Going up four flights of stairs, the smell of plaster and dust hangs in the air. The Neukölln apartment that houses Bodo Rott's studio is a place of curiosities. Inside, a long hallway is pledged with stretched painted canvases; a gauntlet of ten years worth of work. It’s a slightly precarious feat walking through it – I feared of misplacing a step, reflexes countering thought and putting a hand through a painting to catch myself. Thankfully, balance prevailed; I didn't destroy anything and reaching the end I let out an exasperated breath.The paintings of Bodo Rott appear on the wall like a crowded audience on opening night as much as they're beautifully grotesque plays in themselves. The actors: living portraits of a man bound to his work like a father to his unnamed and illegitimate children.
The Artist & His Offspring
I ask Rott if they are really children. "I meet people that say they are and others that say they are adults. So I now call them non-children children. For a while they were the supporting actors and now they have taken over the stage–
–people don’t recognize the humanist mud these figures have to fight with. Did the children invent it? Did that come from outside or did the lumps of color invent the children?" Rott’s theater plays monstrous and humorous scenarios acted with a Victorian travesty. Wonderful garments of cloud-white and violet usually garb the playful, undistinguished youth caught in layers of oil on canvas.
ArtParasites: Were your parents artists?
Bodo Rott: No, my parents were surgeons.
APs: Did that influence you?
BD: Well…I am painting human beings.
The artist's sketchbook sits besides a stack of nameless ancient books. "I draw what I see," he tells me. And to sketch, Rott is often wandering about the streets of Berlin in the evenings. "I like to go to Hasenheide where there's a beer garden. I am often watching people, it’s true—to draw someone you have to turn yourself into them."
APs: Is everything you do then a self-portrait?
BR: It’s not possible to avoid this – I don’t think you can escape that. For my kind of paintings, people often say it is destroyed with these deconstructed figures. I am that figure and the dirt on the photo.
APs: Your name is unusual, do you feel attached to it?
BR: Don’t you feel attached to your name? When you come across someone later in life with the same name as you, it is slightly irritating if you grew up being the only one. In school, a popular name was Christian or Stephen – the teacher only had to say one of these names and half of the class would look; besides this, I don’t know so much about my youth. They tell me stories about it, but is it true?
APs: What would you say is the most surreal thing about life?
BR: That the next day is coming and, well, you just go along as you did; that’s a strange thing. On the other hand, you know there will be an end sometime but you just don’t care.
Article by Tristan Boisvert