Patrick Hartl is a german artist with pieces that merge graf, street art, contemporary art and calligraphy. His unique process echoes the natural evolution that a city wall would go through over years of public exposure resulting in rich and textured imagery that draws the viewer in allowing them to explore and always find something new. He is a visionary curator, author and editor and is consistently presenting a fresh viewpoint through his pieces while contributing to the evolution of graffiti and urban art. Following the recent launch of his new book, we took a moment to speak to the prolific creator to find out more about his work, life and what fuels him to continue writing his name.∇
Interview by Trystan Bates
Photos Courtesy of Patrick Hartl
Lets start at the beginning, what is your origin story, background? What first got you interested in becoming an artist? I got in touch with Hip Hop culture and Graffiti as teenager in the suburbs of München. Writing my name on a train for the first time… that’s what it all started with in the early ’90s. Since then, I’ve been infected and addicted to that phenomenon. Graffiti was my first love and naturally the essential influence of my youth.
Tell us a little about your work process. I basically freestyle. The overall visual idea of my works is to rebuild the flavour of an old public wall which has been tagged, bombed, buffed, damaged, weathered, sprayed with stencils, pasted up with stickers and posters, etcetera, over and over again – until no finished piece is left, just all these layers, these leftovers, like ‘fragments of history’. So, how I produce my work is basically similar to what would happen naturally to a real wall outside in a public urban space, I start with randomly placed fat cap tags on the white surface, then I overpaint it like 80% with slightly transparent paint, tag the wall with markers, overpaint that layer again, then I do stickers and posters, rip parts off again, repeat all these steps again and again until I’m happy with the result. During the last steps, I keep an eye on the composition and add some details. I think one of the most important characteristics of my works is the multitude of layers. After 25 years of Graffiti, it’s no longer the finished beautiful painting which is most important to me but rather the artistic process that evolved over all this time, the experiments, the achievements and the mistakes that result from it. It is a never ending learning process.
The evolution of your artwork has been interesting to watch over the past decade. What has led you to urban Calligraphy / Caligraffiti? I first got in touch with traditional calligraphy during my design studies at university, and my love for handwriting and letters continued to grow. My very first attempt to do calligraphy on a large scale was in 2001 when I painted a large mural at the hall of fame in Augsburg (Germany) – using spray cans with a cap usually found on spray adhesive (which had the same effect as a calligraphy pen) and cardboard as a spatula to cut out letters from the fresh paint. It was nice but was more of an experiment or first try for me. That changed when Dutch artist Niels SHOE Meulman came up with his Calligraffiti project in 2007, doing huge calligraphy paintings by using tools like spray cans, markers, large brushes, and even brooms. He made that idea big and finally popular, and like traditional Graffiti before infected a whole new generation of writers. Since then, urban calligraphy, or Calligraffiti, has become a whole new movement in the contemporary Graffiti and urban art scene.
You have been working frequently with Christian Hundertmark (C100) on your project Layer Cake. Why do you think collaboration between artists is important and how do you factor it into your work? I always loved collaborations. I mean that’s how it all started, painting trains alongside my friends. You try out different things, things you maybe wouldn’t try solo. Collaborations can make you go beyond your own borders. In the case of my project “LAYER CAKE“ 2016, I met Christian during one of my solo shows and decided that it could be a great idea to join forces by working together on canvas. The match between Christian’s abstract graphic style with collage elements and my Calligraffiti style with Graffiti tags and calligraphy motivated us to get things started immediately. And it worked quite well. After a few long night sessions, we already had 20 paintings finished, two shows on the agenda, and realized that we simultaneously and (maybe) by accident just created a new concept. And we already had a name for it: ‘Layer Cake’ – the idea allowed us to break Graffiti’s most important rule of not going over or crossing someone’s work. Without any discussion or permission, we went over parts of each other’s work, leaving out parts, and layer by layer we created paintings with great depth. To make a long story short, working together brought both of us to a new level. And it brought back the fun we initially had back in the days as juvenile art vandals.
What artists have had the greatest influence on your creative development? Mostly other graffiti writers like Futura, Jose Parla, Niels Shoe Meulman, Bando, Mode2, Delta, Zedz, Sheone, Duncan Jago & the whole Wizard Kings Crew, Stohead, and many others…
What is your all time favorite piece of artwork? During my first year at the university, I showed my best canvas work to my calligraphy professor. He liked it and said something along the lines he had never seen Graffiti on that level outside in the streets. But one of the other students replied that’s because it’s impossible to do complex and time-consuming stuff like this illegally. I waited a few months, and at midnight of New Year’s Eve, when I knew everybody would be celebrating the new millennium, I painted the same work on a whole car. While I was painting, the luminous, glittering, blazing fireworks behind me were reflected by the fresh and filled-up golden spray paint on the train. I’ll never forget that moment – and that artwork.
The role of an artist has greatly changed over the centuries. What do you feel is the responsibility / role of an artist within modern society? In other words, what in your opinion is the purpose of a Contemporary Artist? I think every artist has his own personal reasons and goals with his art. I don’t know if there needs to be a special purpose. Being an artist instead of being a part of the system while doing a standard 9 to 5 job is purpose enough to me.
What are you reading at the moment? “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo“ by Stieg Larsson.
What is your perfect work playlist? I only got one playlist named “Just hits” playing stuff like Rock from the 60’s and 70’s (Hendrix, Sabbath, Bowie, Stones, Doors…), Funk (George Clinton, Bootsy, Bernie Worrell, Parliament Funkadelic…) and Hip Hop (BDP, EPMD, RUN DMC, Beastie Boys, NWA, Dr.Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Biggie Smalls, Method Man & Redman…) – my most favorite Rap song is “Let me turn you on” by the legendary Biz Markie.
Is there anything else that you are currently involved with that you would like mentioned or promoted? Most important to me at the moment is the brand new book I did with my partner in crime Christian Hundertmark “THE ART OF WRITING YOUR NAME – Contemporary Urban Calligraphy and beyond“ showcasing the leading artists of the last 25 years in this field.
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