Life as an artist in Berlin: an interview with Luka Bunić
Berlin is a world-class art capital that attracts emerging artists from around the globe.
Recently, our editor met Croatian-born, Berlin-based multidisciplinary artist Luka Bunić, at the Berlin Art Market. Bunić's work centres around themes such as psychology, dreams, and the universe, and since 1992, he has been actively participating in group exhibitions and art festivals across Europe. On October 15, 2022, Luka is opening his first solo exhibition at the Erstererster Galerie in Berlin — an important step for the artist.
To mark this occasion, Bunić told us about his life as an artist in Berlin, the challenges he faces here, and, of course, his art.
Maria Gembel: You will open your first solo exhibition in Berlin this October. How do you feel about that?
Luka Bunić: I feel quite excited. After coming from Croatia to Germany, I was working hard to get to where I am now — to live from my art. This first conceptual solo exhibition has a symbolic meaning for me. It's a kind of stepping stone. It is also a teaser for my upcoming exhibitions next year.
M.G.: What are your expectations of the exhibition?
L.B.: Of course I am curious to discover how the works will resonate with the audience. After all the working process in the studio, it is also interesting to see works in a clean gallery environment to get another perspective and possibly new ideas.
M.G.: You were born and studied in Zagreb, Croatia. When and why did you move to Berlin? Have you considered other European cities for your work?
L.B.: I moved to Berlin in 2013. Although I’ve exhibited in several European cities, including Munich, Vienna, Prague, I had no specific plans to move to Berlin. It happened organically, after I visited Berlin and felt this was the next logical step for me as an artist. I recently visited New York and if you asked me to compare it to Berlin, I’d describe it in one word: intense. The vibe of New York City still fascinates me. Other European cities I would consider working from would be Barcelona, Madrid, and Paris.
M.G.: What three words could you use to describe your life as an artist in Berlin?
L.B.: Well, if I need to describe my life in Berlin in a nutshell, it would be: creativity, darkness and endurance.
M.G.: What challenges do you have to encounter in Berlin?
L.B.: From the first day I moved to Berlin, I felt that it was a city that didn't offer a warm hug, but rather a kick in the ass. A place where you can be everything and nothing. The opportunities are out there, but you have to work hard to make them happen. The freedom you have in Berlin can be very tempting when used in large quantities. You can find and discover yourself. That’s the freedom you have here. No one judges you. But on the other side, you can also lose yourself even more if you are not brave enough to manifest yourself. Many artists know this best. What was new to me as a Croatian in Berlin, were the long dark winters. It forces a person on a certain path of introspection — on a journey inwards. Honestly, those periods were the most difficult but also the most useful for me as an artist as well as for me personally.
M.G.: How do you find exhibition spaces and collectors?
L.B.: Most of the art spaces and galleries I found were through open calls, contacts, and art colleagues. Some of the gallery owners that I contacted directly like what I do and we started collaboration.
M.G.: Tell us about your experience in organising this exhibition.
L.B.: So far I have had a positive experience with the gallery and project space Estererster in Prenzlauerberg, Berlin. Markus Humpert is very helpful and accurate for all sorts of arrangements for presenting my works. As for the upcoming exhibition, a Croatian art curator Sandra Zloić will present my work. I am also very excited to have friends and my family attending for this exhibition.
M.G.: What is the concept of the exhibition?
L.B.: The idea is to show the development of my works during the past two years, so it will be a sneak peak of three series. The paintings from the series 'Skywalks' (2020) were done during the first lockdown, by applying colour on my feet and walking over canvases. This is my personal answer to the restrictions and the claustrophobia that we all experienced during this period.
Photo 1 - Luka Bunić “Skywalks” (2020), acrylic on canvas, 90 x 90; Photo 2 - Luka Bunić “Skywalks” (2020), acrylic on canvas, 90 x 90; Photo 3 - Luka Bunić “Skywalks” (2020), acrylic on canvas, 160 x 160
During the work on the next series Moonwalker (2021), I was fascinated by space technology. I experimented with the technique of applying paint and treating the base, and the resulting fracture is a combination of incompatible, rough and fragile — a kind of ‘space baroque’. In the silence of the universe, artworks emerge from the darkness, the basis of which is gradually becoming a sort of consequence of introspection and the subconscious activity.
This year, I became more aware of the strength of my artistic self, so the works form the last series The Touch of Unknown (2022) present my emotional experience of the world and life, inner turmoil and acceptance of the uncertainty of the present moment. When carefully observed, under the swirl of colours one shall notice figures, characters that talked to me from the ‘other side’.
M.G.: What are your sources of inspiration?
L.B.: As an artist, my source of inspiration is always around human emotions, the nature of mind, and ecology. The Human psyche, the subconscious mind, our social interactions, human endeavors in space exploration … all these topics keep my mind busy on a daily basis. Everything I learned in life to this point that uplifted and empowered me is a source of inspiration for my art.
M.G.: On your website you write that “ecology of consciousness” is almost always the main theme of your work. Could you explain us this concept in a few words?
L.B.: The concept deals with the consequences caused by an individual with respect to his or her surroundings: a change of an individual inevitably affects the whole community, on a personal level and the ecology too. If I would unconsciously spread my frustrations, or as jungian psychology calls it, 'shadows', this is comparable to pollution. My frustration is polluting the personal space of others with the energetically toxic waste of my frustration. That may explain why I am quite interested in space exploration. The human kind is trying to reach outer pure places to seek a new life, and to broaden its understanding of tangible surroundings. Looking at this from a micro and macro perspective, there are similarities: If you are a fulfilled and conscious individual, you will not hurt your neighbour or litter the environment. It can be applied to everyone, no matter if it is a politician or an ordinary person. It’s a simple equation that I personally believe in. That is always the backdrop of all my works. I am looking to express this principle of consciousness in different ways, often using completely different media or materials. I am not thinking that I will singlehandedly save the world in Don Quixote style but as an artist I feel an obligation to speak out, and to inspire others to become conscious about themselves and their space surrounding them.
M.G.: What are your upcoming projects?
L.B.: For the next upcoming solo exhibition, full body of works from The Touch of Unknown will be presented with one other gallery in Mitte, Berlin. Work-wise I have few ideas. At the moment, I am also experimenting in audio-visual performances, which I did in Croatia ten years ago. These works might become part of my next series.
M.G.: What guidance can you give to emerging artists in Berlin?
L.B.: I can only mention the guidance I gave myself, and which has worked out fine so far. I always try to listen to my intuition, no matter how it feels at that specific point and then to act accordingly. So, my advice: be true to yourself, stay sensitive and be open-minded. Don’t let trends affect your connection with your art and your inner self. Staying authentic as an artist is hard but it is truly fulfilling by being connected with yourself even if the reward comes later or maybe not even at all. Galleries and success usually follows naturally if you and your works are honest in their own way. Try to find your way to benefit society. Develop your work. Keep going and grow. Stay humble, don't take things and success for granted and remain open to learn. It is a marathon, not a sprint. Work hard but balance it with fun. I guess this applies to every profession.
Luka Bunić “The Touch of Unknown”
15 October – 20 October 2022
Pappelallee 69, 10437 Berlin