Bene Rohlman Portrait
Bene Rohlman is a German illustrator fascinated by Alaska since he saw Sean Penn’s film Into The Wild. He incidentally took part in an artist residency in this North America’s deserted state. This marked the beginning of an artistic world tour for the illustrator, whose work was subsequently exhibited all over the globe.
A timeless and universal artist, he wishes to develop images that are intelligible and interpretable by everyone, everywhere. If he could be someone else for a day, he would probably choose René Magritte and hang out with his friends in 1920s Paris. When he thinks about England, the melted cheese sandwiches at London’s Borough Market spring to mind. For him, Olow rhymes with quality and quantity.
Hi Bene! You left to spend two months in Alaska for a residence in Sitka two years after having finished your Design and Illustration studies in Munster. Can you tell us about that experience?
I have always been fascinated by the USA (especially by the landscape) but I only knew it from movies and television. Then I saw the movie ‘Into The Wild’ a couple of years ago and it made me want to go to Alaska so badly. So this residency program seemed like the perfect opportunity. The great thing about this residency is – besides the stunning nature surrounding us – that there were 5 other residents, all from different fields. A writer, a singer/songwriter/poet, a comic artist, a printmaker and an astrophysicist. We all had a single or shared studio and seven weeks to work on a project. There was so much talent, so many different points of view and tons of inspiration around me all the time. Then of course there was beautiful nature and traditional art everywhere (totems etc), that inspired me a lot. It wasn’t always easy to go to the studio and work, because I often just wanted to be outside and enjoy the ocean, the forests and the mountains and also hang out with the other residents. One thing that helped was the rain. It was raining heavily a lot of the time, so that was also a good thing I guess. I used my time in the studio to work on pieces for an exhibition. I definitely could have worked more efficiently and I could have gotten more stuff done, but looking back, I’m happy with the way I did it. It wasn’t really about producing and working as much as possible, it was more about being there in Sitka, connecting with the other fellows and with the wonderful and very open community and just seeing it as a once in a lifetime experience that has heavily influenced me and will always be an important part of me.
You have exhibited all over the world: United-States, England, Germany, Austria, Greece, Singapore… In what sense is your work universal?
As an artist and illustrator I create images that work without a text and that everybody can ‘read’ or at least interpret in their own way. Art is it’s own language that everybody understands, no matter where from. This is a wonderful thing and I’m very grateful that people from so many different countries and cultures like and maybe sometimes even understand what I’m creating.
We were just talking about you exhibiting in England. Can you tell us about a souvenir or an anecdote you have from that country?
I’ve been part of three exhibitions in England so far, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to go to a single one of these shows. But I went to London several times, because I have a friend there and one of the memories that keeps coming back to my mind from time to time is weirdly the grilled cheese sandwich that I ate at Borough Market. It was amazing and really left an impression. I just love food way too much!
How would you define your style?
Hm, that’s not easy… I guess, spontaneously, I would call it a weird, macabre and sarcastic mash up of many influences and a certain kind of dark humor.
You have worked with very varied clients; from Google to Mercedes Benz, from Rolling Stone magazine to The New York Times. What does all this diversity bring you?
It is important to me to try new things every now and then and to have as many different commissions and projects as possible. Otherwise I would quickly get bored. I like to discover new and unfamiliar territories, because I believe that these challenges help me become a better illustrator and artist. Also, to work with a wide range of clients and especially to work with ‘bigger’ clients pushes me and gives me a certain safety, because I feel trusted and I know that my work is appreciated.
What do you like about OLOW?
I don’t own any product by OLOW, yet, but I like what I see on the website so far. The clothes look like high quality and nice fabrics and the offered range of products is kind of reduced. It’s quality over quantity – I like that!
If you could be another artist, living or dead, for a whole day, who would it be?
That’s a tough on. There are so many artists, whose minds I would like to explore, but one of my favorites probably would be René Magritte. What was going on in his head? How was it like, hanging out with other artists in Paris, in the 1920s? I’m a huge admirer of his work and it would be too cool to have his thoughts and ideas for a day!
Where in the world will your illustrations be exhibited next?
There will be four group exhibitions, all in December:
– „The Post-It Show 11“ at Giant Robot, Los Angeles
– „Don’t Wake Daddy X“ at Feinkunst Krüger, Hamburg
– An exhibition held by „Kingbrown Magazine“ in New York City
– A group show in a new Gallery Space in Bielefeld (Germany)
And finally, can you give us a good address where you like to unwind in Berlin?
My favorite place to go is „Thea & Coffee“. It’s in my hood Moabit and it’s the perfect place to relax, drink some of the best coffee in town and always meet friends and other nice people. I used to work there for about a year and went there almost every day, so now I would call it my second home here in Berlin.
For Olow, this season, the artist has drawn two graphic tee-shirts, discover it on our e-shop by clicking on the image below !