For all its simplicity – the limited use of colour, the seemingly straightforward shapes – there’s something about the work of Jens Wolf that’s undeniably intriguing and complex. Bringing to mind the likes of Josef Albers and Frank Stella, his abstract pieces set off their precise geometry with deliberate imperfections that add a human element to its formality. With his first London show opening in March, we had a chat with him about the creative process, the evolution of his work and why his London is forever foggy.
How does it feel to have your first London solo show?
It feels GREAT! Truly. Actually I have to say whenever I think of London I think of the song by Sun Ra with The Nu Sounds, A Foggy Day. I always feel nostalgic when I come to London. It is such a wonderful city and a great opportunity to showcase my work to a much larger international audience.
Tell us a bit more about the site-specific/new pieces you’re creating for Ronchini Gallery.
I will be exhibiting nine paintings on plywood of varying size and colour. Some will appear a little cryptographic and decoding them will be up to the interpretation of the viewer. I will also be exhibiting two murals using fabric and aluminium foil.
How would you describe your practice, and the use of colour, shape and line?
I can’t give a satisfying answer to the question as it is often unconscious, but I think more than anything else it’s about the freedom of what you can do within the confines of geometry. I like to play with angles and shapes, juxtaposing strong colours, forms and lines, but trying to marry them into different harmonic arrangements. It is, I suppose, an eternal evolution, an ongoing process of exploration and adventure.
Talk us through how you go about creating your work.
I always think it’s important to begin by putting pen to paper, so I normally begin with small-scale pencil drawings, which tend to be vague and unclear to begin with, but which eventually turn into the basis for a finished work. Once I have decided on what I want to do, I transfer the images onto plywood “pattern boards” and play with colour combinations in order to ascertain how the images would look on a much larger scale. I am not averse to looking at other artists and their work for inspiration, mimicking the patterns and graphics that I like.
Can you talk a bit about the use and importance of imperfections in your work?
Well, at the moment I am working primarily within the realm of geometrical abstract painting, with a nod to the principles of Constructivism. I use the tenets of abstraction, unpicking and fragmenting geometric forms according to an idea that I have in my mind. Imperfections are integral to my work. The conscious rough, unfinished elements on the plywood paintings and the natural grain of the plywood create a strong contrast to the softer appearance of the overall painting. There is a very specific feeling created by those obvious elements of distress in the painting, suggesting that there is more than one layer to explore, both metaphorically as well as literally.
How has your practice evolved over the years?
As an art student I primarily focused on murals, experimenting with different materials. Fifteen years ago I started working on wood and since then it has been recurrent through my work. Nearly all of the early pieces I made on wood had completely unfinished edges, but now I favour the crisp precision of straight lines and when I paint geometric shapes, I prefer to glaze the wood with white acrylic paint and then apply any conscious imperfections to the edges afterwards. In the past few years I have also started making bigger, more expansive murals, mostly from fabric and aluminium foil.
Jens Wolf is at the Ronchini Gallery, London from 13 March – 25 April 2015.
About the Author
Emily joined It’s Nice That as Online Editor in the summer of 2014 after four years at Design Week. She is particularly interested in graphic design, branding and music. After working It's Nice That as both Online Editor and Deputy Editor, Emily left the company in 2016.