Josip Novosel and I met once, 4 or 5 years ago at a cafe in the Marais in Paris. That night I vaguely remember the conversations we had with common friends, except Novosel saying something about my thigh gap and asking why I called everyone love or babe. I forgot if it was winter or summer. For whatever reason I want to recollect snow and heating lamps, big coats that made us invisible and memoryless.
The Croatian-born Bavarian-raised artist is difficult to decipher, and tends to intimate his immediate surroundings. And this, of course, without his awareness. In ways Novosel poses some kind of quandandrum. There’s his intrusive, physical presence marked by his Slavic features that often make it impossible to avoid gazing at him. His directness that isn’t about naivety, nor seeking affection. The decisive reason why someone might not feel at ease when meeting Novosel for the first time. He doesn’t live, he exists. A matter that probably will always be daunting, as few of us go open-eyed through this so-called life. Aside his transparent actuality, Novosol exhibits a type of sweet softness that usually pushes through his artistic practice that ranges from painting to sculpture to writing. While inherently different in form, all mediums continuously focus (perhaps not always only) on the meaning of contemporary realities, what it means to be alive and living these days. The inherent tenderness within Novosel’s pieces prove mostly liable by the way the artist is open to his own vulnerability, not accepting but comprehending that we are all going somewhere but nowhere.
Josip, what are you up to these days?
Since a few weeks I’ve been hanging out in Vienna. Again! I got invited to have an artist lecture about my work and also had a show there. But apart of the tremendous fun I have (thanks to Rade Petrasevič), some off voice is telling me: Once you’re out, they pull you back in. Currently there’s also a show in Belgium that I am participating in. it opens tomorrow. And just runs for one night. I always had a thing for temporary staged shows organised by artists (in this case by Filip Gillissen). Sometimes they can be a lot said when the state of mind is in a hurry or, let's say, rush.
I would say you generally seem to exhibit some sort of romantic existentialism within your work, in some ways constantly grappling with what it means to be human these days. Would you agree?
Oh that is very nicely said. Of course, I agree. However, it's super dangerous to say a work is romantic... I think being romantic is worse than being called a fag. But I don't mind romanticism. In my case, the romantic aspects appear cause I might see things differently. Or describe them differently. I don't believe in values so much, but I do believe that no matter how devastating things might get, there are ways and solutions that are beautiful to me. My work is interested in those super gentle but life-changing moments. We all work with the same things, but can describe them differently. The existialist aspect maybe comes from my ideas that are immediate and I try to expose them direct and harsh. So, at some point it gets romantic but then it comes out differently. More human and shallow.
Why is it worse to be called a romantic than a fag? At this very moment you’re speaking to me, someone overly romantic. Or at least that’s how I have often been defined by others. Maybe I also don’t understand what people mean by being ‘romantic.’ Is it problematic because it is irrational, idealistic? By saying you exhibit some type of romantic existentialism, I mostly mean the underlying desire of being an existentialist.
Maybe I'm an angry romantic existentialist. It's hard to filter the raw and real because it's all about polishing the surface. Everything around me got economized. Art feels like a business plan. But I can't tell how it was back then, because all those paintings and sculptures seem to be perfectly contextualized when they hang in a museum or collection. Nothing than the work itself counts. Maybe the economy was also like it was today. I included some side notes in my previous shows about how far someone would go in order to achieve his/her goal. In 2015 I just showed work, titled Opportunism. This year I showed some drawings that focused on the topic of lobotomizing your own needs. Going straight or straight forward get a new meaning within.
However, being interested in queer culture and other narratives, an artwork coming from that direction seems to become redundant or unnecessarily nostalgic. Especially when an artwork needs to speak to a different generation. Being romantic is also a selfish thought because it fights with the idea that we are all different. Approaching a vision that expects someone to have it too. I like the idea of that. It brings people together. But the other side in order get to this point of enjoying is based on suffering and pain. ”There will be consequences” sums it up. My most recent show in Vienna was called CV Paintings. The paintings are big blue and abstract and had this pleasurable complex idea of masculinity. It intended the romantic storyline “knowledge and hard work bring you further,” but included the hard facts of “you can make it much easier….. if” in a romantic state of mind anything can happen. You can be whoever you want to be. It's a dangerous thought in world filled with authority. My anger comes against any authority and abuse of power. So in this battle of submission and higher power, there are those moments of soft fullness and pleasure where you just cherish life and love the world, where you stop fighting and enjoy the time you are in. And in those moments, I feel and try to focus on my work. By filtering, blowing, turning, converting or just posting.
You work also seems to encompass several art practices. There’s drawing, sculpture, writing. What do all of them have in common? Do you access them for different reasons?
Yes, in some ways different medias come with different access. I come from photography and sculpture. Writing is the most direct media. Drawing too, just like photography. I write when there is something super subtle I'm interested in. I draw when I need more than the description. I like to think and mix the approaches to see what’s happening. But in the end I like to describe my idea in a sculpture and leave traces through other medias. What I don't like about sculpture is mostly the process you have to challenge before you can get started. It's difficult to balance the thought between artisan and craftsmanship. Sculpture is super inflexible, but that's also very tempting.
That’s interesting, sculpture somehow being defined before it actually exists. I’m not sure I agree, but I am also not a sculptor. I think any artistic output continues forming within its process of creation, as well as after their completion. Things always change as their exterior circumstances continue changing, infinitely. But maybe that’s me romanticizing the idea of infinity, and the absurdity of constancy.
I can't tell what the future of art will be. I'm in the moment where we define contemporary art as having access to history. A classical sculptor or its education that's what one of my mentors, Heimo Zobernig, told me. you draw the idea and draw and draw until you get to the next step, then you go with clay and clay ads clay and plaster and clay until you can touch a stone. This is a very long lasting and annoying process. But I think working with stone was probably just as expensive back then as it is today. So my thinking of sculpture itself is very old fashioned. I studied photography before I changed to sculpture. I had this idea of big butch hairy guys slapping the stone for hours, getting horny, and in need to find someone to for relief. But the reality was they all were like me. Kind of skinny, tall, moisturized hands. Plywood and MacBooks. Concepts and traveling. Thinking more about the gravity and aesthetical trapdoors than craftsmanship. I was interested to find or define new media. Instead of stone, it was furniture. Instead of stone just exhibiting plaster. I'm still obsessed with plaster. It’s baking in baroque. It intends the process of classical bronze casting, but it is super fragile and powdery. It's used for the inside and it’s accessible from everywhere. Just like plywood. I was thinking more about the flexibility and the easy access of the material than its eternal state. And also how to switch the appealing gravity of a sportscar into a piece of wood.
I got also obsessed with the idea of placement. You can change basically everything, the meaning and the attractiveness by just moving it with a single gesture. It creates a different infinity that is used. Not from the point of reproduction, but from the point of choices. I had this theory of infantile redoubling where I started to make one sculpture and reproduce not the same sculpture but just adapt the idea, process and material. Then it's a series of various formal decisions within the same framework of the idea. It's pretty complicated for me to make one object that claims autonomy and is ready to produce infinitely. It reduces and takes away all the choices and compositional playground. Sometimes I go to a show and see outrageous complex sculptures where I start to pity all the art workers that had to build it. Coming from the working class I like to be friendly with the workers. Like they can say, “Oh that was easy.” “Josip is one us.” But yeah, I'm getting into my 30s and I'm male. Let's see what the future and my ego brings. But for now I'm just super happy when I actually realize that something I thought is right in front of me. Those are priceless moments.
What do you mean by something you thought is right in front of you? Something has manifested itself?
Yeah, well I can't hide my romancier. Sometimes a work is just making itself. I don't even have to do so much. Like a nice sentence getting written. Or a melody. Ouch, I know but that's how I feel about it. Of course there is a lot of effort and exhaustion anger involved. And time. There are just works or sketches from me online offline lying around that I just activate or they activate by themselves. Because I remember them. I like that when the process itself is a nice thing to remember. And I can lie about it, but the work itself can't. So yeah, when it kind of manifests itself it's a high achievement.
The process, meaning the experience?
Yes. And no. In some cases my objects get activated. One of my works Ucansitwithus was shown in several contexts. And then I showed a sculpture called gossip Josip 2015. And this object had its own instagram account. A “journey” “story.” Gossipjosip totally snitched on me. The narrative is my journey/ process and the experience can be it or just the work itself. I add so many things to it, or just leave it unspoken.
What would you want for the future to manifest?
I would like to get to a point where I start to work on current things. Somehow I'm kind of neurotic that I need to do things I had in mind before. And I need to do them. Old Fashioned YOLO. But it should happen probably from a studio.
By current things, you mean current topics that are currelenty relevant to our social topography?
An artwork needs to have the power of a cockroach. Declaring something contemporary can lead to irrelevance. Things are moving and changing pretty quickly. But I'm just a person living through many layers. A current experience can also just be a hint to the work. And the only judge about it is probably time itself.
While you might be tired of pseudo romantics, I’m tired of narcissists. Actually, I think it’s so unattractive to be an asshole… and that’s what we mostly meet in the art world. (And beyond, of course.) I’m much more impressed by people who have conserved their humility, despite whatever notions of success. But, hey, maybe that’s me being romantic again…
Oh it's super romantic to fall for assholes. And I can't tell how much of them are in the artworld. Narcissism is a term that Is always worth to be exaggerated. It's an Epicur of watch and learn. I'm bored by limitations. It bores me completely. I still believe in a world with enough space for diversity and interesting ways of seeing. Filters are for Instagram and clean water.
What are the limitations you encounter yourself these days?
I am still young and I'm surrounded by things that want to tell me what's good for me, or something should be. Unfortunately I never really care what other people say or what limitations I am surrounded by. My recent show in Vienna was a lot of about a stage of limitation. It can be a nice state. Very direct. The only thing I will imitate myself to is to stop smoking.
Images courtesy of JOSIP NOVOSEL
interview LARA KONRAD
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