Live For Nothing Or Die For Something: An Interview With Thomas Schostov

Post-modern and grunge collide in the work of Thomas Schostok. The Essen, German based artist and designer creates work rife with commentary on our society. Thomas sure has a sense of humor. And his work shows it. Art Nouveau recently caught up with the artist to talk about design, typography and the fine art world.

Art Nouveau: Some would consider your work raunchy. Is this in your face effect a plot to draw people in?

Thomas Schostok: No. People say I use nude images to get attention. Sure, it might be easier to get attention when you use nude images in paintings. But that is not the point, it never was.

I don’t want to show perfect and nice things. When a woman tells his husband how nice the painting fits to the colors of the couch – that’s not my world. Conformity equals crisis. Bring the streets to the living room. I consider what people call “raunchy” or “dirty” as something that “lives”. That what I’m doing over the years is just not a style, I can’t simply switch it on or off. No, it’s part of me. I tell you, I tried to make clean paintings, without any nude images, without all the trash or dirt or whatever. It’s not working. See it like an obsession not as a style.

I use that kind of material I’m working with, because all of it is dirty. Nothing of it can be perfect. I don’t like clean colors, sharp photos or whatever. I love “used” things. Everything in my work must have a used look. Used objects have many interesting stories to tell. If I’m working on an artwork, I want to have some sort of live in it. Dirt reminds me that something moved on, that something developed. I like those vividness in artworks and collage/hand writing is something that express that feeling very good.

Art Nouveau: Your work has a strong emphasis on Typography. How did you become interested in type?

Thomas Schostok: Well, I’m not quite sure, when it all starts. I saw an exhibition in the mid 90s, here in Germany about the designer David Carson. I think, that initiated my love for typography and I started to experiment with different sizes of characters in one word. [Some] people criticized his designs and the use of typography. For me, what he did, wasn’t design, it was art. Yes, I was influenced by his design. It was telling me, that there is some kind of potential in design that someone who criticized him couldn’t imagine.

My background is in design and somehow the boundaries between design and art merged.

Art Nouveau: What’s your favorite font?

Thomas Schostok: Alpin Gothic No. 2

Art Nouveau: Tell me about your background in the arts.

Thomas Schostok: My career started as a salesman for bathroom tiles, what was — spoken in clear words — very boring. I started a design career, but design was always some kind of accident for me. I never knew about design or typography. I never studied art/design in college. I always thought that it wouldn’t be necessary. And I always thought: to study design is to be brainwashed. The most designer I know, are always looking for norms and rules. I was always against a design education. For me, nothing new can be created with the strong default of a professor.

Art was the logical continuation of graphic design for me. When I did a lot of design and spend a lot of hours on the computer, I sometimes tried to keep me away from the slavery of the computer. I started to work on my “Gluebooks”. It was a wonderful thing to do that, because there was no “undo” function. Later I learned, that it was just some sort of evolution: making design to working on art.

Art Nouveau: Where do you think web design and blog design is going?

Thomas Schostok: To the Antarctic, I think.

Art Nouveau: Do you work primarily on computer?

Thomas Schostok: It’s 50% analog and 50% digital. I start to work analog, on paper, on canvas, by hand and rework that by computer. Sometimes it’s the way around, starting on computer and then do something on paper and use that for the computer.

Art Nouveau: Are you influenced by Street Art?

Thomas Schostok: No, not by street art, by the streets. I take things I found on the streets and use them for my paintings. Stickers, paper, wood, junk.

Art Nouveau: Tell me about this Paradise Enterprise piece. What statement are you making if any?

Thomas Schostok: It’s basically about people who act immoral in the eyes of people of high standards and morality. It’s about a society of double standards. It’s about guilty people who are innocent and about innocent people who are guilty – it all depends on which side you stand and for WHAT you stand. And it’s about the day where you loose your innocence without knowing it at first sight. Paradise Enterprise is also a strip club in Australia.

Art Nouveau: How is your approach differ working on canvas and computer?

Thomas Schostok: In fact, there is no real difference. When I work on canvas, the computer is a tool for creating parts of the artwork.

When I create an artwork, parts of already finished artworks will be used as material. I would say, everything that I produce is influenced by something that I created before. The whole work is a process. Compare it with the process of sampling in the music biz. You take samples and create a new song. Then you takes samples of that song and use it for another song, and so on.

Art Nouveau: Do you think you had to transfer your work to canvas to enter the fine art world?

Thomas Schostok: No. Working on canvas was just a technical aspect, one step further. When I started doing art, I did a lot of smaller artworks, mostly on paper, in books or on wood. Later, the space was not big enough to express my art. Canvas is just one kind of material and I don’t want to focus on that but it helps to produce bigger artworks. In fact, I hate working on canvas.

Art Nouveau: What’s next for you?

Thomas Schostok: Pool, Martini, Girls.

Art Nouveau: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Thomas Schostok: You’re somebody until nobody loves you.