Sweet Paul sits down with Klaus Enrique to discuss art, food, and what it means to be creative.
Klaus Enrique is a Mexican-German post- contemporary sculptor and photographer who employs Arcimboldism as his means of expression. His work is primarily concerned with the human condition and its historical context within art.
Sweet Paul: I can still remember as a kid looking at Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s work at the Louvre in Paris and being astonished. When did you first see his work, and how did you react?
Klaus Enrique: About 10 years ago, I was shooting a photograph of my sister covered in thousands of dried leaves, with only her left eye showing. It occurred to me at that moment to make a portrait entirely out of dried leaves, with no human being behind it. The idea was to see if I could create a still-life that captured the emotional essence of a human being but without the person. But since I don't have an art background, I always research the work that has been done before in a similar vein to make sure that I am not reinventing the wheel. I remember I Googled: “portrait made out of leaves” and I was immediately shocked — and also quite disappointed — when I saw the works of Arcimboldo. Shocked because I knew that the vague concept that had been in my mind a few seconds earlier was nowhere near as refined and accomplished as his work, and disappointed because I had not been the first person to come up with the idea of a composite head.
SP: Please explain the term “Arcimboldism.”
KE: My formal training is in genetics and as a scientist. You are always told not to appropriate something that it is not yours. Instead, you quote and reference the work that has been done before your own. Art, real art, is exactly like science. It builds on what has been done before in order to further our understanding, to discover something new. In the world of art, however, people appropriate, and yet I still prefer to acknowledge the artistic discoveries that helped me on my journey. And that is why my very first pieces were homages to the work of Arcimboldo. Although he certainly was not the first to depict composite heads, Arcimboldo is the artist you immediately associate with this medium. The concept, though, the recombination of different objects to create a completely different central subject, can be used for any type of art, be it literature, or music, or sculpture. Therefore, since it is really an art movement, I figured it made sense to just call it Arcimboldism.
SP: What make you want to be a photographer?
KE: I had tried many different professions and nothing really excited me. I had been a geneticist and an IT consultant, and when I finished my MBA at Columbia Business School, I found myself miserable working in private wealth management and, afterward, for a tech startup. At that point, I figured I was probably not being honest with myself about what really inspired me. I was 29, and I just thought, “Fuck it, you only live once.” I went back to IT consulting for two years to save some money and, with that, I moved back to New York, and I've been working on my art ever since.
SP: What does it mean to you to be a creative person?
KE: For me, it meant acknowledging who I was and what I really wanted to do. And what I really wanted to do was to let out all the crazy ideas that I have in my head, to come up with even more crazy things, and to bring them to life.
SP: Any advice to other creatives?
KE: For me, fear is a big obstacle, so my advice would be: Don't be afraid.
SP: Do you cook?
KE: I try. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I don't. I make a mean guacamole!
SP: What’s your favorite cuisine?
KE: You can take the Mexican out of Mexico, but my heart will always be with Mexican food.
SP: What’s next for Klaus Enrique?
KE: I am working on what some friends of mine have called Klaus Enrique 2.0. Trying to push my art to a different level, to make greater use of the medium itself, and to create a deeper narrative. I am also working on publishing a new book and doing a few shows to coincide with that.
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