Published on 26.06.2023

Identity and values in the digital age

Abstracted "grimaces" created by calligraphic lines, hidden images on old tickets, maps, found objects, or even old photos and identity papers. This is the focus of the series of works "Overpaintings" by the artist Peer Kriesel. Inspired by the tension between analogue and digital. Handwritten postcards and greeting cards as a counterpart to the flood of social media messages. The abstractions reflect the accelerated and increasingly abstract world and question our identity. Nevertheless, Peer Kriesel also uses digital tools for his works. Since 2018, among other things, the artist has been creating sculptural installations with 3D models: in addition to "Me so small" and "Hang Up", "Bubble" and the latest miniatures with rare car models have appeared. We interviewed him during his pop-up exhibition "Übermalungen" in the Village of POP KUDAMM.
Pop Kudamm:You started your project "Overpaintings" in 2012. How did you come up with the idea?
Peer Kriesel:Since 2012, the "overpaintings" have been an integral part of my overall oeuvre, which always revolves around the theme of "identity and values in the digital age and in a digital society". In this series of works, I use "designed" print products as painting backgrounds that have become obsolete in their original function. I use a wide variety of materials. I started with Berlin tickets and have continued to develop them up to the present day, via entrance tickets, postcards, atlas maps and large-format nautical charts.
The BVG tickets had and still have a special appeal for me because they only have a real value for that short distance from the machine to the "validator". After the journey, it is just a piece of scrap paper, but emotionally charged with this particular journey, the destination, the encounters. This field of tension fascinates me. Moreover, these haptic memories are becoming increasingly rare. Instead of paper tickets and airline tickets, we use QR codes and digital wallets. Instead of just a few very concentrated souvenir photos, we collect masses of digital snapshots on our smartphones and computers. Analogue handwritten postcards or greeting cards are rarely sent anymore. Instead, it's WhatsApp messages copied together. In the end, there is so much data that we can no longer keep track of it all. In addition to the memory that these haptic paper finds carry, more and more originality is also being lost. The overpaintings are strongly inspired by the age of digitalisation. It is about values, the acceleration of communication, the change in perception and the inflationary consumption of art and media. The more life and prehistory there is in the objects, the more interesting they are for me. Design elements, imprints and smudged, partially faded stamping ink as well as stains and tears serve as a source of inspiration for me.
Pop Kudamm:In 2023 you even published your works "Overpaintings" in a book. The book is dedicated to Achim, your great-uncle, for whom you made a whole series of overpaintings of old postcards and papers of the family. Can you tell us more about this series. How emotional was the making of it and how important is emotionality in general to you in your work?
Peer Kriesel:The Achim series is very emotional. Precisely because this man, whom I also still knew personally, had such an eventful life, which is documented for posterity by various papers, notes, documents and photos. I started to gradually paint over this unstructured and disordered material, thus placing it in a contemporary context and bringing it back to life. I am fascinated by this extreme limitation of the material, the reduction to the most important, it is a whole life of a man, collected in just one box. Today we collect data about data, everything structured and digitally optimised.
Pop Kudamm:In your work you deal with the topic of "identity and values in the age of digital change and digital society". What is your view of the digital transformation?
Peer Kriesel:Well, of course the digital world also offers many advantages and practicality. However, we humans have a hard time keeping up with this speed that the digital world offers us. We are in a constant exchange, chatting, we are reachable everywhere and we are also in a constant comparison. We are constantly optimising ourselves and the world. But in this way, things that were important to us fade into the background. Calmness, taking the time to respond to things or to let them have an effect on us without almost manically trying to capture them with the smartphone camera and then rushing to the next one so as not to succumb to FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). We no longer write birthday greeting cards by hand, we receive copied WhatsApp messages. We are subject to constant digital assimilation, where originality and identity are often missing. Values or value concepts are also changing, copy and paste is becoming easier and easier.
Pop Kudamm:Although you work predominantly analogue - with watercolour/acrylic paint and pigment ink on paper, you also turn to the digital. For years, you have been creating digital hidden object pictures or abstractions of grimaces and masks. How did this come about?
Peer Kriesel:Even though analogue work is my main focus, I have always worked with digital tools as well. These are constantly evolving and it is fun to use them as well. The abstracted "grimaces" built up by calligraphic lines in several layers and levels reflect the world that is becoming faster and more abstract and are perhaps also our dissolving identity. Looking at my series of works, it seems as if the viewer can dive even deeper, one level further, into the "teeming", floating in the middle of the mesh of lines - almost meditative. The works in the "FRTZNABSTRCTN series" are thus a macro shot, a look into the microscope, whereby everything appears abstract despite the magnification. In this series of works, many of the works are digitally drawn and then printed once on high-quality paper and signed. Each grimace abstraction is unique and thus one of a kind.
Pop Kudamm:Artificial intelligence is a big topic at the moment and is already being used in many areas, including the art world. What do you think about it?
Peer Kriesel:After blockchain and metaverse, the topic of AI is now on everyone's lips. Although AI has surrounded us for a long time without us seeming to have taken much notice of it, this enormously rapid development of these programmes such as ChatGPT etc. is breathtaking, but also frightening at the same time. This technical development of AI is probably one of the biggest technical revolutions in living memory and will turn many areas of our lives upside down. What is possible in image, video or music generation through AI is incredible. It can be a very powerful tool. Nevertheless, in the field of AI-generated art, we do become very aware of what makes people and their creations tick.
Pop Kudamm:You also present your digital work on various platforms as NFTs and have written a short essay about NFTs and the art world. Can you tell us more about that? How do you think blockchain technology is changing the art market?
Peer Kriesel:NFT was the big topic before it was now replaced by AI. I am very interested in new technology and therefore also the whole topic of blockchain with this decentralised approach. Even though I have been publishing artworks as NFTs since 2021 and have sold some works as NFTs, I am cautious about making a prediction. Time has shown that there are new developments all the time. At the moment, the NFT market is rather in the basement, the collector's passion is manageable, but for digital art, the tradable NFT is of course a possibility. I'm curious to see what happens next.
Pop Kudamm:You are currently exhibiting your work "Overpaintings" at POP KUDAMM. What can our visitors expect here?
Peer Kriesel:I am super happy about the opportunity to present this small exhibition in the Village of POP Kudamm. Of course, in keeping with the discarded sea container in which the works are on display, I'm showing two of my painted-over sea maps. In addition, there are atlas maps, new overpainted postcards and of course a few overpainted BVG tickets to see and buy - as originals or also as limited (cheaper) edition prints. I am happy about this spontaneous opportunity to show the works live, because only then they really work and the viewer can discover all the details. I cordially invite everyone to come and have a look!
Pop Kudamm:What advice would you give to young artists to be successful in the art world?
Peer Kriesel:Oh, that's difficult to answer. I think if you stay true to yourself and have found an artistic expression for yourself and develop it steadily and consistently, you will be successful.


Peer Kriesel was born in Berlin in 1979. After more than 15 years as a creative head in the agency and advertising world, he is now primarily working again as an artist and freelance designer in Berlin. In his work, he deals with the theme of identity and values in the age of digital change and digital society.The information and data overload – especially with a view to the internet and social media -, their effects and the apparently increasing confusion of society, disenchantment with politics – marked by war and a lack of solidarity -, the conflict between the old values and the new beauty, these are all themes that Peer Kriesel takes up in his work.

More Infos: Hier

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