The Austrian artist, BOICUT, lives and works in Vienna. His works are abstract, impulsive, colourful and quite brilliant. BOICUT has painted a special edition of PIXEL edition for Bene – with colours, shapes and lines that all somehow relate to ideas, office life and work.
How does anyone become an artist? Did you always want to paint, or was the path not quite so straightforward?
The path wasn’t quite that straight. There are some people who start drawing as kids and keep going. But it was a bit different for me; I drew a lot when I was young, but then other things got more important, like my first girlfriend and skateboarding. Then I studied in Vienna and worked in a call centre. It was only later that I studied graphic design. I wrote a dissertation about “The artist as a brand”, and that is also when I created BOICUT.
And where did it go from there?
At first I did small commissioned projects and worked at an agency. That often meant waking up at 5 in the morning, working on my own projects for a few hours and then heading into the agency. It was during this time that I had my first exhibition in London, then some work for Converse and, on my last day at the agency, I got a commission from Kaufhaus Steffl - the first big project under the name BOICUT.
Would you say that life is difficult as an independent artist?
I always heard that being self-employed is difficult - especially as an artist - and that you shouldn’t do it. Parents always say it’s too uncertain. But when you get past all that, and are having fun, then it’s going to work out somehow, and so far that has turned out to be true.
You sometimes also work for brand names as BOICUT. What makes a good collaboration?
For me, there’s a big difference, whether I’m painting something for myself, or for a client. As BOICUT it’s important to me to only do things I really enjoy, whether that’s exhibitions or pieces for other people. With commissioned work, I’ve noticed that the less feedback I get, the less the client intervenes, the better the work turns out. Pretty well every project, whether commercial or independent, gives me something I can take on to next piece of work. So it often happens that one project inspires another.
During my time as a graphic designer, good ideas were often “feedbacked” to death by clients. As an artist, it’s been important for me right from the start that I hold onto the freedom to implement my own ideas. If I listened to every single piece of feedback - positive or negative - then my work today wouldn’t look like it does.
Generally, I only accept client-driven contracts when I can identify with the product or brand. And then I automatically incorporate shapes inspired by the specific contract, which I see as a delightful challenge.
Somehow it doesn’t sound as if you would feel quite at home in a classic office setting...
Well, I do have some experience of classic offices. I have worked in offices in the past – in a call centre, in an agency. But my studio is perfect for my work as an artist. It’s flexible; I can sit, stand, move around freely. The uncertainty that comes with being self-employed is a sacrifice I’m willing to make for the freedom that comes with it.
But I wouldn’t say that it’s the only option for creating good work. I think, as long as it makes you happy, it’s what you should do. I know people who say that my way of working would never suit them. And I have also tried many different things. It’s important to figure out what works best for you.
I never look at the clock and wonder what I should do to pass the time. Work feels quite different for me. I’m often in the studio at the weekend because I get an idea that can’t wait until Monday, and at that moment, I can’t imagine anything I’d rather be doing other than painting. And then to make up for missing the weekend, for instance, Thursday becomes my Sunday. And it is certainly important to relax now and then, and recharge your batteries. The most enjoyable activity can get tedious if you overdo it.
What is the most important tool for your work?
I think it’s the freedom to do whatever I can imagine. Everything else, such as colours, brushes, materials can all be replaced.
Where do you get your ideas from? Are there places, things, people that particularly inspire you?
In principle I don’t think there’s just one way or process to get an idea. There are things that inspire me - like the people around me, but also every day objects. Others may not notice the beauty in a banal object at all, but I can take something from it for my work. I also keep a kind of visual diary, where I collect impressions and photos.
Generally speaking, skateboarding, and when I came to Vienna the urban space and its variety, was always a good source of inspiration. These things had a big impact on me. Another important aspect in my life generally, as well as for my work as an artist, is approaching things playfully and without any preconceptions.
You’ve spent quite a bit of time with PIXEL. What was it about the cooperation with Bene that interested you? And how much did these little boxes grow on you?
I’ve worked with a lot of agencies and clients in the past, but this has definitely been one of my favourite projects.
The work on PIXEL was really fun and the ideas came relatively quickly. What I liked right from the beginning, was the flexibility of PIXEL; you can build things, take something apart, and then make something completely new again.
So the idea was, to apply this principle of flexibility in the work: not to make one big picture, but rather to see the entire project as an artwork where the individual sides of the box work on their own, but also in different combinations. Everyone can create their own thing - there is no right or wrong configuration; instead, it’s interactive - you can customise it. That was the basic concept, and based on that I painted each side individually.
And what exactly can we see now on each individual box?
I wanted to make a combination of personal shapes, abstract and figurative, typical of my work, all of which are somehow related to Bene, and offices or start-ups. In some cases, the reference was quite abstract, but if you look closely, you can recognize individual shapes, for example a paper clip, an office chair etc.
Space is an important theme for Bene - we are convinced that a well-designed space can have a positive effect on people and their work. What does space mean to you and your work?
When I think about space, the first thing that comes to mind is freedom. As an artist, I enjoy engaging with the space that I’m working in. Last year, I had an exhibition in Karlsplatz Passage, in the Red Carpet Showroom. To prepare, I spent some time watching people there, running from one station to another to catch the underground. Somehow I had the feeling that there’s no chance there for people to relax. And just being able to relax is very important, to be able to come up with new ideas. For me, relaxing means things like finding a place to lie down and watch the clouds. And you can’t do that underground. And then I thought, I’d like to give these people that opportunity.
So I made an art installation on the topic: “Don’t forget to look at the clouds” - featuring clouds and a sun, just like it is outside. The idea was to get people to pause for a little while, to look at the clouds and relax. Then I watched again, how the people behaved, how they stood still to look at the sky briefly. I liked being able to change this space.