The DENKSTAHL artist AL challenges every single person to question their own values and motives, while addressing the extent and consequences of an egoistic and consumer-oriented way of being with unshakable vehemence. The name DENKSTAHL (thoughts of steel) says it all and aptly describes the artist’s message. Whether in pictures, poetry or prose; in essence, his works are all the same. AL is concerned about the confrontation with the »illusory world«, and about radical food for thought!
Growing up in the Frankfurt milieu, rebellion against the existing social system and against injustice shaped his life early on, and later also his art. AL’s life story is the story of an artist making his best of life; he has managed to transform his life into art. The biographical book DENKSTAHL. art of a rebellious mind, presents his work being as strong in words as it is in pictures.
AL loves playing with words as well as colors – the alienation and distortion of the meaning of common symbols but also of our ailing system of thought. The statements in his texts and images go beyond socio-critical and ethical content. The focus of his art are the questions of being human, finding one’s senses and self-fulfillment in a superficial, consumer-oriented and technocratic world – not least the issues that concern everyone: responsibility, peace, love, freedom and truth.
In the following, AL is in an interview with Sequana Birkel. Sequana studies American Studies at the Goethe University Frankfurt and had dedicated herself to DENKSTAHL art for some time.
Sequana: Your current project is called DENKSTAHL, a multi-faceted collection of poems and pictures. In your works you reflect humanity and the zeitgeist and combine different styles. Part of your art is very provocative. What was the reason for your pictures to be so critical?
AL: The beginning of my DENKSTAHL project is based on a picture I saw in a magazine. In the early 2000s, it must have been around 2003, I was sitting in the dentist’s waiting room and leafing through a magazine. There, I came across a report on the scarcity of water on our planet and the likely development in the coming years. The report said that by 2032, water will continue to become scarcer for half of the world’s population unless something happens soon. The following picture was shown: an African child who is sweating and thirsty trying to drink from a tap. But only a few drops came out of the tap.
It was then that I realized that most people who come across this type of information have no desire to deal with it. People, or rather the ego, tend to scroll further and look away when they encounter uncomfortable information. Because this information questions our beautiful, colorful world of hypocrisy.
Why is it so important for you to question our beautiful, colorful world of hypocrisy?
I feel it is absolutely essential that people should look closely where it hurts. They should get involved in issues that are usually swept under the carpet. I want to bring these issues back to our consciousness. This is how I came up with the idea of my latest art project, DENKSTAHL – as an artist who expresses himself in word, writing and digital visual art. The task of my art is to give ignorance not a single chance. We can paint beautiful pictures ourselves, and we don’t need artists for that. Yes, if the world were alright, however that should look like, we wouldn’t need artists at all in my understanding; they wouldn’t exist.
And yet your pictures look beautiful and colorful, especially at a distance. A sharp contrast to the actual message of your work. Can you explain that?
I work with an aesthetically pleasing surface and bright, bright colors. This enables me to attract the viewer’s attention. Like moths are attracted to light, people are initially open, conscious and curious. Of course, I was and am aware that on a closer inspection, especially in connection with the picture titles, the viewer withdraws from the message and then closes off again. Most of them, anyway.
But for a brief moment they were open: They saw and recognized what they would not perceive under normal circumstances. This brief moment, even if it only lasts for a second – this is exactly what I want to achieve. Even if you may be of the opinion that nothing will change as a result, I know that the information did arrive and will be stored somewhere. The seed is sown. This is my contribution, this is what I can and will continue to do.
I can understand your approach, but let’s be honest: Who really puts up such a picture on a wall?
On the spur of the moment I’d like to think of a restaurant owner in Frankfurt’s Westend. On his wall, there hangs the picture THE GREAT SOCIETY, on which black, emaciated people, heads held high, wear Louis Vuitton robes, the Mercedes star and the Rolex crown. Quite brave, especially in a posh restaurant, one might think. I have nothing against luxury brands and a good life. On the contrary; I love beautiful design and quality. However, I rather regret that not everyone will participate and that we people are not always able to share and enjoy our abundance. Striving for more, for infinite growth, has severe consequences. Admitting this fact to yourself and not looking the other way is already a step in the right direction.
I think it’s good to draw attention to grievances, but it’s crazy to hang up a dying child as a piece of art, for example. How do you think that can be reconciled with our life in an affluent society?
I keep hearing how remarkable the viewers find my pictures and how important it is that I show them. Many wouldn’t hang up the pictures at home, as they say the pictures don’t make you feel good. That’s fine. They don’t necessarily have to. I always reply that the opposite should be the case, that this kind of art should remind us of how well off we ourselves are and that we shouldn’t forget how others are doing. These images should ground us and not make us forget where we come from. And that when we have managed to stand on the sunny side of life, it is also our human duty to help and share whenever and wherever we can. My art should convey this message.
In this sense, Denkstahl
Wounded City by DENKSTAHL
HEADS – WARPAINTING
HEADS – STARS
The pictures presented in our art blog are purchasable as DENKSTAHL UNIQUE PIECES, if they are still available.
A unique piece is a high-gloss print with pigmented ink on high-quality photo paper, laminated behind acrylic glass and reinforced by an aluminum back. Each unique piece is stamped with an artist’s stamp. For each artwork you will receive a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist and the biographical art book DENKSTAHL. art of a rebellious mind, which will be dedicated to you.
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