Beautiful trash. Collages and sculptures by Christian Wischnewski

– Please, introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about you.

Hallo. My name is Christian Wischnewski. I am 34 years old and have been living in Berlin for almost a decade now. I have a diploma in Graphic Design and work as a freelance illustrator.

I grew up in North-East Germany in a small shipbuilding town. My early childhood took place in the final years of a crumbling East Germany, my school days however were shaped by the cultural turmoil of the early 90s. I was sent to school in the first year after the Berlin Wall came down and didn’t lack anything until I grew older and felt profoundly out of touch with my transformed surroundings. By creating art I found a way to process this sentiment.

– You work with both paper collage and sculptural pieces. Can you tell us about what led you to work in both formats?

Paper collages obviously came first. I got into Collaging more seriously around 2008/09 when I was in university. Fellow students all around me were exploring the technique and I kept stockpiling magazines and old books anyway.

After experimenting a lot myself — I flirted with surrealism, tapped into overpainting and decollaging, worked with supertiny formats, collaborated on bigger pieces and even moulded my own paper — my work became more abstract. I eventually let go of my urge to work figuratively at all and consequently fell in love with the freedom of collaging.

Opening up to sculptural work happened pretty naturally in 2014, when I felt the need to step up my game. During the summer I made lenghty bicycle trips along the Baltic coastline, where I picked up lots of driftwood, plastic scraps and other favorable trash. I build my first three-dimensional pieces later that year and have been creating sculptures from found objects ever since.

– In the case of sculpture. How is your work process?

With sculptures I usually go from big to small. I often start mounting together the larger pieces first and will add the details when the basic construction feels stable. My early sculptures were glued — but lately I really like to go without any extra adhesives at all: I’d rather use a found nail or zip tie to fuse the fragments. Apart from that it’s all about squeezing, tucking, bending and jamming. It can feel like a puzzle at times and by now I really appreciate substructures that incorporate a variety of holes or gaps — like a metal grid or a worm-ridden piece of driftwood. Those can act as a substrate for the rest and make the mounting significantly easier. Also: sometimes I am so pleased with a loose arrangement that I will consider it finished without fixation at all.

I count myself lucky however that my fellow photographer friend Malte Spindler takes fantastic pictures of my sculptures — the colored backdrops were his initial idea and I have come to acknowledge that the visual documentation of my sculptures is an integral part of the working process.

– What do you feel is common to your style of working in both paper and sculpture?

It is hard to verbally communicate the aesthetic appeal that I go for while creating, but it is most certainly the same — whether I work on a flat surface or in three-dimensional space. When I made my first sculptural work I deliberately called the results 3d-collages. My affinity for certain colours and compositions transcends the art forms and in both respective ways making art feels similar. For instance I have the same desire to confront old with new materials, the same tendency to play off harmonies and contrasts against one another. I also avoid using the same kind of fragment more than once within a particular work. I prefer rough edges. I like to mimic randomness. I love working the details. and I strive for a cheerful whole. I want it to be fun.

– How is the process of sourcing material? And which is your criteria for selecting your stuff?

I cannot overstate how essential this part of the process feels to me. Putting carefully selected and intriguing fragments to use is outright inspiring and it is what keeps me going. If there’s one advice I’d like to give to anybody who’s sourcing pre-existing pools of material, it’s one thing: be picky!

The bulk of my paper materials comes from flea markets, thrift stores and ebay. I’m also into utilizing rather odd materials which initially don’t seem that practical for collaging — like fruit wrappings, care tags or wasp nest skin. Being picky came in handy when I began to gather bits and scraps for sculptures and the pool of possible materials just blew up in my face. I like roaming beaches and wastelands for this purpose, but really any site is fine if it’s yielding something worth my time. These days I focus on pieces that are not overly complex and possibly homogenous. I go for bright plastics and pastel shaded ceramics alike. I appreciate the haptics of rust and the geometry of seashells. the manifold of wood. the stories that lay within patina.

–  Which is your definition of collage?

My definition of collage is „as broad as can be“. Sure, there is the classic paper collage — and i’m a big advocate myself, enjoying how other collagists surprise me on a daily basis — but there’s also a collagistic principle. It’s obvious when you look at my sculptures, but it goes further than that. 

What’s so different about duchamp’s fountain and say — a modern boom bap beat? I feel in a lot of ways it’s profoundly similar: It’s about curating things that already exist (urinal / jazz samples), combining them in a new way (flipping it over in a gallery space / arranging them on a loop) and then contextualizing the outcome in a way that makes sense (redefining a mass product as art / publishing it on a record). 

I believe the age of collage is here to stay. Remixing techniques spread through every art form there is: my girlfirend introduced me to a whole novel written in a collagistic fashion and she herself writes poetry with found sentences. For me a simple double exposure is as good as an example for this mashup culture as an epic fail compilation on youtube. 

My definition of collage might be completely arbitrary, but then again i’m just somebody having fun putting stuff together.