Magdalena Herzog: “It’s about keeping dreams alive”

I met Magdalena’s art at this years PARALLEL Vienna and was immediately drawn in by it. The work is vulnerable in a way, deeply touching but at the same time holds a lot of strength and power. Which is further underlined by a use of of a mix of strong and shining and soft colours.

For the following I asked Magdalena if she wants to do an interview with me: 

Luna Maluna Gri: Tell me a bit about yourself and your work.

Magdalena Herzog: I’m Magdalena, I’m an artist from Austria and I’m currently based in Linz. Right now I’m studying at the University of Arts in Linz and before that I was doing a painting school in Graz and I also started studies of psychology and art history in Vienna. About my work; I’m a figurative painter, I love exploring vivid colour combinations, I mainly work with topics of intimacy and human relations, memories and moments of stillness. I guess, I’m inspired by my everyday life, by the people that surround me or what I see and what I pick up from my surroundings.

LMG: How and why did you start painting?

MH: I started as a kid. I always loved drawing and at some point I just never stopped. With time it just became more and more and I started to work with coloured pencils and then found my love for colours. I also had a teacher at school that saw my interest and tried to support me in what I’m doing. Then I started painting and I really love to work with colours and just the opportunity that it gives you. There is so much freedom in painting with oil and so much possibilities on how to create a work. 

LMG: What role does creating art play for you?

MH: I really love this process when an idea comes to life. Some thoughts you had on the inside gets transferred to the outside and you are now able to share it with others. A dream, a thought, an idea or something you had in your mind that was at first only visible for yourself to see, is then visible for others to see also, you are able to share it through your artwork. But also, I think it’s something you can’t quite control. You have an intention of what you want to tell the viewer, what story to create or what your thought behind something was but it’s not you communicating directly, it’s the artwork communicating with the viewer and I feel it’s a very tender form of communication because the person viewing it can still decide of how much they want to get involved in it. It’s not pushed upon them. They get to decide the level of involvement they want to have with the artwork, what thought they want to put into it when viewing it and what to receive from it, so that makes it somehow more subtle and tender than a direct communication. 

LMG: What does your creating process look like? 

MH: I work a lot with sketchbooks and drawing. I like to capture moments or colours or something that interests me in my surroundings. I usually have a lot of ideas gathered up and then I just need to figure out what the topic is or the idea that works for me right now to work on and then I just pick one. I draw a lot before I paint and I also think about the colour scheme that I would like or which would fit for these paintings. But usually that also changes a lot while starting a painting, it’s such a different thing, like having this idea of what it’s going to be like and then I start but then it’s completely different but that’s also fine, I think that’s a good quality to not be too stiff on the idea beforehand but give yourself this freedom that it transforms into something completely different while painting it because you can’t just transfer the idea in your head directly the way it is on the wall, that’s most of the times not how it works. Some things come up along working and you get other ideas and seeing okay, this actually doesn’t work, but something else might work something good comes out of that. 

LMG: What inspires you?

MH: I get inspiration from my surroundings and my everyday life. The relations I have with other people or that I observe. I also get inspiration from nature, different colours and from different light scenes and how the light interacts with the surface of the human body. But also from other artworks. Looking at art history and seeing painters that enjoy, asking myself why I do enjoy them and how they dealt with colour, with the brushstrokes, what topics did they deal with, how do they relate to me and what solutions did they find in terms of composition in their paintings. And it’s just a lot of trial and error, to see what works for yourself and what doesn’t work. 

LMG: What is your experience with the art world? 

MH: I feel like I don’t have that much experience with the art world yet, since I’m also still in this University context but what I can say about studying art is that for me it gave me an access to this art world. I feel like if you are not inside of this bubble it’s really hard to get a grip of the art world.

LMG: Is there something you want to change about the art world? If yes, what and why?

MH: I think it’s still very exclusive. Starting with art history. The main art history that is taught is still this art history based on white male western art and I feel like there still needs to be so much more done in terms of visibility of other artists, for women artists, for artists of colour or the whole LGBTQIA+ community. Also when it comes to who are the people that have access to art, there this whole art world, viewing art, buying art, seeing art or learning about it, it’s still something that is only available to this small, exclusive group of people. So, I wish the art world would be more inclusive and there would be an easier access for everyone.

LMG: What do you think is/are the role/-s of artists and art in our society? 

MH: I don’t know if there is one specific role that I would give to the artist but maybe it’s about keeping dreams alive. It’s a way of communication and a way of creating dreams, it’s about sharing your thoughts with other people, but I’m not sure that I would say that it has this one specific role in the world. 

LMG: What artist/artists would you like to meet (dead or alive) and if you had one question what would you ask them? 

MH: I would love to meet Paula Modersohn Becker, Suzanne Valadon, Mary Sassatt, Pierre Bonnard, Peter Doig andInès Longevial. I don’t have a specific question, I would just like to watch them paint for a while. 

LMG: Is there something you want to achieve in your art life? Dreams? Future plans? Or projects you would like to do?

MH: For now I just want to continue painting. Maybe at some point I also want to explore other mediums. For my near future I will do an exchange semester starting in February and I will go to Korea. I’m pretty excited to learn more about Korean art, Korean art history and meeting a lot of new inspiring people there. As for dreams or further away plans I generally enjoy residencies, so I’m hoping to have the chance to have more residencies in different countries and also to have more exhibitions. 

LMG: Do you think there is something you can bring to this world through your work as an artist which you couldn’t in any other field of work? 

MH: I’m not sure, I definitely hope for it. I chose to do it because I just love to paint and I love to create and I certainly hope that I can express myself through it in a way that I couldn’t in any other way. 

Copyright of the 3rd and 4th photos: Rudolf Strobl

Copyrights to all other photos and all artworks: Magdalena Herzog



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