Upon his first solo show at HVW8 in Berlin, German artist Andrew Westermann discusses how his physical activity stimulates his creativity. Andrew’s artwork, filled with skull motifs and handwritten messages, invites the viewer into his shifting state of mind. Through brisk, colorful gestures and repetitive movements that form his dynamic abstractions, Andrew sets an unmatched rhythm while creating his body of work.
How would you describe your recent work? These are works from different stages in my life. They range from bad to good to a lot of stuff on one canvas to simpler pieces. Skulls are always in my art. I’m obsessed with the idea that everyone is going to die (eventually). I don’t know where it comes from. Watching movies as a kid, I was always super emotional when people die. I would reflect on it deeply and would cry for days. It’s a reminder that time is limited. It’s one of my main motivations. Every time I look at blank canvas, the first thing I see are eyes and then the nose and I abstract the symbol to just three elements because I think we’re nothing but bones. My newer pieces are more minimal with lots of texture and bigger motifs. I started to work with spray cans recently. You don’t know what’s going to happen. I like that element of the uncontrollable. From observing Basquiat, I realized that, although this dude couldn’t really draw or paint, the connection from mind to hand can make amazing pictures. Everything from his head just pours out. That’s what got me going.
What inspires your creative process? As a kid, I was obsessed with old, epic paintings, especially Michelangelo. I'm not religious, but I connect with religious imagery or anything mythological. I love churches. Growing up in Cologne, you are surrounded by some of the most romantic, old churches in the world, and also Kölner Dom, the largest cathedral. I like to go in and look at them. When it comes to modern churches, it's actually more of my interest, in terms of architecture, like the church by Le Corbusier. I love Brutalist architecture as well. I always find something I like in everything because I don't want to say I don't like something completely. It's good to find one good thing in everything.
You played soccer and tennis growing up. How has your history of playing sports and being active affect your art and why is it important to your process?
As a kid, I was always running and jumping everywhere. Even in my art, it’s me moving around. I can’t do nice, slow strokes. When my mind is filled with ideas and feelings, I just need to get it out. In soccer and tennis, you have rapid, powerful movements and it’s the same in my stroke. It’s also the urge to want to get better. Working on my forehand for a week is similar to working with spray cans for a week. You keep practicing until you get it the way you want it. There are so many paintings where I’ve painted over ten times and you need to keep working on it until you get it right.
What sort of goals do you set for yourself, both in your work and in sport? Do they ever align? Yes. It’s about getting better [in your craft]. In paintings, it’s maybe about working bigger. In sports, it’s about getting more precise with your movements. For both, you want to keep progressing and not stay in the same spot. You train with the goal and mindset of going further and pushing yourself.
JACQUES is built on the foundation of movement, momentum, and progression to encourage activity in both mind and body. What inspires you to be active? I feel the most active when I’m running. I run like a maniac. I bolt for 20 minutes, until I fall over. It also clears my mind to precisely know exactly what I want to do. It’s my way of clearing out to go again. I like to run in the forest. I grew up next to a forest [outside of Cologne, Germany]. When I visit home, I try to go every day. Soccer gets my aggression out, and to calm myself, I’ve been meditating. I meditate on my bed every morning for ten minutes to concentrate on my breathing. And recently, I started to practice yoga.
Text: Ahnna Lee
Photography: Mustafah Abdulaziz