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Artist Portrait: Michael Sazarin

Michael Sazarin lives for his art - in the truest sense of the word. In 1981, the artists moved into his own atelier in the house for arts and crafts in the Koppel 66. There, he lives surrounded by an incredible amount of paintings and drawings, which are partly stacked up to the ceiling and leave little space for furniture or even luxury items. Sazarin doesn’t need that anymore. Everything he needs, he finds in his colors, his canvases, in his painting.

For a quick interview, we visit him in his creative space and talk about his creative process, his time in America and one of his most important artistic idols.

Mr. Sazarin, your creative process is rather unusual. Can you describe how you approach a blank canvas? What are you starting with?

Most of the time, I start by completely emptying myself. I calm myself down by meditating. No aim whatsoever. You can’t force art anyway. I go in very freely and start with piles. I lay the blank canvas on the floor and pour diluted oil paint over it, several different colors. Then I'll see what it’s going to become. I leave the canvas to dry for a day or two and when it's all dry, I can put it on the wall. Coincidence now offers me an idea of how to continue working. Not I, Michael, am thinking of something. The picture paints itself. I'm just an assistant. This makes each picture different and fresh, a real adventure. Chance is my best friend, but of course I will not leave it to itself. Controlled chance, so to speak.

Silence is also very important. Earlier, at a young age, I used to paint while listening to music at the same time. It has to be silent these days. Fortunately, my studio is very quiet, there’s no noise here, even though we are right in the center of Hamburg. I need rest and silence so I can listen to my inner self. I love the silence, the peace in here.

How many pictures are in your atelier?

There are about 600 pictures on canvas, and everything is full of paper, I suppose there are about 1,000 drawings. And another cellar full with artworks. A few unfinished ones are still around here, but I can’t get control over them, so I'm still waiting for a good day, but 98% of the pictures here are finished.

Which motives are you most interested in?

My motives are not definite. They are ambiguous. You can recognize something, but what is it? I don’t create illustrations or tell stories, I leave space for the viewer’s own ideas. It's in the eye of the beholder. Of course, you can see physical, human features sometimes, especially in the drawings. From time to time, I also like to paint landscapes. But most of my paintings are very abstract.

Do you have an idol you look up to when it comes to painting?

A great visionary was the landscape painter William Turner. When I saw him for the first time, I got goose bumps. I fled from the gallery because I couldn’t stand it, that's how much I loved his works. He was far ahead of his time. His contemporaries declared him crazy back then. But the colors he used! A brilliant man! I learned a lot from him. When I discovered him back then, I was a night watchman and studied his pictures all night to find out why he was so good at what he did. And then I realized it, at five to twelve. There is always a fixed point that usually lies at the edge of the canvas, but never in the middle of the painting. And from there he scatters the picture, he scatters the colors. That's what I'm aiming for as well.

In an article by Peter Schütt it says that you shy away from social criticism and politics. Why is that?

Of course, I'm on the verge of what's happening out there, I watch news and stuff. But I don’t concentrate on it anymore. My "storage" is very full, nothing fits in there anymore. Certainly not the every day’s events. As you get older, you slow down, the brain does not work the way it used to, that’s for certain. I am purely interested in art, philosophy, literature, the humanities. That's where I derive my energy, my strength from. The artist is rewarded with himself. The inventive, the creative is the greatest thing for me. Everything else does not concern me anymore. I focus entirely on what I do and not on what I can’t change anyway.

As a young man, you’ve spent nine years in the United States where you worked as a bartender, shop assistant, printer, carpenter, waiter, locksmith and machinist. What was it like to work in the Sates?

In America, they’re not interested in your qualification and credentials so much, they just say, "Try it!" You do a lot of different jobs, but I only did that to make money. At that time, I wasn’t an artist yet, I only became one much later. In America, I did all the things a young adult does. Going to pubs in the evening, drinking whiskey, meeting women, driving beautiful cars. I saw a lot, did a lot, got to know life. And that's wonderful.

Would you like to travel back to the States?

At some point, I realized that I had to go back to Germany. After nine years, it was enough for me. My inner voice told me to go back and I obeyed. That was not a rational decision. If it had been, I would have had to stay there. I had two cars, an apartment, financially I was very fine. But I wasn’t happy. I had discovered literature for me at that time and I noticed that the German language goes much deeper for me than the English language. Back in Germany I wrote a lot and then I discovered painting. With full force. I was about 30 years old and I have been painting ever since. That keeps me at the stake. Keeps me away from alcohol, from depression, from loneliness. I wouldn’t want to go back today. Maybe for an exhibition with you. I could even get back on track with my American English.

More impressions from Sazarin's studio can be found in the following video in which the artist talks about the process of creating his paintings (please switch on subtitles).

Exhibition period: March 02 - March 31 2018 - GRACE DENKER GALLERY - Hammerbrookstr. 93 20097 Hamburg

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