interview – liz rice mccray

We recently had the pleasure of interviewing artist Alex Kiessling, who lives and works in Vienna, Austria. Make sure to check out more of Alex Kiessling work at, you won’t be disappointed. Many thanks Alex, for taking the time to answer our questions.

Please will you start by giving us insight to your reality and environment a brief if you will on your existence up to this moment. I was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1980. Vienna is still the city where I have my studio and do most of my work. After my studies at the University of applied Arts I worked in a gallery as a director but was able to start my artist-career in the age of 26 after one year working there. Since then I live as a self-employed artist and try to push the limits of my figurative acrylic paintings. I love to try out new technics and explore new paths that stimulate my brain.

Will you describe where you are at this present moment? So we have a visual during this interview. Right now I am working on a painting series called “shifts”, which I started to modify around one year ago. I almost totally changed my approach on how to work on my paintings and I think I really can say that this were the most exciting 12 months in my studio I have ever had. Every painting is an experiment and its final outcome is not predictable. I love that – especially because I used to plan my earlier paintings pretty precisely and now it feels extremely liberating that in this series this is not even possible…

In short, you define the foundation of your artistic work as being the examination of the complexity of man’s levels of existence? will you elaborate for our reader? I think it is important to live in the present – especially as an artist. Awareness for certain developments in our times is extremely important to me. It shapes my view of the world and generates plenty of ideas for my art.
I am fascinated by technological and cultural developments and knowledge and try to link these influences of the past with the present or maybe even the future. My focus is also on the conscious and unconscious patterns of behavior in our species which shape our perception of reality. But art is not an empiric science – I am allowed to be poetical and symbolic, and don’t have to be precise, when it comes to the translation of these thoughts and ideas into art. It depends what type of person you are, but for me, I found out that listening to my instincts and feelings, aligns me much more with my work, rather than approaching it for a too conceptual or intellectual standpoint.

If you have to put to words the subjects in your paintings  – what would you say? Perception and concepts of reality. The absurdity of existence, time, patterns and humans. Us.

What do you reference for your paintings? In the past, even though I wanted to keep the stories in my paintings as open as possible, I used to work in a very narrative way. Some years ago my artistic development slightly shifted away from that and I found more and more satisfaction working in the here and now. In conversations about my art, I always said that I consider myself as a theater-director and my models act like actors in a play. That completely changed. I am now totally focused on the person in front of me and do portraits of real people or real circumstances.

What mediums do you mainly work with? All kind of mediums. But my paintings are all made with acrylics. I like the speed – I am not a slow paintner with lots of patients…
But I also used industrial robots for drawings, 3d printer for sculptures, adhesion foils,… whatever works best.
And of course I love fotoshootings. I enjoy the interaction with people. When I am painting I am most of the time alone in my studio, so this is a very welcome variety for my social life.

Do you have strategies to sustain interest, enthusiasm, concentration when creating?
There are several things that definitely keep me focused:
1) I do the artwork mainly for myself. I am often incredible curious what the output will look like. The feeling I have when I finish a painting often reminds me on the time when I was a kid and waiting for or unwrapping a christmaspresent.
2) because of the first point I like to work fast. I try to be better and more efficient with every painting. Sometime this is not only satisfying to me, but it also creates new ideas. I still love to improve.
3) some people in the artworld tell you that you always have to do more or less the same to gain “market -value”. On the one hand they are right, because that definitely works in order to get visibility – but on the other hand it makes art and life boring. There are so many uncertainties for an artist in order to make a decent living that I decided that if I have to take all that risks I at least don’t want to bore myself. That does not mean that I “jump” from one painting to another – I really like to work consistent. But when there are new influences I definitely want to explore them. There are a lot of artists out there who deny this experience for their secure standpoint in the artworld… , this is definitely not my way.

4) good music makes me happy. It makes it much easier for me to work.
5) unfortunately is money not the thing that keeps me enthusiastic when it comes to painting. But having no money kills everything… also very unfortunately.

What effect do you hope your art will have on the viewers? There are many inspiring moments, stories and philosophical thoughts I have before and during the painting procedure. All things that surround me or I am interested in, have a huge influence on every single painting. And as I become older and more experienced in the huge field of the arts, I think that I am more capable to translate all this ideas and information into my paintings or sculptures. But the most important thing to me is, that the viewers have enough room for their own interpretation. It is very satisfying to listen to complete new stories of what your own art can mean to other people – even if it has nothing to do with my own thoughts. I think that is always a vital sign for an artwork. It is like it lives a little bit for itself. – by the way: it is also super interesting for me to “meet” an older piece after several years again. Sometimes it is really stunning, what feelings they evoke in me. It is like meeting an old friend. I love that.

What kind of art do you like? Do you collect anything in particular? I do not have something particular in my mind. But I love art, which is authentic. And you immediately know if that’s the case, when you see it. In my life I have already seen thousands of artworks which tried to be something, they were definitely not. And Artists who pretend that their work is meaningful, intellectual or conceptual, an in reality it is copy-paste nonsense from some parts of the artworld. Then I often have to think of the story “the emperor’s new clothes”, written by Hans Christian Andersen.
I like art that has a nibus of magic around. Art which fascinates and really plays with your mind and emotions. Art were you ask yourself: how is that possible. And that in the end elevates your mind and shows you new perspectives of what art and life can be – and not bores you to death. And as strange this might sound: that does not always require, that “ the wheel has to be invented again” (direct translation from german – do you have that phrase too? ). Often it is a combination of things that already exist, but because they are linked in a new way, it creates something special or even new. I think that is good art.
I personally love to be surrounded by good abstract art. In our home we have artworks from austrian as well as international artists – of course most of them are friends. Soon we will move into a new house, where we will finally have the walls to hang all the artwork we (my wife Christina is also an artist) collected in the recent years. But honestly: the best thing I have until now is the first big drawing of our daughter. When she was 2 years old she started and worked 5(!) months on that piece – she always told us that it is not finished and she still has to draw and paint more… can you imagine? I love this work on paper and I already framed it. If you see it you would never think that this is the work of a 2 year old – and I am saying this not as a father in love with his kids (which I of course am), but as an artist who admires a free spirit, which is reflected in these lines, forms and colors. Children are magical, and so are their drawings.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an artist?
Maybe every period in your life has its biggest challenge. When I think back there were always some things I had to face and prevail. And I guess there will be some more challenges waiting out there for me.
When you are young you need to find your place in the world, which can be taff, if you have “exotic” ideas about your future. Looking back, I had only one or two people around me, who believed in me. Thanks Thomas!

Later, as a young man, it was sometimes difficult for me to deal with rejections. It took me some years to understand that there is no blueprint for life, or especially an artist career. You can not compare on life to another. Everybody is free to go his or her own way. Some people are scared of it when they realize this brutal truth, but for me it was a liberating “enlightment” and empowerment. So I don’t want to say that my ego is that stable that it cannot hurt me a little bit again, but in general I am now much more self-confident and I think that inner peace is also reflected in how I approach new projects and other people.

What do you find to be toxic? There are many toxic things out there and hinder the indiviual to reach its fulles potential. Almost everything can be toxic, if it is not in the right dose. Sometimes it is hard to find the right balance, because the world is in continues motion, but i think with time and life experience – and with the will to improve and find balance – there is the chance that we all are making progress. slowly but continously.
I could talk about this thematic for hours, because the right answer for this question and how you apply it in life, is the most important thing ever to me. But i guess that would be an interview by itself 🙂

Do you have any upcoming projects you can share with us?
This autumn there will be a small solo exhibition in Vienna. But mainly I will prepare for 3 major soloshows in 2019. Beside that I was able to work on two covers for music-albums for two different musicians/bands (DJ Antoine / KoneaRa). Both will have their album release this year, and I am very proud and excited about that because both are really fascinating projects – even though they are completely different.
And there will be some group shows, charities (btw. one in the beginning of June in Los Angeles) and sculptural projects in summer and autumn. Beside that, we will finish our house, and some weeks ago our second child was born. So there is enough to do and to work on – it will not be boring…

Where can people check out more of your art? I regularly post stuff on Instagram (alexkiessling) and facebook – so feel free to follow me. For getting in contact and more information about me and my art please visit my website .

Many thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Any last words for our readers, shout outs, declaration of love or hate.
Yes: more love, less hate.