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Herwig Maria Stark " Crossing Borders - Fashion In Transformation" © Herwig Maria Stark
Self portrait - Herwig Maria Stark.
Hand-painted vintage collection. © Herwig Maria Stark


    29 October 2019


    By Katja Schmolka, @katjaschmolka

    It is 10 am Californian time. The phone rings showing a foreign number starting with + 43 on the display of my cell phone. " Hi Katja … " I hear a man saying with a deep velvety voice, calling from the other side of the world, - Vienna. It is Herwig.

    I chatted in an intimate conversation with the internationally renowned, and multiple times awarded Austrian artist Herwig Maria Stark about his almost spiritual process of creating. Creating his intriguing honest portraits that seem to have a life on their own, and the creation of his latest new hand-painted vintage collection  “CROSSING BORDERS - Fashion in transformation” that consists of 65 vintage pieces like Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and among others H&M which he transforms as if by magic into living pieces of art.

     “ Where the color wants to stay on the garment is pure coincident, says Stark. I observe what is going on during that process and what wants to come out of it. I started out with fashion in my formative years, later I was drawn into the world of painting and art - and now I am about to combine these two passions of mine -The circle closes.”

    New Zeitgeist like Herwig Maria Stark is all about transformation instead of out-sourcing. He offers his clients to bring their “I´m  tired of these garments stuff” to him into his atelier in the artistically 7th district in Vienna to breathe in new life into these well cut pieces of fabric through his vivid colors and brush strokes.

    And when he is not painting in his atelier you can find him in his favorite old fashioned café, Café Korb where he likes to sip on his coffee and to observe how the well in old fashioned viennese manner trained waiters in their black suits and white shirts welcome their guests with a friendly “Grüß Gott”.

    What fascinates you about creative work?

    The constant inventing myself anew, getting deeper and deeper and going further and further.The striving to become better, to explore and experience the limits and to overcome them. To see things, circumstances, situations, emotions again and again from a new point of view. It gives pleasure, satisfaction, euphoria but also self-doubt, fears arise - if you face these challenges, the result is often very successful. I think that humans are there to create and we create so many beautiful and wonderful things. I am very grateful for my talents and the luck to live and practice them.

    Where do you find your inspirations?

    No matter where I go, stand, who or what I see - something always touches me, be it positive, pleasant or negative, unpleasant. I am very emphatic and feel a lot on the emotional level - so I can only work on feeling and not on concepts that come from ratio. These are people, situations, conditions, movies, news, books, music, conversations and much more that always inspire me.

    What music do you listen to when you're in the creative process?

    From classical music, opera to jazz, progressive house, even pop music and real commercial kitsch can inspire me - it depends on my daily condition what I hear, but without music nothing works. But still there are moments where I look for absolute silence...

    How important are people and spirituality in your life?

    People are very, very important to me. Every person I meet is like a mirror for me and opposite - we can't without each other and often also not with each other - which makes me sad. Even people who are unfriendly or aggressive only run into us so that we can learn something when we are ready. People inspire me, above all what they feel, think - their inner life interests me very much. My own as well as that of those I meet. I love people in general, I often get very angry with them, then I try to change my point of view and look deeper at what life is trying to tell me - but I don't always succeed.

    Spirituality is very important to me and more important than religions, because these are often abused and then become manipulative and dogmatic. I also don't believe in a soul in the body, how can I?! How could one graft the infinite into the finite? I rather believe that we are multidimensional individuals who have decided to experience the process of BEING HUMAN, and therefore our "finite body" is nothing more than a projection of the respective individual idea of bodies we use here to get out of a car and into another one. Therefore I believe, want and have to believe that death is nothing else than the change into another being. Here in this dimension, our dimension, we can experience things that might not be possible one step above...so spirituality is VERY important..for me!

    Art and fashion - what do they have in common for you?

    Both are the result of the creative process from man for man - fashion is more about our outward appearance, how our ego wants to present itself to the outside world, depending on the trend and what is currently fashionable.

    Fashion is probably also art, because many things go beyond what is wearable in everyday life, and many designers are probably more of an artist than a textile producer for me - which is wonderful when you look at the works of Alexander McQueen - and I am really filled with respect and admiration. Art in the classical sense probably serves our inner and spiritual life more. Yes, good art is food for the spirit and absolutely necessary and indispensable. Without art our soul would starve, dry up and become a stinking mud. And so everything connects, fashion, art, food, drink, live, love...simply to BE, here and now.

    What do you want to express through your portraits?

    My portraits are not a reproduction of what I have seen, but rather an interpretation of it and of what I feel. My empathy allows me to go deep into the emotional worlds of the others, leaving out the unnecessary and bringing out the hidden. It requires some subtlety and intuition, in the case of a commission, to reproduce what is felt in such a way that it does not hurt the other. My portraits are mostly characterized by strong characters, they are mirrors and visions of the people, often not marked as an individual identity, but rather as a collective identity.

    They also show a society full of weaknesses, melancholy, vice and restlessness, a deeply rooted discomfort of an entire generation and are illusions of trusted intimacy.

    You have just presented your first vintage collection in Vienna which is painted by you with different techniques. How did you come up with this idea?

    For a long time I had the idea and wish to unite my two lovers, fashion and art. So it happened that I had the idea to create wearable art, which is nothing new and always comes back. But since it's never the same when two people do the same thing, it's still new what I do, " because I do it my way ". Apart from that, I find that too much clothing is simply thrown away and thus offers the opportunity to breathe new life into the old and to return vintage parts to the round dance of the fashion world. You also have the one or other piece of clothing that you don't want to throw away, because you associate a lot with it - that's why I offer that people can bring their clothes to me and I give them back a wearable work of art. I will certainly continue this project, I will also include my own cuts and disassemble old and reassemble, who knows - maybe I will simply display painted clothes like a picture hanging on the wall. The possibilities are endless and varied - so it will be exciting.

    What is the motto of this collection?

    The topic of the collection were nude drawings, the figures, which are more or less abstract and recognizable on the clothes. In any case, this was the red thread that runs through them.

    Is there a memory or event in your life that has shaped you artistically?

    Yes, after a long stay in hospital I realized what I really wanted to do and that life is too precious to waste and just to go about things and activities to survive. Then I began to paint, really, although I always did, even as a little child, but only for myself. But now I also do it for myself out of the attitude of perhaps being able to give something to others, to be able to give something back.

    Do you have a future project you would like to talk about?

    Project ideas there are many, well, I, can not implement everything at once. So I just carry on with what I started and see where it will lead me. However, for some time now I have been in a phase of change, a departure towards change. My desire to combine old and new is also reflected in my last works, to combine abstract, washed-out, trickled with concrete and thus to develop a new visual language.

    Is there a wish that you would like to fulfill?

    I just want to be able to move a lot, leave a fingerprint in the world. To move something on a grand scale, however, requires the appropriate means, and if my work brings me prestige and prosperity, then I am very happy about it, but this is certainly not the reason why I do what I do. I also never want to forget that the small steps and movements are what make up the big picture - therefore these small steps are absolutely important and necessary to be able to make something big at some point. To be here and now, to create, tomorrow and the future come by themselves, so no reason not to want to be there I am looking forward to whatever may come to me. And how is it called with the Oscar awards so beautifully!:


    Thanks for the interview!



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