De­sire, gen­der, body, quan­tum en­tan­gle­ment, black holes, real magic.

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These are the kinds of things that Ber­lin-based artist Win­ston Ch­mielin­ski calls upon when paint­ing. Sweep­ing, thick fields of color mark his paint­ings in a man­ner in­flu­enced by ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ists like Willem de Koon­ing. Win­ston re­ceived no for­mal train­ing, in­stead ar­riv­ing at vis­ual art by way of a de­gree in phi­los­o­phy and cre­ative writ­ing. In that, you see the way his sto­ry­telling, his phi­los­o­phiz­ing, and his art con­flate. His work has a cer­tain smudgi­ness, pre­sent­ing you with a nar­ra­tive you can only see facets of, as if look­ing at a fig­ure through frosted glass. If you took a few mo­ments to ex­plore his posts on In­sta­gram, you could see the de­light Win­ston takes in ob­fus­ca­tion. For an im­age of a gingko leaf on a piece of pa­per with the shadow of his hand over it, he com­ments, “The seal­ing of a spell.” On an im­age of a stranger at a lunch ta­ble with an ele­phant mask on the top of her head, he cap­tions, “Lose your­self.” An im­age of pants strewn over a stu­dio chair, he deems an “Or­a­cle.” Win­ston likes dis­so­nance. This kind of soft-fo­cus sto­ry­telling in the ti­tles of his work gives us an im­plied nar­ra­tive that might not nec­es­sar­ily present it­self at first – mys­ter­ies with no who-dun-it. When I Read The News To­day, When The Rap­ture Split, When Tal­is­mans Saved Our House from Burning Down, When We Lose Our Lan­guage. Win­ston has shown in New York, at the Venice Bi­en­nale, and has solo shows around Ber­lin. One of his lat­est projects, The Heal­ing Room, com­bined paint­ings, col­lage, a 27-minute au­dio loop, tex­tiles, plants, pho­tog­ra­phy, and a per­for­ma­tive el­e­ment for will­ing par­tic­i­pants, into a com­pletely im­mer­sive en­vi­ron­ment. On this work, he wrote of his au­di­ence’s ex­pe­ri­ence, “I can­not take credit for al­chem­iz­ing ap­pre­hen­sion into en­thu­si­asm. I truly be­lieve peo­ple set out to ex­plore, but re­peat­edly walk into fences, and I guess, af­ter a while, it re­ally starts to ache... It was maybe too many things at once, but all you had to do was grab onto one han­dle, and it took you for a pretty good ride. Peo­ple came in, cu­ri­ous enough to give it a se­cond of their time – that se­cond turned into min­utes, which turned into smiles, and some­times frowns. That was magic for me, and for all in­volved.”

Do you have any de­sire to clas­sify your work? If so, how would you clas­sify it?

I tread very lightly around de­scrip­tions. I think it can cut vis­ual, emo­tional, or ver­bal re­sponses short. A cou­ple years ago I had a show in Ber­lin and this guy put his face super close to one of my can­vases, whis­pered some­thing, blinked, gig­gled and walked away. I like that, let­ting peo­ple un­der­stand it on their own.

Can you de­scribe the first mem­ory you have of paint­ing?

De­scribe your most re­cent work in a few words.

I smeared plant juices all over my friend’s face and he broke out in hives. I was 5.

Some­thing like a panorama col­laps­ing in on it­self. All this stuff from the pe­riph­ery, sus­pended in col­li­sion and over­lap. Paint­ings can make the im­prob­a­ble seem cu­ri­ously fa­mil­iar.

How does your work dis­man­tle, or re­veal, tra­di­tional gen­der con­structs and ex­pe­ri­ences?

The work blurs lines with­out break­ing any dams. On a lit­eral level, my fig­u­ra­tive paint­ings are gen­der­ful, mix­ing sig­ni­fiers to cre­ate im­pos­si­ble, but also highly re­lat­able, anatomies. On a more meta­phoric level, con­stantly breach­ing lines and melt­ing col­ors into shapes is a deeply in­te­gra­tive prac­tice.

If you could cre­ate a list of “re­quired read­ing” that might help peo­ple bet­ter un­der­stand your work, what books would you in­clude?

Bud­dha’s Lit­tle Finger by Vic­tor Pelevin. The Magic King­dom by Stan­ley Elkin. Emily Dick­in­son’s let­ters to Thomas Went­worth Hig­gin­son. Pen­ “Na­ture’s Queer Per­for­ma­tiv­ity,” a re­search pa­per by Karen Barad, which goes handin-hand with Ian Bo­gost’s Alien Phenomenol­ogy, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing.

What’s one thing you’re re­ally into now that you never thought you’d be into?

What’s your fa­vorite drink to or­der?

My phone’s ter­ri­ble bat­tery life, which frees me from it daily.

Pip­ing-hot chicken stock.

Do you have any tat­toos? If so, what are they? If not, what would you get if you ever de­cided to get one?

I don’t. I’m more into dress­ing my­self up in sym­bol­o­gies and then shed­ding them at night. That’s not to say I don’t fan­ta­size about a full-body tat­too of a land­scape teem­ing with re­cently ex­tinct plants and an­i­mals and in­sects. Like, from head to toe. It’s all or noth­ing for me.

To you, how does the value and pur­pose of art change in the age of the In­ter­net?

The In­ter­net frees up pro­duc­tion and space re­quire­ments, which in of it­self is price­less. Peo­ple are dis­cov­er­ing their own agency now. The im­pulse to make art is, at its heart, the same as be­fore, be­cause that’s what makes us hu­man. But with In­ter­net the ac­cess to a free ex­change of ideas grows ex­po­nen­tially. It’s my per­sonal belief that the moniker of ‘Artist’ will fade out as more and more of us re­al­ize the in­trin­sic and trans­for­ma­tive value in crit­i­cal think­ing mar­ried with cre­ative ex­e­cu­tion. How­ever, this vast, new vir­tual ter­rain is un­der im­mi­nent threat of be­ing di­vided and con­quered, in a sort of cy­ber-colo­nial­ism. Artists are step­ping up to the plate to glob­ally dis­rupt those his­tor­i­cal habits.

To you, what’s the most im­por­tant qual­ity in a part­ner, ro­man­tic or oth­er­wise?

Res­o­nance. It’s the foun­da­tion, and then the rest comes. And with that res­o­nance, a propen­sity to spon­ta­neously burst into song, now that I think about the beau­ti­ful song­birds who’ve graced me in this life.

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