Artist Spotlight: Anne Wölk's Surreal Interstellar Landscapes

Katie Carey | April 8, 2022

Anne Wölk’s paintings of the night sky and open galaxies test the margins between art and reality. 

Using traditional methods and materials, Wölk references space telescope images while remixing them with elements of modern culture, “layering familiar references in new otherworldly surroundings.”

Born and raised in former East Germany in the town of Jena, Wölk grew up close to a center for lasers and optics technology. There, she encountered simulations of the cosmos and demonstrations of interplanetary travel—thus igniting a passion for attempting to understand the vastness of the universe. 

Drawing upon Eastern European masters of landscape, she takes those techniques into interstellar landscapes—often imagining and inventing new environments.

“As my viewers position themselves amongst the stars on these new planets, they reconcile the daunting and often hostile universe with their own human nature,” said Wölk.

Wölk’s multidisciplinary paintings—both rooted in romanticism and photorealism—take you on a journey to fictional planets full of interstellar dust, starscapes, flowing color, and light. Familiar images of popular images of space are subverted with gradients, digital alterations, and information gaps—creating an entirely new landscape of her own; it is a landscape that Wölk describes as a speculative future. 

See more of Anne Wölk’s work on Discovery and read more about her paintings that challenge us to consider the world and universe that we collectively inhabit.

Anne Wölk in her studio. Photo courtesy of Anne Wölk

Has your work changed over time—do you find yourself understanding your art career through different periods of expression?

Of course, I have experienced many changes during my artistic journey.

I have always loved Eastern European masters of landscape painting, next to subject matters that belong to the science-fiction genre. Over the years, I have incorporated my passion for traditional influences with my love for futuristic images during an evolving process. Maybe for that reason, I have worked on different series of paintings for many years, and there are always breaks and exciting connections.

One of the most compelling bodies of work was my Starscapes series, which comprises night landscapes with fascinating and mysterious light atmospheres. From time to time, I also regularly look at my older artworks and try to incorporate some successful concepts and implementations into my current practice.

Spaceport Station by Anne Wölk

Do you have a favorite or most satisfying part of your process?

Joy is the focus of everything I do.

For that reason, I would answer spontaneously that I love the painting process.

I like to immerse myself in the painterly execution of details in my landscape paintings. The depiction of light and stars' colors in the cosmos excites me the most. It informs us about properties such as size, age, and distance. Next to it, I like color experiments when sprayed color surfaces, running traces of paint, and photorealistic elements stand next to and charge each other. 

Eagle nebula (🦅 Adler Nebel) by Anne Wölk. Oil on Canvas, 31.5 x 31.5 in.

What has your artistic education consisted of (formal or not)? If you did receive a formal education like an MFA, did you find it necessary for your artistic growth, or did you find that elsewhere?

My artistic training began quite early. I started studying at the Art Academy at Burg Giebichenstein when I was 17 in Ute Pleuger's class. There, I gained extensive knowledge of painting techniques, especially in the study of nature, design and composition theory, and color theory. In Pleuger's painting class, contemporary conceptual abstract painting was taught. For this reason, I changed art schools to continue my studies in Berlin at the Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee, hoping to get some support in pursuing representational painting. I have also completed an exchange program at Chelsea College of Art and Design in the sculpture department. Over time, I have received several degrees like a BFA and MFA. 

Going to art school was part of my artistic journey, but I have not learned there to grow a viable, profitable business in the arts.

For that reason, I would not recommend attending an MFA program to everybody— it depends on the personality of each art student. Success depends not on your technical capabilities or where you got your degree. All that´s required is a willingness to take personal responsibility to show up regularly in your studio and start promoting your art. The most crucial factor for an artist is taking action and making order out of the daily chaos to make informed decisions.

Anne Wölk in her studio. Photo courtesy of Anne Wölk

Which routines—art-making and administrative—are essential to success in your art career?

Since 2019, I have started a new routine to bring order to my artistic production and studio. In recent years, I have become very professional and started archiving all my work and strictly controlling my money flow and finances.

Since then, I've made many better-informed decisions because I can better understand which investments were worthwhile and which weren't. It is also much clearer to see which galleries earn me an income and which only incur transport costs for me.

Hill Sphere by Anne Wölk. Oil and Acrylic on canvas, 19.3 x 19.3 in.

Why did you decide to inventory and archive your artworks?

The main reason [I began inventorying my artwork] was that I wanted to get an overview of which collectors and organizations had acquired works from me to date. I also tried to collect the contact details and wanted to understand my cash flow better.


What advice would you give an emerging artist during this time?

Young artists should document all contacts and sales right from the start. I wish I had insisted on galleries telling me who bought my artwork more often. I have trusted that galleries regularly remind my collectors of me and advertise me and my exhibitions for many years, which was a fatal misconception.


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