jens wolf
portrait courtesy ronchini gallery



berlin-based artist jens wolf (b. 1967) explores colour, shape and flatness through his geometric abstract paintings on plywood. wolf is inspired by the major abstract modern movements of the 20th century, but his work transcends traditions of cold abstraction by leaving traces of imperfection and uniqueness behind. colour, geometry and symmetry are explored throughout his work. wolf’s work is in permanent collections including the zabludowicz art trust, london and multiple FRAC collections in france.


designboom spoke to jens ahead of his first UK solo exhibition at the ronchini gallery, london, which runs from 13 march until 16 may, 2015.



designboom: what originally made you want to become an artist?


jens wolff: I grew up in the southern provinces of germany, and it was music, more than anything else that was an important part of my adolescence, particularly roots and dub reggae, funk, jazz, afrobeat, psychedelic pop and post-punk. but as a child, I was also very happy drawing and painting, and at the end of the 80s I trained as a potter and a ceramist.


the decisive factor came after organising a concert one day with friends. I got to know two musicians there who studied art, and they encouraged me to apply to the academy of arts. a year later, I was a guest student in luc tuymans’ class, and shortly thereafter, in helmut dorner’s class at the academy of fine arts in karlsruhe. I worked there for a while mainly working with abstract wall pieces made of different materials.


after finishing my studies in 2000, I went to berlin immediately. I had my first gallery exhibitions in northern europe, and now I have my first solo show in london at ronchini gallery, which makes me very happy.



09.58, 2009
acylic on plywood, 140 x 195cm
courtesy the artist and ronchini gallery



DB: how would you describe your approach?


JW: I sometimes use found images from other pieces of art or design that I like as preliminary suggestions. I usually sketch for a while on paper until I have something that I am happy with, before transferring them to small plywood ‘pattern boards’, which I then finally scale up into finished pieces.


13.21, 2013
acrylic on plywood, 80 x 60cm
courtesy the artist and ronchini gallery



DB: who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?


JW: I’m not really sure. I don’t think that there has been one single influence specifically, but more a combination of several experiences in my life. that said, my old teacher, the painter helmut dorner certainly helped shape my perceptions as an art student.



09.81, 2009,
acrylic on plywood, 187 x 140cm
courtesy the artist and ronchini gallery



DB: what would you say is your strongest skill and how have you honed that skill over the years?


JW: the ability to fragment, deform and deconstruct images so that they still form a harmony which I have to admit did not come naturally but is the result of a long process which I have moulded through trial and error and which I am still developing as an artist.


07.57, 2007
acrylic on plywood, 60 x 80cm
courtesy the artist and ronchini gallery



DB: what materials do you enjoy working with the most?

JW: I most enjoy working on plywood with pencil, acrylic and tape. in contrast to canvas and paper, plywood has a less uniform surface that allows one to control, grind and break the colour, which are techniques also easier on a harder surface which canvas and paper cannot give you. in the future I’d like to explore working with fabric and aluminium foil more, directly on the wall. I can imagine doing large, expansive pieces. I think there are a lot more materials that an artist can utilise other than just paper.


08.70, 2008
acrylic on plywood, 234 x 172cm
courtesy the artist and ronchini gallery



DB: what are your thoughts on specialisation vs generalisation?

JW: I’m quickly distracted by type rather than medium as an artist. if I worked with different media I would feel distracted more easily. it is my opinion that an artist with a focus on a medium and material has a more intense and satisfying oeuvre. it is certainly a positive and logical development that many younger artists today experiment using various types of media, but to me it seems to be a bit too ‘trendy’ and mainstream.


09.07, 2009
acrylic on plywood, 60 x 80cm
courtesy the artist and ronchini gallery



DB: how do you think online design resources have influenced the art being produced today?

JW: knowledge of art history and of different styles are so easily accessible now as they are ubiquitous online. what was previously very difficult to find, whether it be facts, or inspiration, is instantly made easier at the click of a button. of course I keep up to date with blogs and other things online, but when I look for an artistic exchange, a sharing of ideas and opinions, be it with artists or theorists, I much prefer to speak to people face to face in a studio setting, rather than online.


13.19, 2013
acrylic on plywood, 80 x 60cm
courtesy the artist and ronchini gallery



DB: what are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work?

JW: at the moment I’m reading a very interesting book about the development of jazz and listening to some jazz records from my collection that I have long neglected. particularly interesting to me are the ornette coleman records dancing in your head. from this I follow on to james blood ulmer to younger free funk bands like defunkt or universal congress of, as well as early records of the bands material , wicked witch and the first solo album of george clinton from the early 80s. I can’t identify any particular impact on my work from this music, but it does allow me to work very happily for long periods in the studio.


09.61, 2009
acrylic on plywood, 188 x 140cm
courtesy the artist and ronchini gallery



DB: what are you passionate about besides your work?

JW: music, as you can probably guess by now! I have always collected vinyl records of the genres that interested me as a teenager. it’s like an endless addiction but one that I passionately enjoy!


09.82, 2009
acrylic on plywood, 115 x 86cm
courtesy the artist and ronchini gallery



DB: do you have any superstitious beliefs or rules that you live by?

JW: omit whatever is unnecessary.


11.06, 2011
acrylic on plywood, 80 x 60cm
courtesy the artist and ronchini gallery



DB: what’s your personal motto?

JW: be strong. be wrong!