Klaus Killisch



LAGE EGAL: In your works you combine different techniques, collages, sampling, text, drawings. How would you describe the artistic process of bringing these techniques together? 

KLAUS KILLISCH: I started painting at the end of the 80s. It was the time after neo-expressionism; in the east of Germany, where I lived, there was a similar movement going on with music and painting. At that time I took film or fashion magazines as material for my paintings and painted over them. The 90s took a different direction with new impressions. By chance, I came across artificial flowers that I found on the street. In those days after the wall fell, many things were thrown away on the streets in the east. I used 19th century patterns as a background for large paintings of 3 to 4 metres, and filled them with the found artificial flowers. It was a balance with kitsch. Working with collage-like techniques often means working with unknown elements, when you bring them together in a painting, you have to react as an artist, learning the effect of each material and find a harmony. In my work, I also often react to the zeitgeist of the moment, for example advertising, design and music, which I then bring together in my paintings. Currently I am experimenting with combining painting with LED-light, or trying to express the interior of buildings, spaces or studios in the paintings, inspired by a cover of the German experimental rock band CAN on which an imaginary studio is depicted.  

LE: To what extent does your work play with or relate to music? 

KK: I like to listen to music while I experiment with the materials and techniques. The adventure of listening to music in the studio while making art is important to me. If I read a song title somewhere or hear a lyric that speaks to me, I make a note of it, that I might use at a later point. Either for inspiration or titles. In the 80s I listened to a lot of Faust or other industrial music, especially the album Halber Mensch or song Seele Brennt from the band Einstürzende Neubauten, the latter I took as a title for a painting of a man burning. The image was already there, but when you then synchronise it with the music that is heard at that moment, a certain composition emerges. For me, the title adds another layer and opens up a new context. 

LE: This is then where the titles “Die Welt ist eine Scheibe” (The World is a Disc), “Woodstock”, “London Calling”, “Revolution of Sounds” come from? 
Not only can you find a strong reference to the music, but at the same time they offer an insight into important events in history. How did you choose these titles in the context of the works? 

KK: The picture Woodstock actually has to do with Woodstock, we went there once to visit the area and at that moment there was an old Volkswagen bus with ticket sales. I photographed it and used the interior of the bus for a painting. The interior interests me a lot because it resonates with a state of mind, it somehow needs this narrowing, where things are placed in a certain place and order.  The title Die Welt ist eine Scheibe (the world is a disc) I liked because in German they also say Scheibe (disc) to a record, and in the Middle Ages it was thought that the world was a disc. The title has a double meaning, referring to both vinyl and flat surfaces, which are also found in my works. 

LE: Both your drawings and your paintings use abstract forms and collage-like techniques that are different from each other but still share a common aesthetic. What is the relationship between your drawings and your paintings? 

KK: They somehow belong together through the way I approach my work but are two different entities. With drawing I don’t have this pressure like with the canvas, there you just try, throw it away, but it needs concentration, I can’t correct it. I get into an inner state, and that’s where surprises come from. The material I use in my drawings as a template also comes from fashion magazines or photos of bands, it’s also the material for the paintings.  A painting is always something else, painting means that I am constantly correcting it, then suddenly something develops and I have to act on it. I have also experimented with paintings, for example I tried to bring light and painting to the canvas, but then realised that it only worked with black and white. I have also tried to paint on wood and cut it out. Something I always come back to is the use of vinyls (which I have been working with since 2000), and colours – there is a certain colour palette in all my works. Now my focus is on light again, but I am trying it with LED and this works very well. For the sketches, I don’t use drawing but I use the computer as a tool to display images and show an intermediate stage or look. For the paintings, this is important because it requires more calculation and focus. In the end, in both of the works I am always looking for a balance. 

LE: You have a series of works that you call Remix, a reproduction of existing works that have previously been sold. The works are not only a recreation, but also play with the meaning of remix. Can you explain these works in more detail? 

KK: This refers to the works I made in the 1980s, which are now sold and no longer belong to me. I loved these works so much because they are connected to the fall of the Wall and the 1980s in East Berlin. I started with the painting Seele Brennt and reinterpreted it freely, then I continued with other works. I listened again to the music I heard in the studio at the time, recalling memories of that period. Images are so memorable, for me they represent a certain time and a certain moment in my life. Through these remixes, I try to reactivate the moment when the works were created. The works do not look the same but have a similar aura, someone told me that he had seen the painting (the remix) 30 years ago and made a connection with the original. This is what fascinates me. 

(April 2022)


Klaus Killisch (born 1959 in Wurzen, former East-Germany) is a contemporary visual artist. In national and international exhibitions, his works were u. a. at the Biennale di Venezia, the Museum Folkwang and the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.

Klaus Killisch studied in the years 1981 to 1986 painting at the Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee. Through scholarships or in the context of projects Klaus Killisch lived and worked for a long time in France, Italy, Ireland, Japan and the USA. He took part shortly after German reunification in 1990 at the group exhibition L’autre Allemagne hors les murs in the Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris. In the same year he exhibited with other Berlin artists in the German pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

With the touring exhibition “Berlin Art Scene” Killisch was in 1991 in the Sezon Museum of Art in Tokyo, and two years later in the National Museum Art Gallery in Singapore and the Hong Kong Museum of Art. The exhibitions were held in cooperation with the support of the Goethe-Institut. Institute. [3] In the late 1990s he had many exhibitions in galleries and museums in Berlin, Leipzig, Frankfurt am Main and Bonn.

In 2001, Klaus Killisch appeared in an exhibition at the German House Gallery in New York, for the first time in the USA. The following year, the Goethe-Institut in Washington, D.C. In San Antonio in 2004 he was represented in the gallery of the SAPL Foundation in the context of the exhibition “Art in Berlin”. Launched in 2006, the international art project “Collective Task” brings together more than 25 artists from different countries in a common circle of tasks. Killisch was a founding member of the group. In 2012, the “Collective Task” group presented their project at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. [4] In June 2014, the Literaturwerkstatt organized the Poetry Festival Berlin and Killisch and other Collective Task artists appeared.

Killisch’s major solo exhibitions in 1999 were in the “Plaza Gallery” in Tokyo, as well as “A Long Strange Trip”, a tribute to the band Grateful Dead at the Museum Junge Kunst in Frankfurt Oder