olaf hajek: black antoinette / interview olaf hajek: black antoinette / interview
jun 28, 2012

olaf hajek: black antoinette / interview

african beauty by olaf hajek (exhibition) © all images courtesy of gestalten

black antoinette: an exhibition by olaf hajek gestalten space, berlin, germany on show july 5th until the 29th, 2012

berlin gallery gestalten space has on display works by german artist olaf hajek as his new book ‘black antoinette‘ is now available. the publication by olaf hajek, with gestalten space, is a collection of the artist’s most recent illustrative pieces having been developed for both editorial contracts and commercial portraits. each work is formed by hand as the artist relies on brushes, paints and natural surfaces to create his artworks, only making the project digitized in the scanning of his pieces to share with those who wish to purchase or publish his work. the selection of works in both ‘black antoinette’ exhibition and book showcase the artist’s striking style which both art collectors and commercial consumers may appreciate for his progressively more free and painterly approach to illustration. the preface to the book was written by dr. philipp demandt, the head of berlin’s old national gallery.

to celebrate the launch of hajek’s compilation of artworks, gestalten space has brought to their gallery a solo show of the illustrator’s pieces, featuring primarily his most recent pieces. selections have been made from the artist’s portfolio over a three year time span. the collection of personal, editorial and commercial projects articulate his fantastical, folkloric approach formed from a bright color palate, effortlessly evoking a sense of youthfulness and discovery in every image.  gestalten space notes of hajek’s body of work as being created with ‘influences from west african and latin american art to create surreal juxtapositions of fairy tale fantasies and disordered realities. his ‘magical realism’ enriches the perspective of anyone viewing his work‘.     this exhibition at gestalten space offers the opportunity for viewers to witness olaf hajek’s original work in person. his solo show includes a range of his illustration and artworks from the past three years. the artist has also developed images from ‘black antoinette’ as signed and limited prints exclusively for the gallery space. a limited number of signed copies of the book will be available for purchase at the show in addition to his prints.

african nature man (exhibition)

— designboom caught up with the german, freelance illustrator and graphic designer, olaf hajek, speaking with the artist about his fantastical and and painterly portfolio. —

designboom: please tell me a bit more about your most recent works included in ‘black antoinette’. which projects, personal, commercial or otherwise, are especially poignant for you in terms of their being able to evoke the overall tone or essence of this collection?

olaf hajek: the new book shows my work of the last 4 years. in the last years I focused more and more on my art work and gallery shows. so a big part of the books is focused on this field of my work. of course my illustration work is presented as well. I feel that my personal work is becoming more and more an influence of my commercial work. I hope this new monograph is able to show this.

tree of the ancient time (exhibition)

milagros 1 (exhibition)

designboom: what is your daily routine?olaf hajek: I am an early bird and love to be in the studio not to late. I love working in the morning and need to do my break in the middle of the day. if I work on an assignment I start reading the brief and come up with some b/w sketches which I send to the client… from there on we discuss directions and then I start with the painting. I don’t work digital. all my illustrations are paintings. I try to focus more and more on my personal work for exhibitions. this is sometimes the biggest challenge, to find the time to concentrate on the art work and on a series for an exhibition. working on this is more spontaneous and less organized. I love this, but of course its not always easy if you are a busy illustrator.

milagros 2 (exhibition)


designboom: what role does materiality play in the development of your projects, and those compiled within ‘black antoinette’ in particular?olaf hajek: in general there is not a big difference in the process of my illustration or personal work. I use the same materials, but for me its important to experiment more with the material if I am working on personal paintings. my work become more painterly, I experiment more with the different texture of the paint. I even combine it with coffee and powder. the ‘black antoientte’ series was a personal assignment form a collector. I loved the idea to create the same idea with different materiality and combine them with different symbols and elements.

winterson oranges (exhibition)

designboom: do you discern an evolution in your work?

were there any particularly pivotal moments in the progression of your illustrative/artistic style?olaf hajek: my work is getting more detailed and I even extended my color palette. I work on much bigger sizes then a few years ago. my travels to south africa and the offer to do a gallery show there in 2011 had a big influence on my work. using my impressions of africa as a departure point for this series of new works, I combined a sense of wonder inspired by the continents natural beauty with a darker look at its social and political reality.  my next step will be to focus more on the painterly style of my work and take a bigger step away from the illustrative style. I am happy to have two upcoming shows where I will be able to show this development. my next show with anna lüpertz in berlin and followed by a show next spring in cape town at whatiftheworld gallery.

portrait chopin (exhibition)

dark flower (exhibition)

designboom: do you feel your hand-formed, magical realist artworks are moving more towards the surreal than when you first began developing artworks? olaf hajek: oh yes I think so, but its because I am able to express more and more my personal feelings and taste within my work.

africa down at the river

africa burden

designboom: knowing that you prefer to actualize your pieces with acrylic paint on gray board, wood or paper, which color palates do you prefer and why? are there other materials on a wish-list of sorts that have you not created with yet, but are interested in pursuing in future projects?olaf hajek: I prefer wood to paint on… I love the solid background. I work with cutters and scrapers to get the texture and need some insensitive material. my color palate is dominated by muddy tones and some very special blue tones. but I love the contradiction and use some neon and bright colours as well. beside the paintings I am thinking more and more to work with ceramics.

africa weapon

africa photo

designboom: how do you decide upon themes or subjects when given an illustrative commission?olaf hajek: I read the brief and it creates an image in my head, now it depends on the art director or the client to react on it… I think it always depends on how much creative freedom I can get.

antoinette birds

antoinette head

antoinette home

montblanc branches

montblanc castlegarden

REM (exhibition)

designboom: is there any artist from the past or present whose work you have been particularly impressed with?

olaf hajek: I have been impressed with a lot of art work. I love a lot of folk art in general and I am always impressed by the breath taking work of henry darger, but I love the colourful playful paintings by tal r and the amazing use of color from peter doing.

talking heads (exhibition)

african beauty (black antoinette book cover)

about the book

title: black antoinette subtitle: the work of olaf hajek by: olaf hajek edited by: robert klanten, hendrik hellige format: 24.5 x 33 cm features: 144 pages, full color, hardcover ISBN: 978-3-89955-452-6 price: 39.90 euro / 37.50 pounds european release: july 2012 international release: august 2012

olaf hajek – in full bloom from gestalten on vimeoolaf hajek

  • great, amazing, fantastic, spectacular, I just LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    congrat’s!!!! from Spain.


    pappenpop says:
  • I enjoy his chalky, awkward paintings, but I feel his use of so much exoticized “black” cultural imagery betrays the fact that he is white… and German… and a man… It’s a little too exploitative.

    Ray says:
  • So your skin color decides which visual style its okay for you to use? Can I still buy African art or am I to white to enjoy it, come on Ray..

    Toby says:
  • Toby, I agree….It is an exploration of a different culture and the paintings are very detailed and beautiful, not feminine. I love the fact that through his paintings it’s not known whether he’s white/black/male/female.

    Beautiful use of colour and texture.

    Jill says:
  • Beautiful artwork. I’ve just got a few questions for Ray: Just what imagery does Hajek use which is exclusively the preserve of black people? Is he not allowed to portray black women because he’s a white man? Why? In what way is he exploiting anyone – who suffers as a result of his pictures? And do you really believe you can tell Hajek is white, German and male from his pictures – is there some way in which they are typically white, German and male? I question all your half-baked assumptions. You really need to dump this proscriptive, second-hand cultural theory you’ve thoughtlessly absorbed.

    Caspar says:

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