Clemens Behr | Germany
My work is complicated, improvised … and inexpensive. These are the words with which Clemens Behr, a 28-year-old German artist, describes his creative endeavors. Behr is held in such a high regard within the artistic circle due to his startling and complex ephemeral structures created exclusively with found materials. Besides outside street pieces, Clemens has also been filling galleries with these kinds of structures – part origami, part three-dimensional graphic designs.
As an adolescent growing up in Koblenz, a city in central Germany, Behr fastened himself to the to the world of street expression as his only mean of self-expression. He orchestrated his time around music, skateboarding and graffiti, a lifestyle which hasn’t really changed too much to this day – it only developed into something new over time. Since he started making artworks in a way he does today, Clemens was heavily inspired by the concepts of Dadaism and it’s followers, especially for the Gymnasium project of printed images and text based on collage. Behr’s passion for ephemeral street works developed over time as he was studying graphic design at Dortmund’s University of Applied Sciences.
Not compromising his affinity towards creating collage pieces, Clemens started cutting and placing the boxes in a manner that intensified the pasting medium from the early 20th century, emphasizing geometric elements of the new shapes. This decision eventually pushed Behr over a certain boundary that separated him from the two-dimensional creative vocabulary and led him into the world of three-dimensional works. This field of graphic design became Clemens’ focal point, an artistic tip of the sword formed around concepts of layout, balance and rhythm.
The ephemeral nature of his work led to Behr’s often present sense of disappointment, but the limited time every piece has to exist is an inevitable segment of this kind of work. If you chose to place something in a public space, you must accept that other people have an equal right to use that space, he explained. Soon, he started to rely on recycled found materials, yet again venturing him into new territory. Clemens also began putting much effort into reflecting the serendipity of the local architecture and capturing a spirit of the place where the artwork will be installed. He explained his work with the following statement: It was like a paradise for me. My approach was – and is – to break down space, to reduce it to fragments and then to reassemble it. To turn it upside down.
Clemens Behr makes unique artworks based on a developed collage concept adapted to street’s requirements. The unique boldness of Behr’s work led him to ample opportunities to answer commission calls from Germany, Spain, Marrakech and Sao Paulo. Ultimately, the most impressive aspect of Clemens’ work is not the fantastic visuals – which are, make no mistake, rather phenomenal. Behr’s readiness to dedicate dozens of hours to pieces that will certainly be destroyed at one point in soon future is a feature of Clemens’ career worthy of respect. This is a normal occurrence for an artist such as Behr, however, as he explained himself: For me this has always been the normal way of things; to create something and then to let it go.
Behr is currently based in Berlin, but travels consistently, leaving amazing installations wherever he goes. He creates sculpturally inspired installations in both public and interior environments, utilizing found recycled ephemera as well as basic building materials. His abstract installations, composed of cardboard, wood, paint, tape and found materials, often result in subtle confusions between 2D painting and 3D objects.
With a background in graffiti and having studied as a graphic designer, Behr creates sculpture in an architecturally deconstructionist style. His influences include origami, spontaneous chance, and a deep interest in the environment in which his installations are displayed. His work is a realization of the progressive nature of our art form. One can see how he attacks a space or wall, leaving an impression the same way he might have when he painted a wall as a graffiti writer. The energy and size of his work mixes with the ephemeral state of his installations. To be able to transform walls and space into temporary sculptures, knowing they will be destroyed or taken down, is something you get used to as a graffiti artist creating public works. So, it’s no surprise that he takes this same approach to his installations.
The impromptu nature of his work, reflecting the palette of the environment it’s installed in, or common everyday material found in its immediate surroundings, provides the artist with inspiration. Behr’s work walks the fine line of chaos, yet brings perfect moments of clarity.
About his art, Behr states, “My work is complicated, inexpensive and improvised…My process all begins with the space, which acts as a basis for planning. The space defines the colors and shapes, as well as any fixing or mounting possibilities and the dimensions of the piece. I can’t plan that much in advance, because I can never be certain which possibilities and machinery will be available for me to use. Once I have the composition or an idea of the finished piece visualized in my head, I usually begin to paint the cardboard. Then a wooden frame is screwed together onto which the cardboard will be fixed. This occurs very haphazardly. Before I travel to cities like Delhi or Marrakech I do no preparation before. I just look at the city’s colors and shapes and try to adopt it in to my work. In general, the way I work should be a kind of transformation of the architecture. It pulls everything apart and assembles it in a new geometrical disorder. The source of my inspiration can definitely be traced back to the work of Marcel Duchamp and Kurt Schwitters, and I would name Gordon Matta-Clark as my favorite artist.”