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Andi Fischer: “I think we are always in conflict”

Daisy Woodward
April 22, 2024
7 min

Primal energy and playful naïveté exude from German artist Andi Fischer’s paintings, drawings and sculptures. In his world, it’s not uncommon to find a loosely rendered crocodile engaging in a lively tussle with a snake, a gesturally etched stick man riding a lobster, or a round-bellied nude attempting to wash a tiger. At first glance, Fischer’s fondness for primary col­ours and a doodle-like style of application lull the viewer into a false sense of security: surely these creatures are interacting just as cheerfully as the yellows, reds and blues in which they’re rendered. But closer inspection raises new questions: is the aforementioned plump pro­tagonist in Des Tigers Gesicht Beträufeln (“Dripping the Tiger’s Face”, 2022) about to become an unwitting snack for his feline compadre? Are the sea-faring jesters in Ya Ya Narrenschiff (“Ship of Fools”, 2022) waving or calling for help?

Fischer considers his characterful workspace, located in a Moabit warehouse, the most important achievement of his career so far. Photograph © Roman Goebel for QP Magazine UK

“I think we are always in conflict,” Fischer says, sitting in his spacious, light-strewn studio on the top floor of a vast warehouse in Berlin’s Moabit district. “Humans against animals, animals against us, humans against nature, nature against us.” Unsurprisingly, the apocalypse is a favourite and recurring theme within his work. Even so, the narrative ambiguity of his oil-stick paintings and coloured-pencil drawings – some of which function as preparatory sketches, others as fin­ished works – is very much deliberate. “I like this idea of being open. There’s a chance they might be friends, or fighting, or in love.”

Fischer’s art seems tailor-made to challenge expecta­tions. Stylistically, it recalls Art Brut (the term coined by Jean Dubuffet to describe the raw authenticity of work by untrained artists), or the paintings of CoBrA, the rad­ical but short-lived postwar movement that embraced a childlike mode of representation to call into question the predominant and notably undemocratic western ideologies in art. That Fischer’s brand of uninhibited expression is similarly accessible is entirely intentional. “I grew up in rural Bavaria,” the 35-year-old artist says. “My childhood was really nice, but the problem was that art and culture were never big topics in my fam­ily. I knew nothing about art, even though I was always drawing. That is why it’s always been important to me to bring lightness to the work: to create quick access. I didn’t want anyone to be left out.”

Fischer found his own entry point into art when he took up skateboarding in his teens. “When I got into that subculture, I discovered that art wasn’t just the Old Masters; it could also be young and progressive,” he explains. Nevertheless, a career as an artist was unfath­omable and, having struggled in school, he decided his best option was to train as a car mechanic. “I did that for three-and-a-half years,” he says, “but I didn’t feel like I really fit. After that, my only chance was to go to Berlin to get my degree.”

It was once enrolled in adult education in the German capital that Fischer began studying art properly for the first time. “Suddenly everything made sense to me: the sketches I’d been doing my whole life seemed like they could be art.” He embarked upon a Fine Art degree at the esteemed Berlin art school Universität der Künste Berlin (UDK) thereafter, where he began dabbling in all kinds of different media, only to end up back where he began. “I came full circle with painting and drawing, though this time on a much bigger scale – and this moment of reconnection was when I really found my style.”

A space at the back of Fischer's studio is dedicated to the creation of large-scale paintings. Photograph © Roman Goebel for QP Magazine UK

Since graduating from UDK in 2018, Fischer’s star has been steadily on the rise: he was swiftly approached by Åplus gallery for representation in Berlin, then by Galerie Avlskarl in Copenhagen. Now, he’s also repre­sented by renowned Düsseldorf gallery Sies + Höke, which, last October, dedicated its Frieze London stand to his work, a testament to its up-to-the-minute appeal. Artsy’s newly released annual trend report revealed that expressive figurative works are currently the sec­ond most important contributor to gallery sales after abstract painting. And Fischer traverses the realms of abstraction too – in occasional flourishes among his figurative works and more decidedly in his landscape paintings, which boast free-flowing evocations of grass ocean and sky.

Yet, for Fischer, negotiating the art market has not been without its challenges. “They don’t teach you about how hard it will be at university, or how difficult it is to make a living as an artist. You’re just left to work it out,” he says, adding that it was only by starting out with a small Berlin-based gallery that he felt able to tackle the process step by step. “Berlin is probably the only city I can be in, because there are big spaces like this to work in, but you’re still surrounded by a lot of culture,” he says. Fischer is happily entrenched within the Berlin art scene with many artist friends, including Christine Sun Kim, Thomas Mader and Lars Fischer, as well as Conny Maier, Dennis Buck, and Michael Günzer, with whom he curates a show every other year, under the collective moniker Dorf (“village”).

Heart-warmingly, when asked what most inspires him, Fischer says it’s conversations with such friends. “Just sitting in a park, talking about the people who come by: wondering where they’ve come from, where they‘re going, watching them talk to their dogs.” For those versed in art history, especially that of the Middle Ages – including the work of Fischer’s fellow Bavarian Albrecht Dürer – his other influences may come as less of a surprise. If you know Dürer’s back catalogue, for instance, you may notice that the figure atop a lobster in AHA NARR 3 (Aha Fool 3, 2022) and the ship of signal­ling figures in The Ship of Fools are in fact references to Dürer’s original illustrations for Sebastian Brant’s 1494 satirical allegory of the same name.

When you know how to look, other allusions to art of the period abound in Fischer’s art: from sun-headed figures to fire-breath­ing monsters. “For me, copying the Old Masters is a way of understanding art his­tory,” Fischer explains. “I’m not very good at writing or reading, so this is my way of getting close to it, so then I can read more about it. The themes that interested art­ists in the Middle Ages are so close to what we think about now, like the apocalypse – it‘s always like we’re at the edge of being at the end of the world!”

A Dürer monograph and Frits van der Meer’s Apocalypse: Visions from the Book of Revelation in Western Art take up a prominent position on Fischer’s desk, where he spends a lot of time sketching, surfing the internet and watching skate videos. Such moments of down time are vital to his process, he says, which involves surrounding himself with blank, handmade canvases of different sizes, allowing for complete spon­taneity. “I need all scales around me,” he expands, gesturing around to huge canvases filled with looming black ravens, and smaller ones featuring a landscape, and a sun-headed figure riding a lion. “That’s because when I do large scale works, I always want to do smaller ones. And when I do small-scale works, then I need to do bigger ones! Large-scale works allow me to be freer but sometimes I like prescribed limits.” It’s for this rea­son, he says, that he enjoys making sculptures in the more restricted medium of wood: a plethora of carved wooden characters and objects sit atop one of the table­tops in his studio, which also features a dedicated work­shop filled with machinery for woodwork.

Fischer is in the process of expanding his breadth of work, adding landscapes, drawings and sculptures to his exhibits. Photograph © Roman Goebel for QP Magazine UK

Fischer is currently in the process of expanding the breadth of work he exhibits, and, in the future, we can expect to see more landscapes, drawings and sculp­tures. His prevailing themes remain the same, he says, but amplified. “The apocalypse is bigger than ever right now. And the birds, which have always been there, are getting darker. I can’t really tell why – maybe because the times are darker.” Yet, while there are various shows and fairs on the horizon, Fischer has pledged to take things a little slower this year, follow­ing a 2022 that was filled with back-to-back shows. “I want to take time to discover new ways to find my impressions and expressions, and to spend more time talking,” he says with a chuckle. “Like talking to friends about people talking to their dogs.”