'In the early-seventeenth century, group portraiture was about social relationships that were the topic of such paintings. And in the late-nineteenth century, visual language in painting was a little more open; a little more abstract. So for me, the canvas is like a stage of happenings that play out on a global level. And that's the reason that my large-scale canvases tend to look like theatrical compositions. They are, basically, meant to portray different digital spaces. I want to paint the metaverse... Some people have more power, some people have less... It's these different levels of social power, which I express in my large-scale work.'
For the ninth episode of ‘Dutch Art & Design Today’, I sat down with Felix Pensel—a Nuremberg-based artist whose work spans many mediums, most notably large-scale canvas paintings, and more recently, digital art. Felix has devoted his life to art; he eats, sleeps, and breathes art; and he is nearly entirely self-taught. He was first inspired to become an artist at his grandfather's urging, which led him to start drawing, then visiting art museums more and more during his youth—ultimately finding his way to the monumental canvases of artists such as Rembrandt van Rijn and Peter Paul Rubens. The compositions of such Old Master paintings have inspired his own work, especially his digital paintings, which are complexly layered three-dimensional planes inhabited by countless figures, sometimes in unsettling or even surreal poses and situations. In this way, his work recalls the haunting worlds of the Netherlandish painter Hieronymus Bosch. Felix’s digital artwork is minted on Tezos and Ethereum, whereas his physical works have been widely exhibited throughout Europe.
In this incredibly relaxed interview, we meander our way from Felix’s childhood, growing up in Nuremberg, and his many visits to museums to visit the Old Masters, specifically the work of Rubens. We then discuss his relationship to drawing as a child, being inspired by the prints and drawings of Albrecht Dürer—a fellow Nuremberg native; his later dabbles in graffiti; and how his experiences in graffiti lead him to turn his attention to creating large-scale paintings. We then discuss how he is influenced by the built environment around him, in Germany, and oppositely, what it is that makes the contemporary art world so fascinating, when it collides with web3. The second half of our talk is centered on the Tezos community; how Felix makes use of and his views on working with AI; and the enthusiasm of artists and collectors in the Tezos space. Lastly, Felix talks about his newest works minted on SuperRare, the ideas behind them, and how they relate to compositions of late-nineteenth-century French group portraiture painting.
'Dutch Art & Design Today' is published by Semicolon-Press.