Painted in Blood: An exhibition of metal artworks by Thomas Ewerhard (Avantasia, Volbeat, Amon Amarth, Spock’s Beard, Jon Oliva etc.), Jan Meininghaus (Kreator, Bolt Thrower, Overkill, Accept etc.) and Björn Gooßes (Dew-Scented, Hackneyed, Pendragon, Hatesphere etc.).
Feb 5th – Mar 4th, 2016, Sold Out Gallery, Königsallee 16, 44789 Bochum, Germany
Grand opening on Friday, Feb 5th 2016, 6:00pm, free entrance
Including acoustic performance by Jen Majura (Evanescence) from 7:00pm
Interview with Jan Meininghaus (JM), Thomas Ewerhard (TE) & Björn Gooßes (BG)
HMA: How did the concept for “Painted in Blood: An exhibition of metal artworks” started?
JM: Although I have taken part in various group shows so far and had a couple of solo shows, there was never any metal-themed exhibition. Having all the paintings locked away in my basement I once thought it might be cool to have an exhibition that’s bloody, brutal and loud to kick the art scene in its ass. So I asked my buddies Thomas and Björn if they would join this for a Metal art group show.
BG: Actually we already wanted to do a joint venture a few years ago, but for some reason it didn’t work out until now. I think it was Jan who picked up the ball again in fall 2015…
TE: Yes, Jan approached us with the basic idea and of course we were interested in doing this exhibition together. Can’t wait for this event to start and I am sure there will be a few raised eyebrows among the audience.
HMA: Any challenges in finding a suitable venue?
JM: The Sold Out Gallery in Bochum hosted my last solo show Punk Rock & Rebels and so they were the first choice for Painted in blood. Although they are kinda street art oriented in general, they have the right DIY/punk rock spirit that most artsy fartsy galleries would miss. And they are located in Bochum, the heart of the Ruhr area with a huge metal scene and a pioneering spirit in metal reaching back to the early 80s.
TE: That’s actually one of the most important parts about this exhibition, cause each of us has his roots in the 80s and we have known each other for a long time, and – to a certain degree – we were also pioneers with what we do now in terms of artwork.
BG: Being the nestling of us three my roots are rather the early 90s, but I agree that it was quite clear if we do a joint venture, it will have to be somewhere in the Ruhr area for sure!
HMA: All three artists Thomas Ewerhard (Avantasia, Volbeat, Amon Amarth, Spock’s Beard, Jon Oliva etc.), Jan Meininghaus (Kreator, Bolt Thrower, Overkill, Accept etc.) and Björn Gooßes (Dew-Scented, Hackneyed, Pendragon, Hatesphere etc.) are veteran in the industry. How did you get together?
BG: I wouldn’t consider myself as a veteran. Well, I am running Killustrations full time since 2006, but Jan & Thomas have started way earlier than me. They already were pros when I just bought my first PC in order to do some artworks on my own. You know, I more or less started doing artworks out of need. Since I joined my first band, I’ve always been responsible for the artwork without being able to do it on my own. So you can guess I was a really annoying smartypants for the artists we’ve worked with. So it happened that Thomas did the layout of my former band Night In Gales, respectively its Thunderbeast album in 1998. I knew exactly what I wanted, and I think I was pretty much a pain in the ass for Thomas, as I had literally been sitting next to him on the computer haha! But he supported me a lot when I did the first artwork steps myself back in 2000, when it was time for the next Night In Gales album. However, all of us already knew each other before, as we have all been growing up in the same region (Nether Rhine in Northwestern Germany) and have been hanging around at the same rock & metal shows in the early 1990s here and there…
JM: Thomas and I started off together in the early 90s from creating the posters, covers and flyers for our own band Breeding Fear in which Thomas was singing in and I pretended to play guitar. We recorded our first demo tape at Andy Claassen’s (Holy Moses) Stage One Studio where we got in contact to other bands (Richthofen, Crack Up, etc.) who were looking for artwork. Additionally we played a lot of gigs with other bands and began to take care of their art issues more and more. At that time (before the internet) it was still a DIY-scene with photocopied flyers, fanzines and classified ads. Björn was playing with Night in Gales at that time and since they were from the next city, we knew each other. At that time you knew anybody from your city who was wearing a Slayer Shirt or a Metal Vest…
TE: Yes, that’s right. And I was pretending to sing, haha. I am not sure anymore if all three of us ever shared the same stage (did we, Björn?), but we know each other from back in the days, when being a Heavy Metal fan and / or musician was still something like being an outsider. I liked that I lot and I miss knowing EVERY band in the Rock Hard magazine, today that’s virtually impossible.
BG: I think we had some gigs together. Yet they were rather at the bar, not on stage haha…! But I never wore a Slayer shirt or metal vest, Jan!
TE: No Slayer shirt?? What kind of a metal fan are you?? 😉
JM: And it’s never too late for a Metal vest!
BG: Fuck it. I got balls of steel, that’s enough.
HMA: Does the exhibition have a theme and what kind of crowd you like to attract?
BG: ‘Painted In Blood’ is obviously the theme, and even though each of us has been doing artworks for various bands, authors, festivals and companies for different genres and branches, a lot to most of our works have been used for heavy metal releases. And we all have a common love for rock & metal music. So we basically wanted to show that: Heavy Metal Art. Still, we don’t necessarily want to draw just metal people, but people who love art in general. Most of the artwork won’t have any band logos on them, so people from outside the metal genre won’t be „confused“ and can just enjoy the images on their own.
JM: I agree. And without the band logos most of the works can also be called fantastic art. So it might be an interesting exhibition for Metalheads that skip galleries and museums usually. And on the other hand you don’t have to be passionate about Rock or music at all if you just like fantastic and surreal art.
BG: I’d even say fan-fuckin’-tastic!
TE: The idea behind this actually is to present our artworks from an outside point of view, as if somebody not related to Heavy Metal would have organized the exhibition. We want to put focus on the artwork itself and not so much on the band or project it was used for. That’s why I hope that not only Metal fans will stop by, but also ‘regular’ people interested in (sub)culture and art.
HMA: How does Metal Artwork fit with the mainstream art? Is Metal Art as influential and relevant?
BG: What is mainstream art? Who makes a difference? And who decides if an artist is influential or not? Just like everywhere else, there’s a wide spectrum of imagery within the metal genre, ranging from utter crap to breathtaking pieces of art. It’s always a matter of taste, and we’re not the ones to judge if this or that artwork is good or not. Also its relevance lies in the eye of the beholder. For me a minimalistic street art peace can just be as influential for my personal work as an elaborated painting from one of the old masters. And even if „Painted In Blood“ is a rather bold and simple motto, it’s of course not only about the generic blood & skull imagery. The musical and lyrical themes and emotions found in metal music can be shown with many different methods and subjects. Surely our exhibition will feature one or another bloody piece, too – but if you paint with blood you don’t necessarily have to show blood, you know what I mean?
JM: I feel more comfortable with a difference between mainstream art and Metal art than Björn. In other words, I like the rebellious approach of underground art to destroy given values, question (artworld-)authorities and create art that everybody can understand. I like Lowbrow art, pop culture, comics and toys and everything that’s considered to be childish and crude by the masses.
BG: It’s not that I feel uncomfortable with the difference, I just think it sometimes just doesn’t make sense. Of course certain categories referring to style/method/time make it easier to deal with the wide world of art in general, but I personally don’t give a fuck if a piece of art is mainstream or total underground – I just make a difference between art I like and that which I don’t.
TE: Quite recently one of my artworks was part of the ‘Gothic Horror Landscapes’ exhibition at the Museum of Art in Gothenburg, which of course is a mainstream museum with paintings of van Gogh and such. The exhibition lasted for about 5 months and displayed many metal artworks from different artists, so it was actually quite close to what we do at the Sold Out Gallery. I was told later by the curator of the museum that it has been the most successful special show they ever had at his museum, and it was then transferred to museums in Stockholm and Helsingborg as well. There you go! Heavy Metal art is respected and has its place among the mainstream art enthusiasts!
BG: Thomas, you betrayed the Metal scene!! Haha… see what I mean, Alex? Even if Metal art may have more extreme subjects than other genres, a great piece is a great piece, no matter what it’s used for and no matter if only 10 people have ever seen it or if it goes on display in a world renowned museum.
TE: Oh boy, and I didn’t even get money for my betrayal…
JM: And I might add that there was always a great influence of underground and subculture to the mainstream. Whether it was the 20s Swing kids, Rock’n’Roll-Mania of the 50s, Psychedelic Rock of the 60s, Punk, Hardcore, Skateboarding or Metal. All these underground cultures served as great inspiration for the rest of the world.
HMA: Lastly… Art often depicts current world event and analyze social, cultural and political issues. Is Metal Art spearheading this without compromising on creativity, political correctness, popular standards and censorship?
BG: Of course I am trying to make a living on Killustrations, but first and foremost I am expressing myself through artworks. There’s no „service“ you can book. I work with my clients, not for them, you know? So I think to be able to provide the best results you have to free yourself from anything that could harm, restrict or modify your artistic expression in any form. Hence political correctness, popular standards or any form of censorship is definitely the enemy. I do not see myself as an artists who directly reacts on what happens in this world, but there’s definitely a lot of symbolism and social metaphors to be found within metal art and finally my art, too. At the end of the day I do not have a mission in terms of lecture or education, but I am surely influenced by current affairs whatsoever. Yet it’s finally all about a great image that ideally reflects not only its creator, but also the band, their album, its title and lyrics, the whole vibe of what it has been created for. This is an ever recurring challenge I am gladly accepting.
JM: Definitely! It’s important to have the visualization of Metal (Rock, Punk, etc) to support the lyrics and the message of the band. Sometimes the artwork itself works like a political or social statement. Although my own work is more escapism and fantasy than a social comment I personally like bands and artists with a strong message. From my creative point of view I leave that to Rage Against The Machine, Shepard Fairey or Banksy.
BG: Has one of you been to Banksy’s Dismaland? I would have loved to go there, but missed it…
JM: I thought about going to see it. But at the end I would have been disappointed because I guess it’s just set up for the already known effect. 100% Banksy. I always liked the approach of Shepard Fairey way more anyway.
TE: Metal Art has a much blunter way of exposing current problems and nuisances than other forms of art. That’s what makes it so unique and also causes some people to frown on it or even disregard it totally. That gives us one more good reason to do this exhibition and prove them otherwise!
JM: A quote I have always liked a lot may be a good closing line here: “Wanting people to listen, you can’t just tap them on the shoulder anymore. You have to hit them with a sledgehammer, and then you’ll notice you’ve got their strict attention”. (Kevin Spacey as John Doe in ‘Se7en’)
Interview by Alex Milazzo – Copyright 2015 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.