Like a lot of the most interesting work now, Benedikt Hipp’s paintings are a fusion between figuration and abstraction. There’s a lot of strange ornamentation on the figures and a kind of dark surrealist threatening space. They are also fairly perverse, so you have all the ingredients of success!
I first met Benedikt when he was my student at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich ten years ago. He was an unusually gifted tactile painter. Painting is, unfortunately, like singing and dancing, dependent on talent. That’s why it’s often under attack, because it’s not democratic. Benedikt was just very capable and clearly talented. As a painter, you’ve got to have some talent, you’ve got to have ability. You’ve only got to look at Mondrian’s early work, the windmills and so on, to see what a gifted painter he was. But you can give them a philosophical grounding, which is the way I teach… so that the painting gets tougher, and intellectually loaded rather than just being something about facility.
Like me, Benedikt has had a child so that of course slows you down. I often say to people, ‘You can forget your career,’ but we do survive these things, and so we should, and we shouldn’t give up these delights of life. I’ve noticed that he’s shown from time to time, but never broken out internationally — I believe he has the capacity to do it.
Benedikt’s not the kind of person who would put himself about enough. He has a family, he can’t just go and live in London or go to Berlin, he has to think about his domestic situation and its needs, he has to prioritise the needs of his family. But his work has the dark, almost comic strangeness to make it quite fashionable right now, because that kind of funky figurative painting is quite in vogue. Deformity is the order of the day, like it was in the 1920s and 1930s.
The first model was Salvador Dalí, and other artists have followed on, using what we might loosely describe as props — identity props of one kind or another — to put their image out there. Benedikt hasn’t done that. He’s a quiet person, and self-effacing in some ways, so it will be a slow burn.
I think any advice I was going to give him, I’ve given to him in bucketfuls when I was teaching him. What I said to him was that you have to look after your art, but I think that it’s very difficult for serious artists, when they come through slowly. It’s not media-friendly, being a serious artist, it does take a long time, but that’s the order of things, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I think he’s got the love of his craft, and the integrity, seriousness and subject matter, to work for a lifetime, and at some point I’m sure it’s going to work out.