04 Aug René Turrek
Graffiti as Lifestyle Art
Photos: René Turrek/ Natascha Romboy
Mönchengladbach. His actual studio is located in Osnabrück, but his commissions usually take him around the world. It is hard to believe that his current commission has led René Turrek, whose responsibilities include designing the Transformers trucks, to Mönchengladbach of all places. But the specialist in exceptional vehicle finishes did not hesitate to accept the offer to design his favourite car, an i8, for BMW Faba Autowelt in “Joker-Style”.
Photo collage 1: I8 For BMW Faba Autowelt, TransformersTruck
We met near the Borussia Park, at the headquarters of the company management, the Creative Art Consulting Agency Janzen & Sauerland. Opposite is the hall, which was temporarily being used as a studio. Here, the grimace of the joker from the Suicide Squad film was prominently placed on the bonnet of the i8 and the whole car had undergone a striking metamorphosis.
In addition to cars, Turrek is developing his work on a wide variety of surfaces for a wide range of customers. His clients include well-known large companies like Sony, Adidas, Nike, Starbucks or Bench, but also private customers and superstars such as Snoop Dogg, Vin Diesel, Rihanna, Paris Hilton or Marco Reus. He uses headphones, mobile phone cases, sneakers, skateboards, coffee cups or whole environments as surfaces to showcase his work. In his private jobs, he covers everything from toilets to private jet design.
Photo collage 2: Examples of his product design
Can his works be attributed to fine (free) or applied (target defined) art? This is one of the the main questions I want to get answered today. Before we get to see the I8 in the hall, we gather in the office. Next to us, some pictures lean against the wall, unmistakably bearing the trademark of the artist. The wall is littered with printouts that present a cross-section of the countless works that have emerged in recent years. How was such a meteoric rise possible?
Photo collage 3: examples of his repertoire (church in Madrid, portrait for Mark Forster, Toilet design in Louis-Vuitton style, classic graffiti wall)
René Turrek talks openly about his career. “After my activities in the illegal graffiti scene resulted in the first criminal proceedings and got my father and my brother into a bit of trouble – both were active in the then competent court, inconveniently – I got some advice from my family, to please stop with the nonsense ‘. I then studied art history and illustration for three semesters in Münster, until I started to ask myself what they could teach me. I felt technically fully developed. With this realisation and the agreement in place that I could resume my studies at any time, I ventured into the practice. The beginning was bumpy. After my first attempts to go to the USA, I returned to Germany in 1998 and began to paint my first pictures on canvas. Nothing challenging. Rather decorative with isolated graffiti elements, kitchen pictures” Turrek describes self-critically. “The pictures sold amazingly well, but I was bored after no time. Experiments with different materials and techniques followed. I learned how which colour reacts to which undercoat in which mixture and developed my expertise in spraying cars. In this development phase, I also realised that within my creative process I can only work with materials that can keep up with my speed in my head. That is, I must be able to implement my ideas directly, I do not have time to be slowed down by a drying process such as oil painting. “
Photo collage 4: René Turrek in conversation with Elke Backes
“Is your work based on a set of drawings?” I ask, because I want to know more about the process of his work. “No. Never! I always work out of my head. That would also bore me. Once a thought is implemented, it’s through for me. I can’t repeat anything,” is the surprising answer. “Even on the cars,” I ask, disbelieving. “Yes, on the cars, too.” Hardly imaginable if you look at some of the detailed motifs on the vehicles. “Don’t your customers want to see at least a sketch of an idea before you’re entrusted with their precious cars? And directly to the follow-up question: Do requests for certain patterns or specifications ever restrict your usual work process?” I question the artistic freedom of his commissioned works. “Sure they will. Of course, I also try to take them into account. But I have clear limits. It is generally not a problem to play around with a certain theme. But if I find that the shape of the car is not suited to this theme or if a finished design is given to me, I don’t do it. The ability to control the ‘wow effect’ is quite central to me. The secrecy even goes so far that I cover up the windows of my studio. I love to make the customer a bit nervous and then to see their face when they first looks at the finished product,” Turrek said enthusiastically.
“Whether it’s a car or a wall design, I can understand this approach. But what about your product designs? How did I imagine the presentation of the print, if not on paper or as a computer file,” I would like to know. “The same principle applies here. Let’s just take this mobile phone case to design it,” Turrek begins his explanation and reaches for the cover that lies on the table in front of us. “To develop an idea, I absolutely need the product to do it. The idea comes from the shape, the material, the function and, of course, also considering the customer target group. This is a very fast process, but only works if I can work directly on this product. This automatically creates an adaptation of the idea to the product. Not having it here wouldn’t work for me.”
So much for product design. “What about the pictures we see here? Was this also a commission? I ask, and look at the pictures a bit closer. Now Daniel Janzen intervenes. “No. That was a special case. That was related to my trip to China. I wanted to look at the artists’ village Dafen, the world’s leading production facility for art copies. Indescribable! Painters, all in rows, produce about five million paintings annually, mostly copies of masterpieces, which are exported all over the world. The quality is amazingly good. With three sets of 25 paintings in my luggage, I finally came home without knowing what I wanted to do with them. When I got to know René, I had the brainwave. I asked him if he could imagine using the pictures as a starting point for his own interpretation. He wasted no time and immediately got to work. Yes, and that is the result, “says Janzen, proudly showing off the work.
Photo collage 5: Daniel Janzen with examples of masterpieces (Bouguereaus’ Birth of Venus‘Warhols’ Elvis‘Lichtensteins’ M-Maybe, Magritte’s‘ The son of man im Graffiti-Style)
It has some slant, some of the famous Popart design (e.g. Elvis or M-Maybe in photo collage 5), which emerged as a critique of the mass consumption in printing technology or printing optics, first reproduced as a painted copy in a mass production facility for cheap art and then also interpreted in a genre which often wants to be understood as protest art. Strange, how new self-development spaces develop, I think.
“What about the black bicycle helmet? What’s with that?” I ask, looking at the helmet I just discovered on the sideboard. “It’s already finished, belongs to the total bundle of my orders for the Tour de France. It’s covered with a special paintwork, which only becomes visible under certain conditions,” I am told. A spontaneous demonstration follows. “We only need water,” the artist explains, and goes outside with the helmet and a full cup of water. As he runs the water over the helmet, the motif of the Düsseldorfer television tower reveals itself as if by magic. “A great effect. I like to be a part of events.” Oh right – I completely forgot – he also organises events. These are part of his marketing concepts, which he delivers to his customers. (look at Video: Making-Off “Joker”)
Photo collage 6: René Turrek demonstrates the “water effect”
Video: Making-Off “Joker”
“The development of such effects also requires a high degree of knowledge about chemical reactions and corresponding series of experiments,” I voice my assumption. “Yes. I try new things without an end goal. Like now with the I8. For example, the reflection of a newly developed paintwork can be activated by remote control (see photo collage 1) or a paintwork can only be made visible on the display of a mobile phone when a photo is shot with flash.”
The perfect time to go see the car in the hall. We all go over to the hall, which still shows traces of the graffiti. In the middle, the freshly finished luxury model. With the open wing doors, it seems as like it could take-off at any time. Pure dynamism! The colours green, red, black and white dominate the design. The jokeris of course eye-catching, and seems to be eating the BMW logo. We walk around the car. René Turrek explains the details of the new style, which is even applied on the interior. One thing is for sure: the future driver does not need to fear any lack of attention …
Photo collage 7: Opinions on the I8
When Turrek introduces the newly-presented mobile phone effect, he is met with excited astonishment. “That’s what I enjoy. I would like to give the recipients of my art more options. That is why I am also now considering transferring this new technique to the screen in the future. The interaction is supposed to help to get to grips with the work. I want to move away from the trend that ‘art is bought as a tax evasion model and stored in the depot’ and am sure that an ‘animated’ image will not end up in the basement,” Turrek said.
Fun and artistic freedom are obviously important to him. Small guerrilla actions are at least still thought through, as he tells us at the end of our conversation. His assistant Benin Hoborik, after designing the Louis Vuitton toilet (see photo collage 3), had come up with the great idea of overlaying a picture of a cash machine in the lobby of a bank at night. He can’t let go of this idea. The anticipation of implementing the image as well as the anticipated reaction of the public to it, is written all over his face.
Anticipation, surprise, there it is again! Whether the excitement is loaded with freshly designed luxury cars, the production of special effects, the presentation of a new edition, it is always the anticipation of the moment of surprise, which is obviously fun and clearly challenges him to come up with new ideas. And precisely this is the artistic freedom which he maintains uncompromisingly. As a conclusion we can safely say that his art cannot simply be attributed to the visual or applied arts, but is moving in a wide intersection. All in all, a goal-oriented, but free and outside-the-box lifestyle art …
… about the artist:
… about his agency: http://www.janzenundsauerland.de
… about the BMW Faba Autowelt: