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Vef and Kadel: rocketing to fame in art, design and fashion

Contemporary, in-the-moment, edgy, young and fresh. These are all adjectives that can be applied to the startling originality of two young artists who split their time between Berlin and London, and travel the world creating art while observing people and attitudes.

Mathias Vef's Amphigony 1 is an example of his work now on display in several galleries worldwide.
Mathias Vef's Amphigony 1 is an example of his work now on display in several galleries worldwide.
Courtesy Mathias Vef
L-R Thorsten Kadel and Mathias Vef visit the student exhibition at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, CT
Photo by Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Out and Travelin'

Mathias Vef is a thoroughly modern artist in the sense that he creates impressions that push boundaries, while encouraging observers to make their own interpretation of his work. Responses to Vef’s work are as varied as the art that he produces. His webpage is www.mathiasvef.com and you might want to like him on Facebook.

His partner, Thorsten Kadel, is co-founder of the design studio SchwarzRosaGold - the name translates as ‘black, pink and gold’, a play on the colors of the German flag and embracing diversity.

Mathias and Thorsten have recently launched a line of sexy workout gear and edgy and sarcastic tees, and they plan to branch out into military style jackets this year featuring the SchwarzRosaGold flag. Visit www.fashion.schwarzrosagold.de to view the collection and find out how to own a piece of this modern wearable art.

The Examiner caught up with these two entrepreneurs as they were ‘on the run’ – Mathias Vef in Dubai for an exhibition of his work, and Thorsten Kadel in Berlin as he put the final touches on the military inspired fashion line. We talked with them separately about their creativity.

Mathias, what inspires your work, and is there something that you can tell our readers about the fractural nature of your pieces.

Most of my works are compositions. Each image has multiple elements I've used. I collage them together and each is a creation of its own, something new out of former different pieces, but especially the portraits look very fragmented, the faces seem to be shattered, like viewed through a broken mirror. But they are not a collage of fragments, to me they are more. Each image has both elements of destruction and creation in it. I first have to put portraits into pieces and then again construct a new one, deconstruction and construction.

To me that reflects what we are and how our selves are. I don't believe at all in the idea of a soul, something pure indivisible inside of us that is our true core and life is to express that true self. I rather think we do ourselves, we make decisions, construct an identity each day and with each decision we make. But each rupture destroys that, breaks it into pieces. We are no consistent thing, we are constantly changing rather than being constant we are more a process; not human beings, rather human “becomings.” (I think that is essential what makes us human, that we are active beings with a will and able to make decisions.)

We don’t perceive it like that. All the linearity we think our personality has is an illusion, a kind of survival technique to persuade our self that we are that one unique being. But we live in hyper-reality, illusion is more important than what might be real.

So this synthetic self is quite bizarre and to me the fractal is a great descriptive idea to it. We believe that we are one thing and that we are that in each part of us, like a fractal, down to microscopic pieces still recognizable - the same me. That is quite illusive; at least I think it is. But I talked way too much just for a short question!

Are there some insightful or amusing comments that observers have made about your artwork. Regarding the fact that your pieces can be interpreted in a variety of ways, have you had people who have totally MISINTERPRETED what you are attempting to portray?

I like that people are usually taking a lot of time to look at my work. They usually keep looking for a while and I feel I see how they try to make up something out of it. Usually people come up with different things. Art can be a form of Rorschach test, what people see in it can tell a lot about them. A few years ago I was using explicit online footage for work. I worked quite a lot on it and most was very different to the original image. Most of my gay friends immediately saw the very explicit content, but there was one guy, a father of four and he was sure that he saw a squirrel.

What medium are you using? Photography? Digitization? Paint? Tell us how your pieces are created?

My media are visuals and atmospheres I would say I'm not using physical paint or physical brushes, and I'm not a classical photographer. I would say I use visuals from various forms, self-shot photography, video, found footage, graphics as brushes and paint to create something more holistic. The actual visible is as important as the atmosphere I've created through them. Speaking in physical terms, the visuals are mostly prints, but also videos as installations or light boxes.

How has your training at the Royal College of Art in London changed you as an artist? Are there lifestyle factors that influence your work?

The RCA definitely has changed me. This institution is pretty intense and doing a Masters there basically means to fuck you for a year and then let you see how you get back on your feet and celebrate what you've learnt from that. It is a great school; the teachers are – intense, too. But the greatest thing is the other students. I've never been so inspired by so many greatly weird and crazy people from all around the world. I really felt that the world had opened up.
At the same time it still is a very British and conservative school, the people were crazy but in a very decent way. I would have liked if it would have been a bit more sexy and gay!
I'm happy that I was not that young when I went there and that I've seen some louder weird things. (I'm from Berlin and I've worked for porn companies). I was the only gay in my year and I learnt a lot about 'normality'.

Do your previous studies in biology and science come into play in your work?

They certainly do! I think since I loved both science and art. As a kid I was pretty nerdy with glasses and reading all the time but also drawing and painting. I wanted to become a professor. To quit biology was the hardest decision in my life! I always wanted to combine both sides and since the RCA I think I found a way to do it, or at least a path on which I can work with both! The course I did was amazing, there were people from a fine arts background, scientists, engineers and designers working on art projects around genetics or robotics.
Some of my work is very much inspired by biology, but not only in its obvious visual elements. Most of them are done out of one single element, for example a slug. Just through variation, deviation, multiplication I can create that immense complexity of a whole world. That is the idea of evolution and to me the basic principle of life and existence. It is in a way spiritual to me. I'm an atheist, but I never want to be denied to wonder and be amazed about all the beauty and spectacle that life, nature and humans have.

Where will you be exhibiting in the near future, and how can buyers interested in your work purchase specific pieces from you?

I am working on a show in a gallery in Berlin in September and I have been in contact with galleries in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai and Sydney. I would love to exhibit again in New York, the last time is already more than three years ago. The response in New York was always amazing and I love the city. [Reach Mathias on his website www.mathiasvef.com for purchase information.]

Next, we had a one on one with Thorsten to fill us in on the duo’s creativity in fashion.

Thorsten, how would you describe SchwarzRosaGold and what kind of work you do?

SchwarzRosaGold is the name of our design studio – - the name translates as ‘black, pink and gold’, a play on the colors of the German flag with a definite non-conformist twist.
We create images and identities for our clients, and always try to play around so about three years ago we started designing Berlin shirts for friends that were desperately looking for a stylish and different city shirt. When they started to sell we became slaphappy and tried more stuff. Shops started ordering shirts so we came up with more designs but the whole wholesale world was new to us and by the end of the second year we found ourselves stuck in having to deal with all the limitations a commercial retail system requires, so we decided to reclaim or freedom and started creating tees and designs that were more bold and edgy and sell them mostly online and at a few selected stores.

The edgy and in-your-face nature of the fashions you've created for SchwarzRosaGold are both statement-making and amusing. You seem to be having fun with the bold and sexy nature of your fashion line. Can you expand upon this impression and tell us what inspires the pieces. For example, how did "FUCKING GERMAN" come about? [See examples in the slideshow accompanying this article.]

First of all it’s of course a game on stereotypes… you can understand it very literally or in a very general sense and it describes best what some guys think and what others do…we weren’t really serious when we made it and we were a bit surprised by the success of the shirts!

We're under the impression that the workout clothes, tees, and other garments in the line are hand-screened by you in your Berlin studio. Can you give us a comment on the process? Do you create each garment as a bespoke piece?

We create all prototypes by hand, but after that we the shirts are printed by a fashion screen-printing specialist in Berlin. But sometimes we try things that can only be done when hand-printed like certain textiles, overlay techniques, or metallic prints. We call those handmade items our “gold collection” and every item is absolutely unique. As the number of pieces is really small we don’t have those on our website, but offer them on request.

What's next in the line, and how can readers around the world order from your website?

We just made a “Bundeswehr” collection offering original army Parkas, army shirts and jackets with the black-pink-and-gold flag on the side. And we have introduced a unisex collection of ultra-thin racer back tanks as we had quite a few requests from the guys’ best girlfriends.

For the summer we’ll work on a more visual multicolored typography style for the shirts.
(like a HOMO-Shirt in the slideshow photo) Hats and jockstraps will be next.
Most things can be ordered worldwide from our website www.fashion.schwarzrosagold.de but it’s always worth sending us a message if you want something that’s not on there.

Do you spend equal time in both Berlin and London, or do you consider one city your 'headquarters? '

Berlin is definitely our headquarters. That’s where our studio was founded and where still a large part of our collection is made. Berlin and London both inspire us in a different way – Berlin is still defining its own identity, extremely liberal and affordable and a creative hub in Europe – especially for music and arts. London on the other hand is extremely professional and international – with strong bonds to the United States and Australia. We love the vibe in both cities, and try to combine the best of both worlds.

Thank you, Thorsten.

Look for a continuing stream of eye-popping originality from these creative artists and designers in galleries, exhibitions, gyms and high-end street fashion worldwide. You can purchase your own piece of art history-in-the-making by contacting www.mathiasvef.com and www.fashion.schwarzrosagold.de

Interview written and created by Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Out and Travelin’