecture,
there is a social element (the use of a space), which is as important as the architecture
or the spatial quality. The moment you enter a public space there is this question
of responsibility -
HH: So, can it be a relief to come back to the studio?
LG: I think you need both. For years, I did mainly site-
HH: What are you working on next?
LG: I am working on a show next year in February at the Collection Museum, Lincoln, where I will do a wall painting in response to the Duncan Grant murals in Lincoln Cathedral. After I graduated from the Royal College, [fellow student] George Shaw took me there. It’s very yellow, and I really responded to that. I start working on that over the summer.
HH: Thank you very much, Lothar.
The London Open 2015 runs to 6 September at the Whitechapel Gallery, London E1
HH: The recent drawings appear to have some underlying geometry and rules, but they also have irregularities – how do you plan them, and at what point do the marks become intuitive?
LG: I do measure at first. [In Purple Rain] it is very simple; here the important
thing is a diagonal line. I don’t measure the distances between the other lines;
this is done by hand and eye. In Purple Rain it’s a little bit irregular and that’s
really important to me. One could do that with a completely perfect computer printout,
but that’s not what I'm interested in. In Untitled (2012) there is some measuring
of the bands; there is a fixed line, but the other ones end wherever they end. They
feel like they are getting meshed – it is like weaving a carpet. In Reflection-
Lothar Götz, Reflection-
Lothar Götz, Goldrausch, 2015, Photograph by Andy Keate, Courtesy of domobaal
Lothar Götz, Circus, Chapter, Cardiff, 2012, Courtesy of domobaal