Interview with Emmanuel Werthenschlag

Emmanuel Werthenschlag was born in Strasbourg in Alsace, France. Emmanuel began his formal artistic training in 2001 when he was accepted to Ecole Superieure des Arts Decoratifs de Strasbourg. At ESAD, Emmanuel painted but also started exploring the possibilities of creating art digitally. This included design and making music videos that were broadcasted on various networks including TV5 Europe, MTV, and TV Globo. In 2004, Emmanuel tragically lost his paintings, drawings, books and computer works in a fire. Devastated by the enormity of the loss, Emmanuel took a seven-year break from painting but remained active in the design world and music industry creating graphics and promotional content for musicians. Since moving to the US in 2010, Emmanuel re-committed himself to painting, has had studios in DUMBO and Bushwick, and has participated in residencies. Emmanuel continues to actively make work alongside other noteworthy artists at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, where he has had his studio space for the past five years. 

AA: So, I hear you’re an artist. When did you first discover that being an artist is what you wanted to pursue?

EW: I knew I was serious about drawing in Kindergarten when I saw that my drawing of a dog in his house looked like a dog in his house and not a potato with hair. About being an artist, I'm still not sure what it means besides how it positions me with the people I meet outside of the 'art world' and allows me some behavioral looseness ("that's ok, the guy's an artist..."). I tried to be a scientist, and I kept drawing or writing all the time, just couldn't stop. I guess that irrepressible need is what makes one an artist (or is it pathological?).

AA: What are you working on in the studio right now?

EW: I'm drawing and experimenting with resins. I also have this giant oil painting rotting on my wall that I need to confront and finish.

AA: Describe your workspace. Are you a clean or a messy worker?

EW: I'm a clean worker that gets messy pretty quickly. It's the wonderful cycle of cleaning, messing up, cleaning etc.

AA: Who or what are you listening to when you’re creating work?

EW: Electronic music, French Rap, Old School French songs, 80's, Steve Reich, Central Asia, Jazz, Hebrew, Indian classical, Metal, anything that can open up emotions and images. Silence is good too but is also paradoxically the 'loudest'. I like being surrounded by the sounds of life. Activity, it buffers my thoughts, it helps me focus.

AA: What are you currently reading or watching and is it affecting what you are making?

EW: I'm finishing David Grossman's brilliant book 'A horse walks into a bar' in English and I've watched the beautiful movie 'Ladybird'. I've also read three Michel Houellebecq's in French in a row recently that are always thought-provoking and mood bothering. About affecting my work, I don't have a clear understanding of the inner networks that leads my work and in what measure it's influenced by the 'outside'. That's also what makes it a journey, probably in some digested or processed way do I input some elements. There's an interesting question in that, can the making of work be totally dissociated from our inner life? Switching languages definitely opens some possibilities.

AA: What is your favorite thing about being an artist?

EW: Doing things.

AA: What is your least favorite thing about being an artist?

I'll pompously send you to JP Sarte in his definition of the 'salaud', the one that takes himself so seriously that he believes he is important within the contingencies of history. 

The one that really believes, he 'IS' an artist... for example. Get where I'm heading to?

AA: Name one thing you can’t live without in the studio.

EW: Light. 

AA: You're originally from France. Do you think that your work would be different if you still lived in Europe and did moving to the United States influence your artwork?

EW: It totally did, I'd be totally hermetic to my surroundings if it wasn't the case. Also, the language is different, less metaphorical, straight to the point. At least in New York. WYSIWYG, 'What You Say Is What You Get' and you better be quick and accurate. In French, it's more 'What you say says something about what you mean but I won't say it straight and will play with totally out of context words to create new meanings etc.' Poesy and diplomacy facing efficiency and accuracy. I'm growing a new brain by trying to adapt to a new way of speaking, beyond the language itself, it's a whole new 'Weltanschauung'.

AA: When you’re not making artwork, what are you usually doing? 

EW: I'm with my wife and kids.

AA: What is your dream museum, gallery, or venue to show your work?

EW: Let's not embarrass myself.

AA: Which artists inspire you?

EW: They all do, whether it's what to do or what to avoid.

AA: What advice would you give to a fellow artist who might be reading this?

EW: Don't stop. (And if you're in New York become an investment banker as a side job)

AA: I like to think of artists making artwork the same way as chefs cooking in the kitchen. At first, it may seem intimidating, but once you gain a little confidence, the possibilities of creating tasty meals are endless. With that being said, every famous chef has a catchphrase. What’s your catchphrase in the studio?

EW: "Beautiful authority for wisdom that a multitude of fools" - St Augustine.

"I do what I want" - Me.

Connect with Emmanuel through his Instagram @meir__s and view his website