An Interview with Peter Zimmermann on “Sticker”

Abdullah Ezik


Abdullah Ezik talked with Peter Zimmermann about the “Sticker” exhibition held at Dirimart, his art practice, and recent works.

Your new solo exhibition “Sticker” was opened in Dirimart recently. In this exhibition, you focus on virtual algorithms that you embroider on the canvas with a unique technique. First of all, how would you describe this technique that is unique to you?

Once I found the motive, which is generated by graphic algorithms on the computer. I start the painting process. The motive is projected onto the canvas. I define the outlines of the different shapes and start to layer the transparent colored epoxy. Every layer drys over night, so the next I continue with the next color. It’s a slow painting process and there is a lot of space for accidents. 

“Digitalization” is one of the important issues of the era, which has attracted your attention since the 1990s and is reflected in your productions. Representation processes related to digitization can also be expressed as an important topic in this context. In what context does digitalization take place in your productions?

Digitalization. Behind the visible surface every digital image is a text. It can be modified in any direction. It doesn’t have the quality of a documentary foto anymore. It can be used to tell any story: alternative facts! I have no solution for this. I try to deal with this fact in my paintings. 

“Error” is a topic that we encounter frequently, especially in the digital world, and where many different issues are brought up for discussion. Many sub-headings such as the meaning of the error, its response, and the solutions that can be produced against it can also come into play at this point. You put forward the idea that “a place where there is no such thing as error” can exist. So where is this place and how does this situation/thought respond to you in your works?

Error: The origin of the epoxi-series is actually a screenshot of a file that crashed back than when computers did not run so stable an nowadays. I printed it out and presented it in a show at The Agency, 1995 in London. So ever since I tried to artificially create mistakes which is a actually an anachronism. 

The stickers covering the large walls in the exhibition area are an important emphasis that becomes more meaningful both in the title of the exhibition and in the big picture it reveals. The place of memes and stickers in today’s world is also remarkable at this point. How did the idea of working on stickers develop?

Stickers: While my early epoxi works deal with the “truth” of images the sticker works focuses on the fact how an algorithm structures individual objects. I am fascinated by these patterns or ornament  that arise when you change certain parameters. The “Sierpinski triangle” is a very good example for this. 

Emptying the content/meanings of images and sometimes giving them new meanings is one of the situations frequently encountered in contemporary art. How do you approach this issue in your art? What kind of space does the hollowing out of images and the reproduction of the same images around other concepts and ideas open up an area for the artist?

Emptying out paintings: I would more likely describe this as a process of abstraction, to reduce the painting to its essentials. It’s also a game with references that already exist in the painting system, at the same time making visible the technical conditions and inscripted limitations of the machinery. 

The pictorial objects you produce through digital templates become “real” after a while and open up a new field of influence in a new context. How did the stencils becoming real and turning into resin images come to light in the context of your art practice?

Stencils: The stencils is a more recent development within the epoxi series. I isolated certain basic shapes from earlier paintings in order to find out more about patterns that are created through parameters like repetition, size, color, overlapping, etc. The sticker works somehow influencers this paintings. 

You deconstruct and transform photos, frames, and diagrams with graphic algorithms. It is remarkable that you deal with real objects and elements so closely and draw other meanings/functions/results from them. So, how do you go about transferring the data/objects you have obtained as a result of this attempt to the canvas through transparent layers?

Transparent layers: In order to transfer images that are meant to exist on screens in RGB mode the obvious method would be to to print-outs. Since I am a painter, I developed this technic with transparent layers, which has similarities with a four color print. If you overlap a red and yellow layer you will get orange. Blue and yellow turns out green. 

You have been working with the help of an algorithm called “Van Gogh Key” since 2014 and you have been producing various works using this method. What is this algorithm and what is its place/correspondence in your art works?

Van Gogh Key: That’s an application that was running on mobile phones some years ago. It was called Paintit. Unfortunately they didn’t update it to the new iphone operating system. Paintit turned any photo in a Van Gogh like brush stroke structure. I was really impressed by the results so I decided to use them as the starting point for my oil paintings series. 

As a final question, stratification is one of the important issues in your work. Both your resin paintings and your sticker works consist of overlaid and enhanced layers. This multi-layered structure brings with it new meanings and new looks. What does stratification mean for you, both in terms of intellectual and production practice?

Stratification: There is a nice image for this. The german word for history is “Geschichte” and the word for layer is “Schicht”. So that means any story or history in a stratification process over a certain period of time. In my paintings the different layerings create.