Peter Backhaus

Born 1947, Germany

Lives in: Holsljunga, Sweden

Describe your art in three words: Expressive, unpredictable, archetypal

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Shadow Movement I - Oil on canvas 200 x 150 cm

"My art is uncompromising and direct. It is unique in its poetic, musical expression. The heart is its abode. It connects with the soul's longing for freedom, co-creation and participatory commitment.. I call my style ‘Archetypical Expressionism’."

What themes does your work involve?
As I said, I work as uncontrolled and spontaneous as I can, with no plan or particular idea from the beginning. Just trying to remain in the Now as long as possible. So, from inside of me comes nothing but emptiness and life-energy without any underlying messages. On the outside it may look different, I don’t know and honestly, I try not to care. Every spectator has her or his own world to associate to, her own pair of glasses that give her ideas about what she sees and what she remembers when being confronted with my mountains of scratched, dripping paint. To me it’s just color and energy.
Describe your creative process.
Every creative process starts on the floor. On a large area of canvas, paper or wood, entranced I strive to act out myself on the surface. All tools, paints and solvents that could possibly be used are at hand in the activity area. When the process ends after an hour or two, I leave the place and let everything dry. Then a search for attraction begins. The subsequent over-paintings and adaptations are almost always in oil. The further process is sitting, looking at things, empathizing, listening to my inner voice, making decisions, remaining in the now ... each time different and unpredictable. I’ve developed this to be able to make discoveries, to be able to surprise myself.
What influences your work? What inspires you? Why do you make art?
For me painting means survival, exploring my creativity is a way to keep my mental health. My paintings are internal images. They come from a level beyond time and space, beyond the personal ego, where complete stillness and total chaos coexist. They are like layers in the archetypal landscape which are deep inside of each person, regardless of culture or color.

Art has helped me to process my personal German history. My exhibition, “Unwanted lives” in 1996 was my final effort to deal with Nazi Germany, shown in different Swedish museums. After that performance, I felt liberated from the past. It was a catharsis, the end of my mourning process. Now my inspiration comes from my inner joy to be human and a free creator of my own world, without being drifted into sentimental sweetness.
What is good art? What makes a piece of art great?
A great piece of art is always a personal statement. It has nothing to do with what it looks like but the commitment of the artist has to shine through. Then there is the aspect of communication of course. There has to be SOMETHING that is understandable, caches the eye otherwise we wouldn’t see it. For me personally, I want to be touched, I don’t have to understand, even better if I don’t and the question WHY, WHAT IS THIS? hits me strong…
What is the role of the artist today?
I don’t know what an artist’s role in society is and I find it hard to grasp that from perspective above. In different societies art has had very different roles depending on the spiritual level at any given time, the power structures, the culture, the dominating way of thinking and much more. I’m not a sociologist but for me, in our time, an artist’s actions are an important signal to his/her fellowmen to be brave, stand up for their opinion, be creative and look for the truth from a personal, subjective perspective.
Red Death - Oil on canvas 175 x 135 cm
Morning Oil - Oil on canvas 200 x 160 cm
Homage to my teachers - Oil on canvas 120 x 100 cm
Compact energy - Oil on canvas 120 x 100 cm
Grez - Oil on canvas 200 x 205 cm
Haus am Wörthsee - Oil on canvas 200 x 160 cm
Shadow Movement III - Oil on canvas 200 x 150 cm
Shadow Movement II - Oil on canvas 200 x 150 cm


This interview was published by Circle Foundation of the Arts. © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist