Sabine Tress in her studio in Cologne


If you had to describe your paintings what would you say?

My paintings are non figurative with lots of lay- ers and texture: intense/dense. My work evolves through the painting process. It ́s a colour-over- dose. I have no prefabricated ideas; I use oil paint but sometimes also acrylics or both. I am trying to find a balance between standing still and experimenting. A balance between over- loading and empty space within my work. I am passionate about painting and art. My work is my mirror but also a way to make life bearable. My work reflects my emotions but I am also con- cerned with formal aspects. I want to be origi- nal, unique within my artistic practice. Painting is a struggle but it is also such a miracle. I sup- pose this is why I feel sad and depressed when I look at empty and superficial art. I would like to paint for the rest of my life.

Is the journey the focus far more than the results?

Both I suppose. But the results never last long. Once you get a certain result within your paint- ing process or your work… you must go beyond that, so it never stops, which is good but also exhausting. So yes, I suppose the journey is far more interesting but without the results, we’d stop, wouldn’t we? Results are the carrots. Ha- haha.

How important is chance within your work?

I am very much drawn to abstract art but over the last couple of months I decided that there is just good painting and bad painting or … Just painting or just art. When it’s proper painting ( or art), then it doesn’t matter if it’s figurative or non figurative… that is what I think. Apart from that, chance and error play a part in any kind of painting( art), don’t they?! If the artist takes his/her art seriously, he or she will evolve and experiment. It always depends to what degree you are willing to take a risk, in life and in your art. It’s hard to fight against this desire to be comfortable. But ultimately it is worth it I think, I mean not to be too comfortable. I’d also say that at the heart of any ( good) painting lies a certain passion, a desire, an urge and also a feeling of ‘malaise’. Why is it that we paint or make art? We are super sensitive people and we need to create our own universe where we can live, meander, live by our own rules, overcome them. We are looking for the sublime and the monsters simultaneously.

What’s your setup like at the studio?

It ́s very chaotic and messy. I am not a tidy person but in general I try and make an effort in daily life. But in the studio, I leave my brushes in big pots without cleaning them after I used them. They basically “live and regenerate“ in those pots until I use them again. Paint tubes are scattered on the floor. And pieces of old clothes which I use to wipe my brushes on. I have a comfy sofa which is very important, a smallish kitchen so I can make tea and coffee and cook a bit of food, a fridge, chairs, tables where my books are piling up on. That ́s it. Oh and I have a old cupboard where I hide the white chocolate away. It ́s my hidden vice, that white stuff.

Anything that you do outside the studio that seeps into you paintings?

I think everything I do outside the studio seeps into my paintings. Looking at art in galleries or museums, travelling on a train, eating Chinese food, watching Akira Kurosawa, meeting collectors, chatting to friends and dreaming, fall- ing in love and falling out of love, cats and dogs, wine, cigarettes, swimming…


Do you read or listen to music in the studio?

Yes, I often do. I love Vive la Fete, Bill Callahan, Mogwai, Sufjan Stevens, Pascal Comelade, Pierre Bastien. At the moment I am reading the French poet Arthur Rimbaud and a book about Jean Dubuffet. I just got my hands on a book on Shirley Jaffe a few days ago.. I love her work, and I also found it really interesting what she was saying about painting in an interview I read. I am also quite into Gutai right now which I only recently discovered.


You have collaborated in the past with other artists how did this first happen? and how did you guys work together?

I have, on two occasions. Pier Wright from Northport, Michigan and I have been working together on small formats for several years now. He or I start on a canvas or a piece of paper and then we send it off and the other one continues…sends it back etc. It sometimes takes weeks or months. It ́s a bit frustrating because we can never meet up and have a chat. But I suppose working on those small formats is a way of chatting. And there is always a huge element of surprise when I open his package and take out the works he ́s sent.

The other person I have worked with is my studio neigh- bour Thomas Lohmann. His work is figurative and the exact opposite of mine. We created works on paper and canvas in the past for a show in Belgium in 2013. We had loads of discussions about those collaborative pieces. At some point it was all about that so after the show we stopped for quite a bit and now we have started to make new work but it ́s more like a side project now which is good.

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