Anja Priska is a German artist who I’ve been working with for a while now. She is about to present her paintings and sculptural works at London’s The Other Art Fair from May 10th – 13th.
Anja, tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you study and what was the first artwork you sold?
I studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. During the seven years there, my paintings referenced pop art quite a lot and had a fairly decorative quality to them. My first painting was bought by my art teacher in high school for 100 D-Mark. But the first one I actually sold as an art student was in my third semester for 5,000 D-Mark (which is about 3,000 GBP) to someone who saw it at the annual summer show. It was called Live Fast, Die Young.
The monkey-figure is a big feature of your work. When did you first conceive the idea ?
The first monkey paintings were made in 2009. But without foreseeing it, I became very taken with the idea about half a year later. The initial interest came from wanting to get a bit more abstract within my figurative works. The character of the monkey should allow the viewer to project him or herself into whatever expression or statement I am making with the artwork.
I know by using the monkey-character within almost every piece that leaves my studio these days I’m putting all my eggs in one basket. Some people cannot deal with the monkey. I don’t know how long I’ll be using it as my main subject – I guess I will move on at some point but at the moment it doesn’t feel like it’s coming to an end. The monkeys are still too exciting, so there will be more works. Especially ones of these monkey-human creatures.
How many years have you been practising as an artist? How has your work evolved in that time?
I started making work seriously within the final two years of grammar school then started studying Fine Art at 19, which means I have been practising now for 18 years – loving, hating and being obsessed by it. It’s the only thing in my life that seems to make sense but it’s also a constant roller-coaster, with extreme highs and lows, which can also be seen in my style of working.
I love humour in art, so often I try to retell serious narratives in a quirky way or with comical elements. Compared to the graphical, sleek style when I was student, my paintings are now a bit looser and rougher, more spontaneously “painted” rather than planned out from first ‘til last. I’ve also switched from vinyl to oils for the paintings and from clay to glazed porcelain with the sculpture.
How has living in London’s largest art community, Hackney Wick, influenced your work?
I am not sure to what extent the area I live in really has had an impact. I mean, you never know what I would have come up with had I stayed in Munich. But I think Hackney Wick is amazing; I found a big studio space here that I absolutely need in which to work and it feels very reassuring to be surrounded by so many people within the creative sector. I think since being here I have become more focused on what I’m trying to do in my practice. Being constantly surrounded by artists and exhibitions means that, if you want to be heard, you have to make some noise.