“I’m a rockstar that makes art,” he said. “I’m your next favorite artist.”
Teko Van Kuyk is a Berlin based artist whose work is largely concerned with figurative paintings. He was born in Switzerland and spent his formative years in New Zealand & Brazil before settling in Argentina and eventually moving to Berlin 2 years ago. He has spent most of his career in additive mode, figuring out how to make art that’s majestic and thought-provoking and mass-scaled.
Mia: When did you start making art?
Teko: My first encounters with the production workflow was while i was still a kid, when to keep me distracted, my mom would give me a pile of paper and crayons. According to her, at one point i drew a human figure upside down, when she asked why i did it in such a way, i replied that it was so she could see in an ideal way, since she was sitting across from me at the table. At that point she noticed that there was latent talent (genius maybe?) within me, so she started to incentive my artistic pursue. I guess as today i still maintained a lot of that childish approach at the moment of making art. For me it’s very important to have fun while doing it.
Also the child-artist is still present in the form of my work’s message, or lack of it. A lot of artists invest a lot of time and effort into developing a strong and meaningful artist statement, instead of dealing with subjects such as death, life, social differences i prefer to have a more playful and shallow approach, producing work that aims to make people happy in a simple and shallow way, rather then making them think about social issues or other ‘boring’ stuff. I leave that to the ‘serious’ artists.
But do not get mistaken, i AM a serious artists, i just avoid dwelling with serious (boring) subjects.
Mia: What was the genesis of your obsession with pineapples?
Teko: Everybody loves pineapples. The constant sales show so. They have been flying out from the studio at a constant rate. People love’em.
The idea behind the pineapple series was that it was an element that started as more present in fashion design over the last season. I wanted to experiment with the connotations of using fashion language into visual arts. The results and acceptance have been wide, which lead me to experiment with a large amount of supports, sizes and colors.
“People are easy to understand, they are attracted to thing they know and that media shoves down their throat on a regular basis.”
Mia: You featured public figures like Kanye, Cristiano Ronaldo, Tupac in some of your artwork. What made you decide to feature them in your artwork?
Teko: People are easy to understand, they are attracted to thing they know and that media shoves down their throat on a regular basis. So why should i waste time trying to create new subjects and thematics when i can use figures that people already are familiar with, love and consume? Honestly i’m not even that original in doing so (someone said Warhol?).
I believe that coming up with new ideas is dreadfully time consuming, and quite a risk. It would be possible that i spend years coming up with a new concept and at the end it’s not even embraced by the public. I’ll rather play amongst concept that have been tested and have a high rate of success and give it my own personal input. As i always say: Good artist create, great artist steal (actually Picasso said that, but i stole it).Also this allows me to focus on quantity, at this point of my career i want to produce works in bulk, even if that lowers my prices. I’ll rather sell 1.000.000 works for 1 Euro than one work for a 1.000.000 €, a million bucks is a million bucks, am i right?
Mia: How would you describe your artistic style? How did you arrive at this style?
Teko: I do art for the masses, none of that conceptual-complicated-curator needed to explain-bullshit, also i’m fed up with going to galleries and seeing some super boring-ass lookin’ art. Art is supposed to be fun, stop taking it so goddamn seriously. Also it seems that in Berlin all the colors available for purchase are grey, black, dark gray and light black. Why is everything so sober looking?
My work is a explosion of colors, it’s supposed to make you feel happy by looking it. My mission is not to discuss social issues, economical inequalities or racial differences. I’ll leave that to the ‘serious’ artists.
My art is shallow, and i’m completely in peace with that. It’s all glamour and no worries.
But don’t get me wrong, i’m a VERY serious and hard working artist. Never assume that just because my thematics are not serious that i’m not serious about my work, i’m VERY serious about my career, even if i’m having loads of fun along the way.
Mia: You’re from latin america – how has your work changed since you’ve been living in Berlin?
Teko: I guess i’ve came more in connection with my ‘latin roots’ over here. I dived head first into it and embraced them as an important part of my current production. More than trying to adjust and assimilate the local art scene and trying to fit in, it is important for me to stand up. My background is unique, so my artwork has to reflect that.
Also my years in latin america showed me that if i want to attain something it’s up to me to go and get it. Buenos Aires art scene is very closed, so if you don’t know the right people you don’t get very far. The issue was i didn’t know the right people to get into the traditional gallery circuit, i had to create my OWN gallery circuit, curate my own shows and create my own exhibition opportunities, this approach is generating a lot of good results here in Berlin and Europe.
Mia: How is your work evolving?
Teko: I think the main evolution is in my career, rather that on my ‘work’ per se. While the distances in latin america make it exhibiting internationally quite a challenge, since i moved to europe i was able to exhibit in several different countries also made my buyer base quite more international. I’m able to say that my work is now part of several collections around Europe and America.
Also i have achieved very important partnerships with curators and galleries, my work is now represented by some very interesting movers and shakers around europe. I must say that one of the most exciting partnerships is with the gallery Art von Frei in Berlin, i got acquainted with it’s director Eva Moll briefly after moving to Berlin and her gallery quickly established itself as one of my favorite in town, i was very happy when last year she started to exhibit my work. I’m very happy for the past results and really looking forward for some projects coming in down the road.
“Yachts, piles of money, gold watches and hip hop videos. My inspirations are from the realm of pop icons and mass produced items. Who need divine muses when you have campbells soup?”
Mia: What inspires you?
Teko: Yachts, piles of money, gold watches and hip hop videos. My inspirations are from the realm of pop icons and mass produced items. Who need divine muses when you have campbells soup?
Mia: What was your favorite piece of advice you ever received about painting, and from whom?
Teko: I once read one of those cheesy ass inspirational quotes that said that success is like 99% transpiration and 1% inspiration. Cheesy AF i know, but also true AF.
I’m not the greatest painter, i’m not the best connected person and i’m don’t have the greatest technique. BUT i’m gonna work harder than all those other artists out there, you paint better than me? I’m gonna work harder than you. You are super well connected within the art world? I’m gonna work harder than you. You have the greatest artistic techniques? I’m gonna work harder than you.
On the long way to the top, hard work ALWAYS overtakes god given talent. So, when you get to the top, i’ll be there waiting for you.
Mia: If you could work with anyone who would it be?
Teko: Satan, i would love to do a hip hop album with Satan. Maybe Cristiano Ronaldo, a series of painting using him as live model or of course, my greatest hero, Kanye West, i would love to design his presidential campaign for 2020.
“To have people love you is good, but to have people hate you, that is gold, that’s great! The worst thing is to have people be indifferent to you, that means you are doing something wrong.”
Mia: What’s something you’ve discovered about yourself in the last year or so? Could be a large or very small epiphany.
Teko: Haters gonna hate, if people are hating on you, is because you are doing something right. You cannot get to the top without awakening some envy along the way. To have people love you is good, but to have people hate you, that is gold, that’s great! The worst thing is to have people be indifferent to you, that means you are doing something wrong.
Mia: What are you working on now and what’s coming up?
Teko: I’m currently working with a talented group of talented chemists on developing a form of ultra-viagra, that will drop into market next year. I also expect to win next year Nobel Prize for best artist, so i’m giving my acceptance speech the final touches.