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Stefanie Gutheil | The Home of Mr. Peeps | Mike Weiss Gallery | NYC
February 1, 2016 (all images are courtesy of Mike Weiss Gallery, New York)

Is Mr. Rainbow dressed up for the opera? Is Mrs. Red Smiley contemplating her existence? In this exhibition by German artist Stefanie Gutheil titled The Home of Mr Peeps, Gutheil's inner eccentricities set the imaginatorium stage high. 


"With all their quirks and foibles in plain sight, the artist’s fantastical creatures appear to us as friends and intimates. In fact, it is precisely because of the alluring, almost childlike honesty inherent in the figures unabashed eccentricities that connection with the works is nearly inevitable. Yet there is more to these characters than their carnivalesque appearance; in each, Gutheil has instilled an emotional gravity that seems both personally derived and universally comprehensible." Press Release, Mike Weiss Gallery 


TUSSLE MAGAZINE: What processes do you go through when beginning a new painting?


Stefanie Gutheil: Each painting starts with an idea – either a character a room or a whole atmosphere. Maybe from a dream, or something I see in real life or on the Internet. It is more subconscious at first.  It stays there for a while, in the back of my mind. It’s not always so clear. Then it starts to grow and I just start painting.  I don’t do any preparatory drawings. I try at first to get as close to the idea in my head as possible, but it always changes.  That’s the best part. I’ll feel differently two weeks later, so painting changes.  Through the whole process, it’s constantly evolving.


TM: Have previous works and this body of work been an ongoing narrative? Is Each painting is it’s own narrative? (if so) How does each painting relate to the other?


SG: Both are true.  There are stories in each painting. But they are all views of my mind, if that makes sense. For example the portraits – I made them all next to each other and worked on them all at once.  Even though they’re on separate canvases, they could also be one big painting.   I used to put so much in one painting. I wanted to separate things for this show.  


All of my characters are freaks.  There is seriousness and humor in all of them. That being said, I try to break from uniformity, even though some characters or elements do repeat.  So I guess it’s really the lack sameness that ties all ties all the characters together.


TM: Will you expand on the title for this exhibition? Who is Mr Peeps to you?


SG: The Home of Mr. Peeps is my imagination.  There’s a painting in the show with the same title.  Mr. Peeps is figure with the crown and the beak. That’s me sitting in my studio.  


TM: Are we all homogeneous, without any opportunity to be original? Where are you viewing art with inhomogeneous content? By whom?


SG: Again I think both are true. On the one hand, people are individuals.  We all have our craziness and our own stories.  Humans in general are not perfect. But we also all share very similar problems, even across different cultures.  There are universal feelings.  Anywhere you go, there’s love, fear, happiness and sadness. So in that sense, I suppose we are homogenous.


TM: Neo Rauch has come up as a major influence for artists that we have been talking with recently. Do we see some influence in your work? What is your opinion? Who/what do you feel influences your work?


SG: I’m influenced and inspired from so many different artists.  I know the work of Neo Rauch and I like his later work – his color usage and the way he is able to create his own atmospheres. But it has a more indirect relationship to my art; it was more an inspiration, along with many other painters rather than an influence.


TM: As a society we all wear masks in our daily lives, do you agree? What mask(s) do you wear?


SG: I would say yeah, everyone wears a mask.  It depends on the situation – your job, the people you interact with.  Sometimes you have to wear more, sometimes less. In regard to my own mask(s), I don’t know what I wear.  I think it’s more difficult to see your own.  But I’m sure it’s always changing all the time.  Actually, maybe the smiley mask.  


TM: What is your favorite book?


SG: I don’t know my one favorite, but some that come to mind are Patti Smith’s, Just Kids, Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Patrick Süsskind’s Das Parfüm.  I listen to a lot of audiobooks in my studio, while I paint.  The latest was some titles by Ken Folletts.


TM: What is your favorite exhibition that you have seen this year or in the last 6 months?


SG: I don’t go often to shows and I can’t remember any specific exhibition that I really liked last year. I’m sure there was something but nothing that stuck in my mind.  There is a museum I really like though: the Neues Museum in Berlin.  It was destroyed during the war and then totally forgotten for a long time.  They spent ten years renovating it and the building finally reopened in 2009.  It’s very elegant.  They found a way to respect the old parts of it – interweaving traces of its history with the modern parts.


Stefanie Gutheil lives and works in Berlin. Her work resides in public and private collections around the world, including the Taguchi Art Collection (Tokyo), the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art (Peekskill, NY), and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art (Overland Park, KS), among many others.  The artist and her work have been written about in publications such as Blouin Artinfo, Hyperallergic, Art in America, and Modern Painters. Gutheil was recently exhibited in a solo show at Helsinki Contemporary in Finland and a group exhibition at the Matsumoto City Museum in Japan.

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