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Exploring the symbiotic relationship between art and nature

– an interview with Mevlana Lipp

Mevlana Lipp's works have been featured in numerous exhibitions, including 'Lost in translation', Plus One Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium (2021); 'Poisonous kiss, lovely venom', Tick Tack Gallery, Antwerp (2020); '03', PM/AM Gallery, London, UK (2020); 'Mixed Pickles 7', Ruttkowski Gallery, Cologne (2020); 'Calypso', Public Gallery, London (2020); 'Eden', KUK-Cologne Gallery, Cologne (2019); "Basic Instinct" Ak-Raum, Cologne, Germany (2019) and 'Paradise regained', Kulturbahnhof Eller, Düsseldorf (2019), among others. 

"This longing for the elemental simplicity of nature, which I enjoyed so much as a child, is still the driving force behind my work today."

Could you tell us about your artistic practice and how it has evolved over the years?

I studied sculpture at the art academy but then also engaged a lot with video art. The work I do today is a combination of these two genres. The fascination of the different materials and the haptic exploration of sculpture combine with my interest in the narrative and atmospheric qualities of video art.

How did your upbringing in a rural area of Germany inspire you work?

Direct access to nature and seclusion have certainly had a strong influence on me. To this day, I quickly feel lost and overwhelmed in big cities. Today, as it was then, nature is a place of retreat that gives me stability and peace. This longing for the elemental simplicity of nature, which I enjoyed so much as a child, is still the driving force behind my work today.

What does a typical day at your studio look like?

I am someone who works in a very structured way and enjoys the routine. I usually come to my studio between 9 and 10 every day. After a quick breakfast, I work on several pieces at once to make productive use of the drying time of each piece. At lunchtime I meet up with other artists working in the same building. We cook together, chat about our work and life in general. After that I work, with short coffee breaks, until I go home between 5 and 6pm. In the evening, at home, I take care of administrative things and sketch.

Could you tell us a little more about ‘Unfolding’? What is the genesis of this work?

The technique of etching has interested me for a long time and I was very happy to have the opportunity to implement it for the first time with this edition. In some of my works appear small butterfly-like creatures that interact with plants. The idea for the work 'Unfolding' was to show the birth of these creatures. They hatch from a flower, similar to pollen which then fertilise other flowers. They themselves are a hybrid of plant and animal and thus a kind of next evolutionary step from the beings I usually depict.

Can you describe the etching process?

After I had the idea, I started to make several sketches. I chose one and transferred it to a coated copper plate. Then I used a needle to poke thousands of small holes in the coating to work out the shades and draw the outer lines. After this process, the plate was etched for the first time and the acid went through the holes in the coating and left its marks in the cooper. Then followed several steps in which I recoated the plate and worked just on certain details which got a second acid bath. I also used small brushes and solvents to achieve a kind of marble effect that I also use in my wooden reliefs. Finally, the finished plate was then printed on a hand-dyed coral colored background of Japanese paper and glued to the white base.

What is your definition of art? What makes a good work of art in your opinion?

For me, art is a personal expression that reveals something that reflects the subjective perception of reality of the artist. The expression comes from within and is unique in its specific nature. If I have the feeling of seeing something real and authentic in a work, I consider it a good piece of art.

Mevlana Lipp, Unfolding, 2021

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Mevlana Lipp, Lush, 2021

Mevlana Lipp, Network, 2021

Do you listen to anything when you work?

Oh yes, very much so! I listen to a lot of podcasts, mainly on scientific or political topics. I also listen to a lot of audio books, classics as well as modern sci-fi and crime stories. In a way, listening helps me to be more in the moment and not think too much about work. I have found that I often make better decisions in my work when I rely more on my subconscious and don't get too analytical about it. The podcasts and audiobooks keep the awake part of my mind busy so that the subconscious part can do its work undisturbed. I also love music, but I rarely listen to it while I work because I react very emotionally to it which is more of a distraction.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you do?

I would probably be a biologist or wildlife filmmaker.

What are your artistic influences, if any?

I adore artists like Hilma af Klint, Henri Rousseau, Karl Blossfeldt and Max Ernst. However, various nature documentaries, starting with Jaques Cousteau in my childhood, have certainly had just as great an influence on me.

If you could own any piece of art, what would it be?

Oh, that's hard! Maybe 'Tree of Knowledge, No. 1' by Hilma af Klint. 'Joy of Life' by Max Ernst would also be great. But I can’t decide. There are many other that I can think of too.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I am working on sketches for new reliefs. I have a few new ideas that I want to try out soon in my studio. I am also finishing works for West Bund Shanghai.