Beni Bischof: A Dot Can Be Anything

Beni Bischof does it all. He paints, draws and sculpts. He works with glossy photos – and humor. We spoke to the Swiss artist about random chance, stupid ideas and real creativity.
Text Michael Köckritz
Photo Beni Bischof

Mr. Bischof, is your career by accident or by design?
I would describe myself as a self-taught artist. I originally trained as a graphic designer, but I always wanted to work freely and independently, to be my own boss. I was always drawing and building things, I’ve always had ideas, so in some way it was no accident that I became an artist. On the other hand, there were a lot of little coincidences along the way.

Paul Klee called a line a dot that went for a walk. You define a dot as a piece of spaghetti seen from below. How do you come up with things like that?
I observe the things around me very closely, often scrutinizing my surroundings visually and playing with the things I see. That’s also how it is with a dot at the beginning of a drawing. A dot can be anything. Even the largest skyscraper is just a dot from far enough away. That fascinates me. The contrast. And the possibility of transporting this idea so easily onto an A4 sheet of paper, for example.

Who is Beni Bischof and what motivates him?
I am constantly searching and waiting for a unique idea. I’m always going back to the studio to paint the perfect painting. It could happen any day. You can compare that to a surfer who is always looking for the perfect wave. The feeling of having created a good work of art is unique and quite possibly addictive.

Artist. Bohemian. Renaissance man. What comes to mind when you hear words like that?
Those are all entertaining clichés, but they do contain a kernel of truth. The cliché of the starving artist, living the Bohemian lifestyle, is often true. And our interest in depicting the world in all its facets does make us Renaissance men of sorts.

How do you define creativity?
Creativity is a person’s individual expression. It is the combination of the physical and mental activity with which one pursues or realizes an idea, whether written, drawn by hand or hewn with a hammer.

How do you come up with your ideas in the first place? Do you get up in the morning, drink a cup of coffee, and then have at least two or three ideas on the agenda for the day?
My ideas don’t announce themselves before they come to me. Often, they are the result of an external stimulus or my desire to do something new. Every day is a mix of finishing certain things and starting on new ideas that come to me while I’m working. Many of my works originate spontaneously depending on what I’m in the mood for. Sometimes it’s painting, sometimes it’s drawing. Often, series I’ve been working on are continued, which then lead to new works and new series. I almost always draw. My studio is a chaotic place, and there’s always something lying around that I can continue to work on or that gives me a new idea.

Looking at your work, it seems like you’re busy twenty-four hours a day. Is that so? Are your artist’s antennae always extended?
I always have my feelers out there. Sometimes the reception is slower, sometimes faster, sometimes I’m at home having breakfast or I’m on the train. I’m a morning person, that’s when I have the most ideas because my brain is still fresh. A lot of those ideas go away all by themselves, but some stay in my head for longer or I make notes.

"I am constantly searching and waiting for a unique idea. I’m always going back to the studio to paint the perfect painting. It could happen any day. You can compare that to a surfer who is always looking for the perfect wave."

Beni Bischof

Can you learn to see things differently, to see the magic in them? Is it possible to nurture that?
That starts automatically. The love of poetry, that is. Or, to put it in more political terms, the ability to express your opinion visually. Humor and absurdity are a big theme in my works. Going against the grain. Developing your own opinion. If you become aware of that, maybe you can train it. Like exercising a muscle in your brain. You change your perspectives, do the opposite, or question everything, be it a dot, a square or a line. It also is a lot of fun, and it leads to wanting to do it over and over again.

Are there any spontaneous moments?
There are. Sometimes they lead to something, sometimes they don’t. Spontaneity and working impulsively are big themes for me that have accompanied me through all media from sculpture to painting or drawing. I never make sketches for anything, but always dive right in and try things out.

What inspires you and what really turns you off?

→ Read the whole interview with Beni Bischof in rampstyle #27 "By the Way".

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