Inspiration from within – A smalltalk with Berlin painter Jonas Koch

Jonas Koch grew up in Hamburg in the north of Germany. As a child he never had a clear vision of what he‘d become except a grown up so school was nothing he found interesting at that time. Later he decided to rather move to first London and then Berlin to see and experience real life and existential facts than get stuck. He worked a little bit here and there from bartending to high end streetwear retail jobs until he turned out to become one of my current favourite Berlin artists.

“It took me a while to figure out what I really wanted to do, I guess a lot of people have the same problem – to have all these possibilities leads to being really unsure where to start. I always knew I wanted to paint, I always did do creative things but thought I wasn’t good enough. That feeling never really changed but at some point I stopped caring too much about it.”

I always wondered what it is that makes an artist. Is it reputation, natural talent, intuition or the status of being able to pay your bills with your art? Is it something you’re being called or is it a name you one day decide to give yourself?

So I got Jonas into a little conversation.

Is your talent for painting a fact you’ve always been aware of, or did you discover it along the way?

I never thought I had any talent and I think other people should decide if I do or don’t but for me it felt more like an urge to paint and create, I fought against it for a while and didn’t give in but at some point and several tries to live a normal, secure life I just couldn’t do it anymore.

When and how did art become such a main focus in your life?

I always wanted to do it, it was always a deep wish to become an “artist” but I never thought I’d be able to succeed doing this. About 3 years ago, I just came out of a full-time job I was doing for a while, and just started painting again every day and tried new things.

How did it feel to exhibit for the first time? I could imagine being an artist becomes real on another level as soon as you invite people to have an opinion about your work, right?

Yeah for sure, but I think it will take years for someone to call themselves “artist”. For me, I’m a guy that paints and tries to follow his need to do this. The first exhibition made me super nervous but I also really enjoyed it, it happened relatively quick and that’s really good in retrospective because through the various opinions I learned a lot about my work at the time and that helped me to view it with a different eye.

Organic forms, harmonious colors, movement, bodies and social interactions seem to be part of your visual language and content. Where do you get your inspiration from? Would you say it’s contemplation or rather inspired by internal subjects?

Inspiration mostly comes from within, sometimes also from just being outside, listening to people and catching tiny bits of conversations. But most of the time I just start, get everything out and try to form something I find appealing to myself.

Being broke first, as you invest everything you get out of your art into new equipment, is a struggle which is very real. Ever thought of quitting?

Every day. It comes and goes in waves, you need to be very, very patient with everything which is hard for me at times but I try my best. Each cent I make goes back into the process of creating. Most important is to always keep the vision in front of you and remind yourself of it as there are a lot of things that I just can’t do most of the time – like go on holidays for example.

Is there some kind of DIY art scene you’re connected to or do you do your thing on your own?

Berlin is full of young and old creative people so of course there is a scene. I got some friends I do work with and try to do more things together with in the future. It’s a good mix, knowing what you want to do yourself but it’s important to also interact with others.

Does it feel like you‘ll be painting for the rest of your life, or can you also imagine this just being a ‘phase’ before you try another form of art?

Obviously I would never say it’s a phase but of course you never want to limit yourself, that’s the reason people should become artists in the first place – to be free with your decision as much as possible.

So, do you have concrete plans, next steps, upcoming events or visions for the future?

I would generally like to get further into sculpturing and also some audio/visual stuff in the near future. Next year I would like to do more group shows and that’s what I’m focusing on right now. So, yes, I have a lot of plans I’m working on.