In his art, Elmar Lause challenges familiar norms. Instead of conventional canvases, the Hamburg artist has chosen to create fantastical and crazy material combos, eliciting unexpected, fresh life from old objects in his works of art. Our author Rudolf Klöckner met Elmar Lause, strolled around the Sternschanze district with him and found himself in a miniature private Wonderland.
It's raining. The drizzle lands quietly on the pavement – the moisture falling from above is not heavy, not light – the kind of rain that is Hamburg's speciality. The Kaffeekontor café in Hamburg's bustling Sternschanze district, where I'm to meet Elmar, has seats already filled with other people, apparently just waiting for the brief shower to pass. I order an espresso at the antique wooden counter, then I see Elmar, sitting right in the display window, coffee already in hand, observing the activity in the street.
We drink our coffee and observe the busy flow of people together, as they move along the pavement almost as if there was no rain failing. We use the time for conversation. Elmar tells me how he came to be in Hamburg. A theatre engagement had brought his actor father from Bochum to the banks of the Elbe. A season became a new home. He himself grew up in Hamburg, when he left school he studied communication design at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW) and has stayed on here.
We set forth on our stroll. Elmar heads for a little shop on the ground floor of an old building. As we enter the shop, it immediately becomes evident that art and the urban scene have been Elmar's great passion for quite some time. “Just a second, I need to buy some paint”. Underpressure has provided for all the needs of the graffiti, hip-hop and urban supply sectors for 20 years now. If you're looking for spray cans, caps, sneakers, books about urban art, this is the place to come.
Elmar Lause's art also has roots in graffiti. He realised early on that public spaces were a suitable medium for his artistic creativity. Various urban elements are a thread that runs through his work to this day. The great relevance of the city to his artistic expression is no doubt partly due to the influence of the famous pop artist Dieter Glasmacher, who taught Elmar at university. Together with Werner Nöfer, then Professor of Communication Design at the HAW, he put the first pop art painting in Europe on a wall in Hamburg in the late 1970s. The Wall Painting can still be seen on the façade of the famous “Grünspan” music club on Große Freiheit, a street in St. Pauli.
By this time, we've reached Tornquiststraße in the Elmsbüttel part of town. Above us, a gigantic Super Mario figure with two bodies towers into the sky. Elmar Lause painted the 20-metre-high mural “Supasupa” as part of the international art festival “Knotenpunkt” (link), which initiates art in public spaces every year alongside an exhibition of urban art. “I still take pleasure in that painting every time I pass it,” he says. As in many of his artworks, Elmar reverses the conventional way of seeing things here and turns familiar objects into something that takes beholders by surprise.
A light drizzle starts again, and we drive on. The creative hub of Elmar's work is located in Bahrenfeld. Just a few short years ago, this area featured one office after another and the employees of a major department store earned their daily bread here. Today, it houses the studios of more than 30 artists.
While other artists have studios piled high with paintbrushes, palettes and canvases, Elmar Lause's shelves are crammed with a bizarre collection of superheroes, toys and action figures, comics and old photos: a true Wonderland, whose stores furnish props for the artist's creations. Elmar Lause has a very special eye for objects. His art combines different elements, rearranges material fragments and different eras in fresh ways. He thereby creates a fantastical and crazy world with combinations and collages with his art, eliciting unexpected, fresh life from objects. And it is here in this Wonderland of fantastical things that the ideas and models for his artworks are created, artworks that will later breathe some fresh life into the city.
A stroll with Elmar Lause
Supasupa – mural at Tornqvist street