Olaf Hajek: Precious
Olaf Hajek is something of an enigma. His breathtakingly lavish paintings are created in something like a fever, one on top of another, each painted more quickly than the last, shaping into ephemeral relics of Olaf’s own perception. We’re just here to catch the glimpses we can. For most of us that means experiencing them digitally or in the thin pages of magazines. Olaf’s current exhibition is a little staggering considering he has had a major show every one of the past few years and still more in the foreseeable future, allowing many to experience the work in person. But for those of us who can’t make it to Hamburg, Munich, Mallorca, or Johannesburg to get a look, we’ll finally be able to take a piece of Olaf’s most recent work home. This October Olaf’s new monograph ‘Olaf Hajek: Precious’ will publish.
The monograph includes paintings from an exhibition of the same name that showed at Anna Jill Lüpertz Gallery in Hamburg, and another show, ‘Jäger und Sammler,’ that showed in Munich. ‘Olaf Hajek: Precious’ is 112 pages of original work and includes essays by Oliver Hilmes and Taiye Selasi, and others.
‘Precious’ and ‘Hunters and Gatherers’ both played with Olaf’s favorite theme: the imperfection of beauty. “This is the main idea of my paintings,” explains Olaf. “I’m trying to disturb things a little bit. On one hand people think, ‘Oh it’s so beautiful,’ but then they look a little bit closer and then they see something more.” The detail that Olaf employs in his work is bracingly intricate, dragging you closer and closer into the story until you’re in a world you’d never thought to imagine before.
The images we've included in this post are not a representation of the contents of Olaf Hajek: Precious, but rather a sampling of his wider work.
Beauty and Exploration with Olaf Hajek
Just last week the art world was still shaking the blur out of its eyes after a strong showing at Art Basel Miami. Artists and brands convened on the city from all over the world, including Olaf Hajek who participated in a secret dinner with Patron for invited guests that we can’t really talk about.
What we can talk about, and what we did talk about, is what Olaf has been up to, his thoughts on creative industries, and what he’s currently exploring in his work.
All the artists on our roster came to art for the love of creation. But art is also business, and that’s what we do at B&A: connect artistry to commerce. For some artists it can be a transition to find and fill the space between those two seemingly disparate worlds. Olaf sees the confusion, but has been able to bridge it himself. “The market is always telling you what to do and what you’re allowed to do and what you’re not,” explains Olaf. “For example in Germany it’s always this thing that you have to be an illustrator or you have to be an artist. It’s a snobbishness about it. And nobody understands it. When you look at the [Art Basel] today and you see all these booths, you see all this work that has a very illustrative character, on the other hand you see of course something that has nothing to do with illustration. Who tells me which is art? Which is illustration? This whole idea is something you have to break at the roots.”
Olaf just came off a massive exhibition in Germany that explored Bavarian history and the hidden self, and is gearing up for two more shoes in Spain and South Africa – all while fitting illustration work in the brief pauses. No matter what Olaf is working on there are a few through lines that he always zeroes in on. “The idea is birth, death, evanescence, all these things can play around these ideas and paintings. Also when it comes to illustrating an article and illustrate a cover or a story you can play with your own little symbols,” explains Olaf. “And of course there’s always this surreal aspect. Then I like to combine it with something, it could be a flower, it could be a mask. So I’m playing around with these things and I’m trying to always see something that has a simple for and work it out in a more sophisticated way.” Of course, like every artist, Olaf is always kicking around specific ideas. As much as life and death and energy are always evident in all of his work, there’s one major theme he never stops working on: beauty.
“This imperfection of beauty which I always love. This is the main idea of my paintings. On the one hand people think it’s so beautiful, but then they look a little bit closer and they see something more,” says Olaf. “There’s always some mystery behind beauty. I can’t stand pure beauty; it’s boring. It’s not interesting. Perfection is boring. There are a lot of people who don’t want anything but perfection, I don’t belong with them. I really don’t think that is the way to go.”
Perfection is inhuman, and what Olaf displays from piece to piece, what all good art does, is explore what it is to be human. We don’t need any perfection in a conversation about humanity.
Get Nesty with Olaf Hajek and Leolux
One of our deepest human impulses is the desire to nest: to create a cozy and safe living space around ourselves. It’s a ritual that comes from an evolutionary imperative to keep the next generation safe, but in the modern world it’s spread out to touch everyone whether they’re a parent or not. We want to make sure our spaces are our own, with our own personalities and sensibilities. That’s exactly what Olaf Hajek tapped into for his latest collaboration with European furniture giant Leolux. The design company is wildly popular in Europe, and they’re also a great supporter of the arts. Every few years they link up with a new artist to help them shepherd their public creative identity, and right now the collaboration with Olaf is just starting to roll out.
The nesting impulse is what inspired Olaf for the Leolux this round, drawing a direct comparison to the reality of birds building literal nests. One of the paintings features a Marie Antoinette character with the regality that Leolux infuses into their own creative direction. But for Olaf, he saw her tall hair as an opportunity. “The idea is to build a nest and when you look at this she has a nest in her hair,” Olaf says. “They build up the nest in her hair and when you look at the birds they have little houses.” The interplay between nesting and housing is all over the imagery, from actual nests inside the larger hair next, to the small birdhouses, all the way to a laundry line drying a set of sheets.
For now, Olaf sees this as being the heart of the work he’s going to create for Leolux, but the door is wide open since the collaboration will last for years. The images you see now will be used for invitations, magazines, and industry trade shows. But writ large they’re the result of compounding inspiration where furniture and creative expression meet. In the best case scenario a home, a nest, is a source of inspiration. For Olaf, it needs to be.
Olaf Hajek and the Dream of Hermes
Hermes has been on the scene for almost two hundred years, commanding the interest and hearts of those who love fashion for all this time. The design house is a home for luxury creativity, and boasts a creative tradition unlike any other group in the world. There’s a rich history in the brand, something that Olaf Hajek distilled into a single image. It’s one thing to create a composition for a single season or campaign, but Olaf took the entire story of a brand and condensed it into a single image that Hermes could use however they felt fit for as long as they needed it. It became an exercise in metaphor and illustration, which happens to be a unique creative undertaking. And one that he excels at.
The painting that Olaf ended up with is a direct reflection of Hermes’ logo, but brings in elements that run through the brand’s mission and how their work has affected their customers and the rest of the fashion world. To strike that kind of balance, Olaf had to go a little bit beyond reality and encapsulate the brand’s emotional history, reaching beyond the pale of our world and into another one that is more expressive. Olaf’s painting includes the recognizable tree and horse of Hermes’ logo, but also brings in impossible elements, like a leaf full of water emptying out into mountain mist, and coming back down in a river. “I always love to have this kind of surreal element, bringing all these different things together,” explains Olaf. “I just do it naturally. My hand is doing something without thinking.” Olaf’s paintings have freedoms that photography, perhaps, doesn’t. Rather that creating a reflection of reality, he can get closer to a deeper truth and representation. He can bring an index of emotion and story into one image that speaks to experience over analysis.
Hermes represents so much more than collections of clothes, and is constantly telling their story to the world. Olaf sees their work writ large across time and incorporates it into his own process. “That’s why I also play this with these symbols, like evanescence, birth; something beautiful happens and then something is going down again, it’s dying,” explains Olaf. “Water for me is an amazing element which I really love and include in a lot of paintings.” In a way, Olaf's work becomes something of a dream, connecting us to moments that live outside of our perceived reality but connect us to a deeper truth, the truth of experience.
Olaf Hajek Offers a Year of Creativity
This year, grocery chain Vom Fass was looking to create a calendar that was inspired by what they do: food. They linked up with painter Olaf Hajek to have him create imagery from a series of recipes, one for each month plus a cover image, but they didn’t demand parameters that were more constricting than just that. They wanted it to be a completely creative venture by the painter, giving him a huge amount of freedom to explore his artistry. “I got the twelve recipes and I was totally free to get inspired by the ingredients of what was in the recipes and that was the only direction I got,” Olaf explains. “They never wanted to see any sketches, they never wanted to see anything before. I was a little bit afraid.” Olaf obviously didn’t want to let Vom Fass down, but once he realized they were purely fans of his work and wanted him to explore, knowing that whatever he came up with would be perfect, the pressure was relieved and he went all in.
Thirteen paintings isn’t anything to scoff at, in fact it ended up taking up his entire schedule for a month (and Olaf works pretty quickly as it is). This was a significant project that he had the luxury of devoting proper time to. “It was like creating a little exhibition myself,” Olaf says. “I was free to create 13 paintings without sketching, without talking to the clients, and I knew the kind of style they liked from my work, so I knew what it was related to, but I was completely free.” That freedom translated into a series of images that are drawn from the inspiration Vom Fass requested, but are richly in their own world while being honest to Olaf’s style. Vom Fass even bought each of the original images (before even seeing the completed works) so they could display them on their own.
In many ways, creating paintings around food is a natural pairing. As a process, cooking and painting are very similar in that they are creative ventures, something that Olaf is clear to point out when discussing this titanic project. “It’s all about pleasure and of course, being a cook can be very creative,” Olaf says. “Cooking is very relaxing and very social and very much also creative. And I think in this case, being a creative person and being a creative cook is the same idea. You work with your technique, you work with your style, and you work with your ingredients.” Whether those ingredients are oils and spices or paints and canvases, we’re always creating. If each dish is like a painting, this calendar invites you into Olaf’s creative world and guarantees the results will be delicious.
Olaf Hajek Breaks into the Third Dimension
Art is visual communication. It exists to translate ideas and feelings that transcend what words can do and do it with more efficiency. It is its own dialect, and can act as a language between those who do not already share one. The communicative properties of art came into stark relief for Olaf Hajek when he created a series of paintings for the South Korean Lotte World Mall in Seoul. A celebration of spring, Olaf's paintings feature flowers in bloom, rich grass islands, and flittering birds. The images are printed onto three-dimensional installations and cobbled together into sculptures that inhabit the space and bring a new world of this fresh season. Olaf doesn’t speak Korean, and his translator didn't speak German, so they found a primary common language of English but a fundamental common language of art. They were able to create five seasons of installations for the next year through a series of revisions and figurative interaction.
Since these pieces were going to be printed into 3D displays, Olaf had to provide the artwork in such a way that would be conducive to creating whatever sculptural elements Lotte would need. He painted each component independently. “I did every single element separately,” explains Olaf. “ The idea was to create a whole painting but every single element was painted on a separate layer.” Since they were creating the installations for five seasons, it ended up being an incredible volume of work. All in all, Olaf lost count of how many paintings he made for the final tally, but it was hundreds. To explain the breadth of the work, Olaf uses the island with the house on it: “There is this image of a little floating island, with green grass and a house. There’s a tree on it, there are birds, every single element is it’s own layer. If I count them together, every single blossom, every flower, I have no idea. I can’t count them." When you recognize that each insect and gem was painted independently and then composed together after the fact, it becomes an almost overwhelming prospect. But no trouble for Olaf, who has been working on the project for more than a year.
Since Olaf’s work is typically printed in two dimensions, this project represented a change of tack for him, but the work remains essentially the same. “I dealt with the season’s ideas but in kind of a magical fairytale type world,” says Olaf. The aesthetic is still his. If art is a form of communication, no matter what Olaf is building his language remains intact.
Toni Morrison's Latest Novel Inspires Olaf Hajek
Toni Morrison’s latest novel, “Gold Help the Child,” explores levels of child abuse, using familial racism as a backdrop to discuss human mistreatment in ravaging, emotional ways. Kara Walker’s review in The New York Times is paired with an original painting by Olaf Hajek, distilling some of the emotional themes in his signature grace.
The novel’s most striking early image is that of the main character, Bride, whose skin is so black she’s nearly blue. “I thought this was a really nice element to take over into this image,” says Olaf. The heart of his painting is a representation of this character whose skin turned even her mother and father away from her, igniting an emotional brutality that would frame the rest of the narrative. Springing forth from Bride is a blue pathway that shifts and changes in its flow, a representation of a theme from the book. “Kara explained this idea of this river, which is floating and coming out this person’s mind and suddenly goes into different directions and finding its own way,” says Olaf. “it goes from this person, it’s a kind of river, which is coming from the dark into the light.” Using a symbol like this allows for Olaf to say more in his paintings than he could do with classic representation. It adds a depth to the image, communicating beyond simple depiction.
Even the most cursory look at Olaf’s paintings give a deep impression of rich color and deep texture, utilized with aplomb in the painting for Morrison’s novel. Olaf has been using texture like this since he started his career decades ago, but it came out of necessity. “When I started my career I was working on found materials like cardboard, but after a while I didn’t have to work on found materials anymore,” says Olaf. “I was working on cardboard and now I’m working on wooden plates. For me the texture and the material are very important. It’s not only the painting and the drawing itself, it’s also the material.” The drawing out of these textures means there is a timeless quality to each image compounded by his choice of subject matter.
When it comes to composition, Olaf draws from the natural world, as he did with the painting for The New York Times. “I always like to get some kind of symbolism into my work,” he says. “That’s why I work with natural floral botanical elements because they have this natural symbolism, which I can use for a lot of different emotions.” Plant life, rock formations, insects each carry with them inherent connections for every viewer that will reach deeply into each viewing experience, color their view. Regarding a painting is a remarkably solo endeavor, like reading a novel: everyone experiences it on their own.
Olaf Hajek Takes Commercial Work Personally
Olaf Hajek is a painter by trade. He creates work and exhibits his fine art, as well as working on commercial campaigns with a more marketable angle. But for Olaf, there isn’t much distinction. He sees all his work as one body, with no lines drawn between the different spheres. “I don’t make any distinction anymore between personal art and commercial work. I can define them a little bit, but the consequence has to be that this is my style and there are varieties of everything possible,” he explains. “I really do love both worlds. I think both of them influence each other.”
For his latest project with J F Schwarzlose, the German perfumery, he approached it as he would any piece of personal work, with the added benefit of having a brief. The perfumes themselves are old scents from a defunct German company that was creating their mixes for Berliners in the 1920s. The company found the old recipes and mixed them back together for this special edition release. They grabbed Olaf to create special art boxes for the packaging, all inspired by the scents’ original provenance. When lined up, the boxes create one image, something that Olaf and J F Schwarzlose were acutely aware of and used to their advantage. “We had the idea to create a little storyline so if you put all these fragrances together you have one image, which somehow leads you through the day,” says Olaf. “And each perfume has the name, which is the inspiration starting point.” The day that Olaf and J F Schwarzlose constructed is as wild as the scents they present.
The story starts with a man on the first moves of the day, the scent named “1A33,” off the old license plate code for Berlin. This man meets an ethereal woman at the Brandenburg Gate, before immersing themselves in the experience of hypnosis, a huge fad in Berlin during the 20s. They disappear into the night, intoxicated and in ecstasy, experiencing the evening through the surreal. The man finally emerges from the intense experience like a fresh breath, almost as if he were waking up from a beautiful dream.
For J F Schwarzlose, the inspiration was inherent in the project, but for his own work he looks elsewhere. “I love folk art, I love the simplicity,” Olaf explains. “I create a lot of art which has something to do with African themes, so I’m always inspired by the exotic themes of the world, which are put together into my own style. I collage the idea of the world to my own creations.” His work becomes a veritable safari of influence, walking the line between historical styles and dreamlike images, always coming back to the handmade product of his work.
Yoga Discovery with Olaf Hajek
Olaf Hajek teams up with Angelika Taschen to create a charming new yoga primer called "Little Gurus." Olaf's illustrations are creative and playful, capturing more than just yoga poses but also the historical and cultural background of the discipline as well. "It was fun to take the reader on a journey of discovery into the world of yoga," Olaf says.
Olaf Hajek on His New MonographSteven Heller of Imprint interviews Olaf Hajek about his new monograph "Black Antoinette."
How long have you been painting?
I studied graphic design but started to become an illustrator nearly 18 years ago. I was always painting and never worked digitally, so the work with galleries somehow came natural over the years.
How long did it take for your approach evolve? What and who were your influences?
As a kid I was very much interested in the Impressionists painters and their idea about light. Later I was obsessed with the work of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele and their combination of beauty with a twist. As a student, "American Illustration" became my Bible...the approach in illustration that time was so much more artistic as what I was used to see in Germany.
I was always inspired and touched by the imperfection of beauty and the power of simplicity. That's why I love so much African and South American folk art and Indian miniatures. Whenever I was in New York my first thing to do was to go to the American Folk Art Museum.
Black Antoinette is a gorgeous collection of your work. Tell me where the title came from?
My idea was to create an image of luxury, opulence, and beauty which has nothing to do with wealth and prosperity. I adapted the idea of Marie Antoinette and created a "Black Antoinette" who is wearing the idea of the whole nature on her head-the beauty as well as the birth and death and the evanescence. Out of the first image I painted a whole series was born.
You attempt to recreate paradise using all kinds of exotic flora. Why are you so in tune with flowers?
Flowers are such symbolic elements for me. I sometimes try to paint a "real" flower, but most of them are just self created. The flower can be such a strong symbol for birth and death, for beauty and poison and the diversity of the nature. I try to combine them with animals and insects and thorns and water: a whole circle of life!
Much of your work is portraiture-known and unknown faces. There appears to be a reference here to the Islands, and the signs used for barber shops and beauty parlors. Is this true?
I was always in love with the barber shop signs and the painted advertising walls. These simple paintings had such a sophisticated power. One series in the book (which is actually a very old one, but which I exhibited in South Africa 2 years ago) is "Fashion Heads" an inspiration from the barber shop signs... the heads and the idea to illustrate them with high fashion brands! Most of the portraiture in the book is assigned work from magazines like Rolling Stone, Paste, or others.
There is a curious melancholia in your work, in the colors and the faces. Can you describe the feeling of doing the painting White Black?
I think there is always a bit of the dark side in my paintings... the paintings can look beautiful, but I am glad if the beholder is taking a second look. I was offered a show in Cape Town at a gallery and I was using my impressions of Africa as a departure point for this series of new paintings. I tried to combine a sense of wonder inspired by the continents natural beauty with a darker look at its social and political reality. The portrait "White Black" is a portrait of the albino model Shaun Ross, which was a great symbol for my idea about South Africa.
There is also a carnivalesque aesthetic that is both surreal and fantastic. Where does this come from?
Well, I think this is more a personal thing. Maybe my way of how to see the world. As a young kid and later as well, I was always wishing to be far away from my German native. The special aesthetic of my work comes out of my fantasy and my empathy and my access to mystical archetypes.
Finally, one of the most amazing images in the book is Black Antoinette 3, her hair aglow with flora of all kinds. Who is this person?
She is not a real person, just a wonderful fictional character which shows strength, beauty, and pride.
See more of Olaf Hajek's illustration here.
This interview originally appeared on Imprint.printmag.com.
Olaf Hajek Releases Black Antoinette
Olaf Hajek's second monograph, Black Antoinette: The Work of Olaf Hajek, launches today. The book is a collection of Hajek's most recent work created over the last three years. Inside the artwork is mostly editorial contracts and commercial portraits and melds his influences from West African and Latin American art. Dr. Philipp Demandt, the head of Berlin's Old National Gallery, wrote the preface.
To celebrate the launch of the book, Gestalten Space in Berlin will exhibit a broad range of Hajek's illustrations. He also produced key images from the book as signed limited edition prints, which will be on sale at the show. In addition, a limited number of signed copies of the book will be available. The show will be on from July 5th until July 29th.
To purchase the monograph online, visit the Gestalten website.
See more of Olaf Hajek's illustrations here.
B&A Artists Win in the 3X3 ProShow
Andrew Bannecker, Olaf Hajek, Thornberg & Forester, and Rod Hunt have been selected in 3X3 Magazine's ProShow Annual 2012. 3X3 is published three times a year and is the first magazine devoted entirely to the art of contemporary illustration. One issue a year is the international juried show annual which includes the best illustration in advertising, books, editorial, sci-fi, institutional, gallery, unpublished, and children's books.
Olaf Hajek received two awards from 3X3. His monograph was recognized in Books and he was also awarded a Distinguished Merit in Gallery. Rod Hunt's illustration for the cover of the book Looking for Transwonderland was awarded a Bronze. Andrew Bannecker's illustration "Fleet" was recognized in Unpublished. Finally, Thornberg & Forester received Silver for their Animation work on two pieces, Dice and Gel 2011.
The awards issue of 3X3 Magazine will be published later this summer.
B&A Illustrators in the American Illustration 31
Tatiana Arocha, Thornberg & Forester, Olaf Hajek, John Hendrix, Rod Hunt, Peter Kraemer, Yuko Shimizu, and Simon Spilsbury make the list for this year's AI-AP American Illustration 31. The annual competition recognizes the best illustrations from the past year. A distinguished jury of editors from Rolling Stone, Men's Health, Random House, The New York Times, and Young & Rubicam selected the best from 2011 that will be published in a book later this year.
Peter Kraemer's entry was his illustration "House of Heroes." The piece depicts the doorbell of an apartment tower and each name belongs to a superhero from movies and comic books. Tatiana Arocha's entries are two of her children's illustrations, featuring colorful and bright characters. Thornberg & Forester's entry is a composite illustration of the subway at DeKalb Avenue in New York. Olaf Hajek was recognized for his personal commission "Black Antoinette" for a private collector.
Four illustrations by Yuko Shimizu made the list. Two illustrations are from the upcoming chidlren's book Barbed Wire Baseball, about a baseball player in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, out next year. A commissioned illustration for Playboy and one of her covers for the monthly comic book series "The Unwritten," were also recognized. Three illustrations by John Hendrix, two from his "Drawing in Church" series and his commissioned piece for Rolling Stone's Rock Trivia issue, were selected. Rod Hunt's cover for the book Transwonderland: Adventures in Nigeria was also selected. Finally, two of Simon Spilsbury's collage drawings made the list.
Read more about the AI-AP American Illustration 31 here.
The Selby Photographs Olaf Hajek at home in Berlin
The Selby visits the Berlin apartment of fellow B&A artist Olaf Hajek. The illustrator currently divides his time between the apartment in the Mitte borough of Berlin and London and New York. The Selby photographed details in the apartment including a wall covered in chalkboard paint, statues and artifacts from Hajek's travels, and framed artwork including a collection of twenty-three frames with sayings that include the word "Run" in them. Hajek also answered one of The Selby's famous hand-written Q&As. He drew a map of his favorite spots in Mitte, illustrated his own version of the German flag, and offered up his favorite things about South Africa, Berlin, and New York City. Hajek comments he has long been a fan of The Selby's blog and was thrilled to be included on it. He adds, "I love the way how he shows people in their homes and the way he portraits them."
See more of The Selby's photography here.
See Olaf Hajek's illustration portfolio here. >
OLAF HAJEK SOLO SHOW IN BERLIN
Olaf Hajek will be featured in an invite-only solo show at Berlin's exclusive Werft 2 project space on November 10. The exhibition will include around 12 - 14 original pieces and will be a combination of new work, painted specifically for the show like Flowerhead Queen (above), as well as others from worldwide exhibitions including his recent show in South Africa.
Invited by art connoisseur Anna L"upertz, daughter of Markus L"upertz, Olaf sees the show as a great opportunity to show work tailored to the fine art world specifically. According to Olaf, he's able to "push limits with the fine art side, which then influences the illustration work." New areas and possibilities are explored, which allows clients to see what is achievable as well.
He's quite excited to work with Anna saying that she "has worked with some of Berlin's most influential artists and galleries and I'm very excited for the collaboration."
Olaf's previous show in Berlin drew around one thousand attendees, which speaks to his growing popularity as well as the city's thriving art scene.
His next exhibition in the US will be at the Armory in New York City in April 2012.
See more of Olaf's work here. >
Brian Doben and Olaf Hajek for Lily of France
Brian Doben and Olaf Hajek collaborate on a new ad campaign for lingerie company Lily of France. Doben photographed the models in the brand's lingerie while Hajek created the background illustrations.
Doben photographed the models in a studio in New York City. The casting of the models was specific to the brand and the ads. The model rests on a moon created especially for the shoot. Doben says Hajek created "beautiful work, really fantastic," and that he had a great time helping to bring the illustrations to life in the photographs.
Hajek loved the idea of combining painting and photography in a project. Floral and natural elements are recurring themes in his artwork and he was excited to use them "to create a wonderful, fairytale-like universe in which the women present the sophisticated products from Lily of France." Hajek adds that the painted text resembles the style of old French posters.
See more of Brian Doben's photography here.
See more of Olaf Hajek's illustrations here.
Client: Lily of France
Agency: Richards Group
Photograper: Brian Doben
Illustrator: Olaf Hajek>
B&A Artists Illustrate Music's Greats for Rolling StoneRolling Stone has updated their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time in a special collector's edition. The original list was published in 2004 as part of Rolling Stone's yearlong celebration of the 50th birthday of rock & roll. For the new 2011 edition, Olaf Hajek, Nathan Fox, and Chris Kasch contributed illustrations of 7 of the artists on the list.
Hajek's colorful and vibrant illustrations depict funk, soul, and rock music collective Parliament and Funkadelic (#58), doo-wop group The Drifters (#81), rock band Talking Heads (#100), and rock and soul band Sly and the Family Stone (#43). Chris Kasch illustrated rock bands AC/DC and The Kinks (#65), while Nathan Fox drew heavy metal band Metallica (#61) in his signature graphic novel style.
The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time is on sale now.
Olaf Hajek Solo Show at Whatiftheworld
Olaf Hajek is currently showing his first solo exhibition on the African continent at Whatiftheworld Gallery in Cape Town, South Africa. In "Dark Clouds Are Gathering By Olaf Hajek," the painter and illustrator explores the continent's natural beauty and juxtaposes it with its social and political realities. The exhibition follows the release of his monograph "Flowerhead" published by Gestalten.
Hajek draws inspiration from mythology, religion, folklore, and history in his illustrations and uses them to create an alternative reality filled with magical realism. Drawing on his impressions of Africa, he departs from his earlier works by creating dark, dreamlike and somewhat troubling imagery of the African continent.
"Dark Clouds Are Gathering By Olaf Hajek" will be on exhibition until April 16th, 2011. Find out more at Whatiftheworld's site.
See more of Olaf Hajek illustrations here. >
Flowerhead: The Illustrations of Olaf Hajek
Olaf Hajek's debut monograph Flowerhead is being released in Europe in Feburary, 2010 by Gestalten. The international release follows shortly in March, 2010. The book is full of advertising, editorial, commercial portraits, fashion illustration, and rarely seen personal work from over the past three years of Hajek's long illustration career.
Born in Germany and raised in Holland, Olaf Hajek draws inspiration from far-away places such as folk art in Africa and South America and the detailed work and interesting perspectives of India and Persia.
How did you come up with the title of the book?
Why Flowerhead? I created the name because I create a lot of hats where the flowers grow into the hair, or beards become flowers, so I call them Naturemen and Flowerheads. I like the idea that there is something natural and human coming together.
What role does nature play in your artwork?
What I like about the idea of nature is not that I see it in an organic form - nature for me could be very abstract and it gives u an idea about the creation. It's not that I see a tree and it's a tree. The tree could be sad, the tree could be powerful, the tree could be a little bit angry. That's also something that I like about natural elements - birds, flowers, snakes, and insects - all these things together can be frightening, but they can also be very colorful and very nice.
Who were some of your early influences?
When I was a child I was always looking at art books and trying to draw and paint. I would get my pocket money together to buy books from artists such as French impressionists. A little bit later I became a big fan of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, their work had a kind of beauty with a morbid atmosphere and that's where I developed my direction.
What is your current concept of beauty?
I'm very much aware of what I'm seeing and what is happening around me - I'm touched by a special kind of beauty. I like the idea of beauty with a broken surface and I don't like so much perfection.
What does this book mean to you?
When Gestalten came to me to make a book about my work I was happy, but I was completely anxious about how the book would look. Now when I show the book around, it gives a good impression of what I've done so far. I think the quality of the work is consistent, there's no "this work was bad and this work is better," so I think a good way to put it is that the book is like a treasure box for me.
How did you choose what went into the book?
I was choosing the work for what it was - I didn't say to myself, "Oh, you have to put this in because it's a big client." If I created something that was nice, then I didn't care whom it was for. I just looked through my scans and sent Gestalten 150 images, and I thought they'd choose maybe just a portion of them - but they actually took all 150.
Your inspirations come from a variety of places; do you travel often to brush up on the cultures?
I have been going to Capetown the last 7 years. I never go on vacation in the summer because I love Berlin summer, so I travel to South Africa as a wintertime escape. I have also been to South America, and I really, really have to go to India one day. It's more of the idea of the culture rather than the actual place. I also go to New York a lot for business. The first thing I do when I go to New York is the American Folk Art Museum, that's one of my favorites, especially the Henry Darger room.
What are your future plans?
It would be wonderful to do another book. I have something I am currently working on which is music for the future. I'm going to South Africa in 4 weeks and when I return to Berlin there will be a show of my newest work, some work that's not even in the book. Also I hope to have a show and book signing in New York.
That's great! I hope to see you in New York in the spring. Thank you for your time.
Olaf Hajek's Portfolio
Flowerhead preview at Gestalten
Olaf Hajek interview on Gestalten.tv>