As a rule, the shy, reclusive Jochen Hein keeps strictly to himself, always carefully avoiding close contact to his obnoxious neighbors. This image shows Hein being accosted by the notorious, hung-over Felix A. (left), a struggling recording artist and owner of the adjacent sound studio. Much to Jochen’s pain, they have to share a bathroom in the basement. I took this photograph shortly before the interview.
Jochen’s studio is quaintly located, right next to a retro futuristic nightmare straight out of A Clockwork Orange. In fact, this is a low-crime neighborhood. No hoodlums on moloko plus lurking about in the shadows. The imminent ultra-violence of the yellow paint job, though… that’s a whole different question altogether.
Jochen Hein pointing at the exact location of the Sehnsuchts-Ort – his place of desire…
Hamburg, 5 September 2008
Artdoxa: Jochen, you’ve been into painting landscape now for quite some time. Landscape isn’t exactly a fashionable sujet. What’s it to you?
Jochen Hein: Landscape is a place of yearning, of longing, a place of desire – a “Sehnsuchts-Ort”. It is a sheltered space where you are perfectly suspended from – and one with the world. It’s a place and a matter of belonging to my own little, secluded place.
Artdoxa: A place of your own? Is this place fictitious or real?
Jochen Hein: It’s a feeling. A sensation of a place that’s mine – exclusively allotted to myself. I’ve always been longing to reach such a place. But this holistic sensation of belonging, of identification, of oneness – that’s always just a brief, fleeting moment. I spend most of the time trying to recreate this feeling in my paintings. Being in grace. Like lying in the grass, listening to the song of the lark.
Jochen Hein: I’m talking of frugality here. I’m talking of being wantless. Fulfillment. Harmony. Everything is alright. The big YES. Affirmation. You know, the landscape at home, where I grew up, the landscape I’m familiar with – I can only reject that estranged and thoroughly cultivated landscape. No affirmation, but complete negation.
Artdoxa: Like this? It’s from 2000 and titled Untitled (Marsch) (http://www.artdoxa.com/users/Jochen_Hein/artworks/643).
Jochen Hein: That’s the very man-made environment of rural North Friesland serving the strange, twisted purpose of agribusiness. There, you’ll scarcely find the deep truth I am looking for in a landscape. You have to search for it. These places, these sights I am looking for are rare, they’re hidden or remote. On the coast, by the sea. You have to search for it to come close to that sensation of truth.
Artdoxa: Many of your paintings feature the model image of an English park – your favourite type of landscape. But English parks aren’t exactly natural. You’ve just recently visited the huge park of the imperial residence at Pavlovsk, near St Petersburg. You told me you were ravished. But isn’t Pavlovsk Palace Park plainly as artificial as any agricultural landscape? Aren’t English parks just a romantic misconception of nature? A stereotype?
Jochen Hein: My favourite park is the quaint little Schlosspark in Husum. The English park as the ideal model of nature reflects the ideal proportions of man in ideal relation to space. His right, rightful place in nature and as part of nature. I wasn’t aware of this when I was lying in the grass of the Schlosspark at the age of fifteen. I could feel it, though. Totally. I could feel the concept in effect. When human interference with nature results in transcending and elevating the place. Exaltation. Harmony. It felt right.
Artdoxa: A transcendental, a magical place? (http://www.artdoxa.com/users/Jochen_Hein/artworks/660)
Jochen Hein: A kind of magic theater, a stage. Anticipation, significance… a sense of elation – and an acute awareness of duality, of my being separated from the sublime. I have felt like driven by desire ever since. I’m looking for answers where I’m sure I won’t find any. But my work is a pleasant sublimation or transference.
Artdoxa: You told me once, that nature, on the other hand, can be something strange and completely alien to you sometimes.
Jochen Hein: Sometimes there’s an awkward tension. I may feel safe in nature, elated even… but there’s no feedback. Trees don’t care about my feelings. My connection to trees is a figment. It’s onesided and purely virtual, because trees are indifferent to my feelings. I resent that.
Artdoxa: The indifference of nature – do you think it’s personal?
Jochen Hein: Absolutely. The more I feel absorbed by nature, the more I feel at unease with nature. I feel downright rejected.
Artdoxa: Can’t you just take a tree as a distant relative? You don’t care much about each other, but you share a common ancestor? A few hundred million years ago? You just don’t have to take it personal!
Jochen Hein: Actually, I take it personal because of this! We’re both offspring from the same tree of life. But there’s no connection. Man is just another animal. Of course, we’re not as close to trees as we are to cats and dogs. We just haven’t the rapport I would wish for. Not even among ourselves. That’s the thorn in our side. We’re expelled and displaced. This is the crucial drive of our evolution, the evolution of human ideas. You can’t escape duality. In art, it is possible to share with others the collective experience of being disowned.
Artdoxa: You are talking about the fall of mankind. Do you expect everybody to feel that way?
Jochen Hein: I am forty-seven now. All my life I’ve kept wondering if my experience may apply to others as well. Is it valid? What do I have to learn? What’s my lesson? How do other people feel? Mystics? Careerists? Abysmally alienated outsiders? What chance have other people to achieve what I feel is important? How was it before our times, in the past? Ever since the dawning of culture man has been a fugitive. How do I handle this? What do I do with this knowledge? It all depends on your talent and your mind. And on fate and chance, of course. I guess I tend to generalize a lot. That’s because I don’t see any solution. Man has developed efficient means of self-deception. I’m not inclined to give in to self-deception. I don’t like it.
Artdoxa: Do you think, religion is a kind of self-deception?
Jochen Hein: Some people argue that atheism is just a different kind of belief. I don’t think so. To renounce faith and dogma, to give up praying means you neither lose or win.
Artdoxa: Are you a materialist? A sceptic?
Jochen Hein: Materialism has its merits. My awakening meant to abandon any spiritual delusion. You just can’t escape objective and substantial realization. On that level we may generalize. Or argue. To realize that meant to lose all hope of transcendency. Losing my utopia was a relief. Deliverance.
Artdoxa: Very funny, Herr Hein! Give us a break!
(To be continued! Don’t miss the next episode – The Death Metaphor!)
The Death Metaphor