Heartmill Lands

Illusionist · Voyager · Spiritualist

The creation of Heart Mill Land (BTS)

Turning the world inside out: How to illustrate dream landscapes

01 The Explorer

The journey of a wandering mind

I shot people for years and years. (With the camera. And with darts, duh!) But it never seemed to quite fit to the wicked, mysterious, quite sureal world in my heart… those worlds I wander in my dreams.
Don‘t get me wrong, people are not boring – but some emotions and thoughts, so it seems – can be depicted best without a human soul in it.

It started in October 2014 when I first picked up some random toys and arranged them into a landscape. The idea on it dwelled for months and years. I don’t know even how it got so attatched to my brain. Maybe while I fed some little fishes in grandpa’s fish bowl when I was 10. Maybe because I sometimes sit in my room and pretend that everything is ten times it’s size like in Wonderland.
Maybe because I want to escape so desperately to the places I feel home in.
 

1
 
Basically it started with cutton, strings and a my favorite toy plane… my whole room was basically a big table with cutton clouds on it. It felt like floating, just being in it. Imitation and exercise was essential to perfect illusions – like I always strive to.
 

2

 

Inappropriate objects replace the ‘usual’

For two reasons I soon started abusing objects, drifting farer and farer away from pure imitation of known landscapes.
First: Being a student means you cannot afford everything – I only had a broken toy mill and not many other miniature toys. Either I get creative or I will starve to death.
Second: I fell in love with a pure sureal approach to objects long ago. Combining objects, creating new contexts, questioning perception and – finally creating another realm of ‘reality’. Those unlogical combinations fill my dreams, my sense of humor and are symbols to a rather phantastical version of reality that can still be approached (due to ‘real’ objects in them.)
 

One of my favorite surealists: Rene Magritte – “Personal Values” (1952)

 

A palace of heavy work: The Heart Mill

I imagined human hearts for a long time as rumbling, rotating, whirling machines that won’t stop to produce the essentials of life: emotions, the ‘food’ that keeps a soul alive. It can break, it can be taken down by storm – and needs a lot of manpower and some skill to keep working.

The image was brilliantly clear in my mind for years. At first I tried to build a ‘normal’ mill, but soon found the center piece to be missing anyway. With my fascination for anatomy, I always keep some sheep hearts in my freezer. They look similar to human hearts.
 

06 The Heart Mill

I glued cutton balls to a bed sheet and lit it from behind to create a dramatic sky. The sky has an ugly yellow, sulfuric color – in a golden dawn. An almost war-like atmosphere, apocalyptical but still romantic landscape: with the mill towering above the hills.
 
Bildschirmfoto 2016-04-14 um 23.17.48
 
The power lines are small toy train accessoires from ebay to make the whole scene more ‘real’. Like an actual, modern human lives in the mill. For some reason I could not stop to think about the tale of Krabat (A wizard keeps slaves working in his mill to sustain his black magic power. At night he turns them into raven and when they are out of use into another animal. In my childhood this tale scared me to death.)

 

Another scary place – out of my nightmares

While nearly drowning in my workflow, I built another desert landscape out of sand and spices. My whole room smelled like curry and paprica – and made me cry all the time. The image of a small city – or building – made out of old computer boards is old, too. I helped my dad often to repair electronic stuff when I was little – and all I saw were small cities with streets and houses.

 
Basically, working in a cold, uncomfortable factory is my nightmare. Black steel, towering chimneys, where no individual matters anymore.
The rocks: catalysator pieces from ebay and some of my syringes as futuristic glas towers. I reduced the clouds to create a flatter, more undramatic and unpersonal feeling.
 
In the end, the monocrome version helpes to remove emotion and add cold distance. In the back you can see the tape I stuck the cotton to. After a while all of it fell down because it is not so easy to keep lose cotton in place.
 
 

Always traveling: The explorer

Seriously – for this one I cannot even comprehend how I got the image. It was just there. A long time. It is my grandpa’s camera (that I never, ever used because analog is not my friend until now. I really tried. I did. I am sorry…!) – and the one eye always reminded me of cyclops.

01 The Explorehfghgfr
 
Maybe it was the tale of Baba Yaga (with her house on chicken feet), maybe it was something else. A few weeks ago I bought a furry blanket – it reminded me of me being little and pretending on grandma’s fluffy carpet that I am in a big field with high gras. An old piece of wood and some crow feet were all it needed.

In the beginning I experimented with the utility poles (those from heart mill), but it was a struggle with my lenses to make it work. Miniature dioramas are very sensitive to perspective and with the 50mm I got the most real landscape feeling (my 80mm tele compressed too much) – but not with the utility poles since they were too small. It did not look real enough.
 

 
 

So the kingdom of the Heart Mill came to life.

And they lived happily ever after.

 

The poet and the portrait. Retrospective 2013

How a portrait turned into a detailed one-frame-tale – featuring Martin Neubauer.

The poor poet

 

The irony of portraiture: truth vs. illusion

There is no 100% objective truth. Perception is always fluctuous, subjective, intimate and uncontrollable by others. Working as a photorgapher – or merely a staging, conceptual artist – has it‘s perks and flaws. You are not, ever, objective but an observer of a world you don‘t fully understand.

Dangerously enough, the viewer has his own real of personal perception – and as a photographer you can chose between translating what you call “the truth“ – or changing it into a phantastic story-tale to entertain the viewer (and hide ‘boring‘ truth).
The viewer tends to overlook the involuntary power of the portraying artist. It is easy to trust your optical sense (because you are obligated to in order to survive) and ‘believe‘ the optical facts. The reflection progress afterwards is necessary – but occasionally not critical enough.

In this case: I knew Martin for a long time, but not too well. He is an actor, literature worshipper and a wonderful, kind, loving soul. Sometimes it felt like life must have played too rough with him and yet he managed to stay a warm, greater good seeking heart.

As to say: this is, what I saw.

 

Wit and humor – like Carl Spitzweg’s paintings

Spitzwegs attitude was something I worshipped – and I felt like Martin has the same, sharp sense of humor in the way he acts, attents lectures and serves his audience on stage.

 

Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885) was a not-so-famous German painter of the Biedermeier era; he painted a lot of humoresque portraits of ordinary people in his time. He was exceptional, painting with wit and hidden meanings many odd attributes of them – and dares us to associate with their character traits.

 

Spitzweg paintings

His art is strongly narrative and yet intimate – in a very cinematic, detailed way. I grew up with cheap art prints hanging around many people’s homes in my child hood – even those kind of staid, conservative households the paintings tease.

I cannot else explain – but for me those two felt like the same kind of artists.

 

A glorious experience: Working with an actor

I have had only few chances of collaborating with actors before that day. I was used to directing unexperienced people, telling them a story before-hand and encourage them throughout the shoot.

Martin1

 

With him, no help was necessary. I was amazed by the improvised stage play on a lonely, dusty attic. If you cannot distinguish someone’s acting from real actions – it has be good. And I think I am quite trained to see ‘fake‘ acting in front of the lens.

He sneezed, scribbled, run fingers through his hair, talked to a skull like noone was listening, nearly burned a feather while playing with the candles – and looked just like any artist must feel like while struggeling to achieve something great.

 

_MG_0849export01 Kopie

 

It’s needless to say: it is a photographers heaven to get everything served on a silver tablet: emotions, expressions – and character.
It truly speaks for his profressional attitude to take a photographer as serious as an audience. He never slipped out of his role while shooting.

Back then, this was my first seriously professional experience with actors: and I am so greatful for this experience.

 

The set: creating a painting-inspired, historical composition

In my home town city Bamberg (Bavaria), some town houses remained for longer than a century. Old attics, alleys full of nooks and crannies, crooked and rusty: it is a very romantic town.

I found an old attic, big and sooty – the local theater and a few friends lent me a lot of props. Back then, this was my first staged project.
Of course, not all items are historically correct, but were chosen intentionally to create a humorous, pseudo-serious feeling to honor Spitzweg.

01

Also more than 7 flashes were hidden in the set to light all objects in the dark attic.

It took a while to arrange objects in ways that look authentic. The objects had to be arranged too perfectly to keep the painting-like, composed, constructed character. Also, to compsensate the distortion of the lens (I used a tele lens and stitched 27 images to a final shot for high resolution)

It was a lot of dragging and pulling, shoving boxes full of stuff up a latter and many hours of preparation. My lungs must have been black with soot after that day, but it was all worth it. Always will be.

 

Working with ‘space’ and distance in one-frame-stories

As result I chose one carefully retouched frame. It felt wrong to handle the project like shoots before: the story was aught to honor the idealism of paintings – of one painting. Even if it was painful to chose.

To me, the frame includes also a lot of space – around the subject and a distance to the viewer. It might be superficial, but I believe people  subconcious feel that space. They are obviously – outside. Far away from the subject, even if they are ‘in’ the room. The probs give hints on the poets life – and create the story. In this case it is the ‘bigger picture’ – which strives to have as much impact as a close up.

This idea keeps me going since then – because it offers much to toy with.

 

The truth behind the illusion

After the experience with Martin it was difficult to determine illusion from truth. Since I am not bound to know the man behind the actor, I must stay in the position of an clueless audience: heaving only an illusion in my head.

It’s dangerous but a heightening obsession to create worlds with my own rules. I must remember that there are a lot of truths I am digging in.
And everybody has their own.

_MG_0820export01kopi
thank you, Martin!