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What do you actually do? – Roman Schramm

I’m over twenty minutes late when I arrive at Roman Schramm’s studio, but the photographer, dapper in a blue striped shirt and green V-neck sweater, is nothing but gracious, inviting me to relax on the sofa as he makes a pot of coffee. Located on a residential street in the Berlin district of Neukölln, the third-floor room is full of patterned rugs and jewel tone curtains, giving it a domestic feel that’s often absent from artists’ studios. Schramm tells me that he isn’t working on anything concrete at the moment, so for the past few months he’s been using the space to experiment, something he sees as a vital part of his artistic practice. “I never start with a clear topic at the beginning,” he explains. “I love to use the studio to test out different things and see where the process leads me.”

Right now, this means trying his hand at painting with watercolors, despite, he claims, being “bad” at drawing and having “hated” painting with watercolors in high school. It also seems like an oddly traditional medium for the artist, who, from the beginning of his career, has sought to expand his ideas of the photographic medium through the use of digital software such as Adobe Photoshop and Cinema 4D. But after so many years making photographs—Schramm got his first camera aged 12 and won the German Youth Photography Award several times as a teenager—he often finds himself deliberately searching for areas where he can be a novice again. “When it comes to photography I’m very precise,” he says. “Whereas in my painting and sculpting practice I’m an amateur. It kind of feels like being in kindergarten again.”

In his photographic series, Schramm attempts to bring these two approaches together, resulting in playful yet technically accomplished images that often mix the pristine visual language of advertising with something much craftier. In Give More Take More (2017), for example, he photographed crudely made clay sculptures against pink, lace-edged fabric in sumptuous detail, while for Aluminium & Resin (2015), he unceremoniously stuck slick images of an assortment of objects, including a fried egg and a set of knives, on DIY resin and aluminum frames. For his most recent project, Große Soße (Big Sauce, 2019), Schramm took the idea of going back to kindergarten a step further by photographing patterns he made with shower gel, egg yolk, and food dye, which he then combined into one image on Adobe Photoshop using its pattern recognition algorithm. The resulting candy-colored abstractions, which each measure 2 x 1.5 meters, wouldn’t be out of place in a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. For Schramm, the software benefitted this project in several ways: “Firstly, I wouldn’t be able to make a photo like that otherwise because it’s so huge,” he says, “and secondly, it’s a nice game of control and letting go. The algorithm makes mistakes and I have to decide when to correct the glitches and when to leave them alone.”

The series, which Schramm showed last July at Beers London and then made into an artist book, is full of images that are equally seductive and disquieting. Seduction is a word that is often used to describe the artist’s work, but he denies that it’s his main goal. “It’s not that I want to seduce the spectator,” he says. “It’s more that at a certain point I want to be seduced or disturbed by the picture. It’s not my plan to do this with the spectator, but I know that if I’m troubled by an image then they probably will be too.” For Schramm, part of that process involves analyzing the photographs of others—something that is evident through the piles of books littered throughout his studio. “My projects used to be more research-based,” he explains. “Now I collect pictures and then let them lead me.” At the moment, he’s fixated on collages of modernist buildings by the American-German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: “I’m asking myself, what’s the magic in them? Why are these images so appealing to me?”

While Schramm’s intuitive way of working keeps him excited about going to the studio every day, it also has its downsides. In an art market that encourages artists to have a recognizable brand, a practice without clear visual markers can occasionally cause confusion. “Sometimes I think it would be good to have a trademark rather than looking different each time,” Schramm admits, referring to the fact that in the same year he made the “large, colorful, and very tactile” series Große Soße he also produced The Dilated Body, a set of austere black-and-white still lives in heavy aluminum frames. “I thought, okay that’s strange,” he says with a laugh, “but I can’t change it. I like both projects!”

Roman Schram is an artist based in Berlin. He studied at the HFBK from 1999 to 2007 with Cosima von Bonin and Stephan Dillemuth. More information:

HFBK graduate Chloe Stead, together with the photographer and also HFBK graduate Jens Franke, regularly meets former HFBK students to talk about work, life and art.

Grafik: Tim Ballaschke

Start of semester

After three semesters of hybrid teaching under pandemic conditions, we are finally about to start another semester of presence. We welcome all new students and teachers at the HFBK Hamburg and cordially invite you to the opening of the academic year 2020/21, which this year will be accompanied by a guest lecture by ruangrupa.

Graphic design: Sam Kim, picture in the background: Sofia Mascate, photo: Marie-Theres Böhmker

Graduate Show 2021: All Good Things Come to an End

From September 24 to 26, the more than 150 Bachelor's and Master's graduates of the class of 2020/21 will present their final projects as part of the Graduate Show at the HFBK Hamburg. We would like to thank all visitors and participants.

photo: Klaus Frahm

Summer Break

The HFBK Hamburg is in the lecture-free period, many students and teachers are on summer vacation, art institutions have summer break. This is a good opportunity to read and see a variety of things:

ASA Open Studio 2019, Karolinenstraße 2a, Haus 5; photo: Matthew Muir

Live und in Farbe: die ASA Open Studios im Juni 2021

Since 2010, the HFBK has organised the international exchange programme Art School Alliance. It enables HFBK students to spend a semester abroad at renowned partner universities and, vice versa, invites international art students to the HFBK. At the end of their stay in Hamburg, the students exhibit their work in the Open Studios in Karolinenstraße, which are now open again to the art-interested public.

Studiengruppe Prof. Dr. Anja Steidinger, Was animiert uns?, 2021, Mediathek der HFBK Hamburg, Filmstill

Unlearning: Wartenau Assemblies

The art education professors Nora Sternfeld and Anja Steidinger initiated the format "Wartenau Assemblies". It oscillates between art, education, research and activism. Complementing this open space for action, there is now a dedicated website that accompanies the discourses, conversations and events.

Ausstellungsansicht "Schule der Folgenlosigkeit. Übungen für ein anderes Leben" im Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg; photo: Maximilian Schwarzmann

School of No Consequences

Everyone is talking about consequences: The consequences of climate change, the Corona pandemic or digitalization. Friedrich von Borries (professor of design theory), on the other hand, is dedicated to consequence-free design. In “School of No Consequences. Exercises for a New Life” at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, he links collection objects with a "self-learning room" set up especially for the exhibition in such a way that a new perspective on "sustainability" emerges and supposedly universally valid ideas of a "proper life" are questioned.

Annual Exhibition 2021 at the HFBK

Annual exhibition a bit different: From February 12- 14, 2021 students at the Hamburg University of Fine Arts, together with their professors, had developed a variety of presentations on different communication channels. The formats ranged from streamed live performances to video programs, radio broadcasts, a telephone hotline, online conferences, and a web store for editions. In addition, isolated interventions could be discovered in the outdoor space of the HFBK and in the city.

Public Information Day 2021

How do I become an art student? How does the application process work? Can I also study to become a teacher at the HFBK? These and other questions about studying art were answered by professors, students and staff at the HFBK during the Public Information Day on February 13, 2021. In addition, there will be an appointment specifically for English-speaking prospective students on February 23 at 2 pm.

Katja Pilipenko

Semestereröffnung und Hiscox-Preisverleihung 2020

On the evening of November 4, the HFBK celebrated the opening of the academic year 2020/21 as well as the awarding of the Hiscox Art Prize in a livestream - offline with enough distance and yet together online.

Exhibition Transparencies with works by Elena Crijnen, Annika Faescke, Svenja Frank, Francis Kussatz, Anne Meerpohl, Elisa Nessler, Julia Nordholz, Florentine Pahl, Cristina Rüesch, Janka Schubert, Wiebke Schwarzhans, Rosa Thiemer, Lea van Hall. Organized by Prof. Verena Issel and Fabian Hesse; photo: Screenshot

Teaching Art Online at the HFBK

How the university brings together its artistic interdisciplinary study structure with digital formats and their possibilities.

Alltagsrealität oder Klischee?; photo: Tim Albrecht

HFBK Graduate Survey

Studying art - and what comes next? The clichéd images stand their ground: Those who have studied art either become taxi drivers, work in a bar or marry rich. But only very few people could really live from art – especially in times of global crises. The HFBK Hamburg wanted to know more about this and commissioned the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences at the University of Hamburg to conduct a broad-based survey of its graduates from the last 15 years.

Ausstellung Social Design, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Teilansicht; photo: MKG Hamburg

How political is Social Design?

Social Design, as its own claim is often formulated, wants to address social grievances and ideally change them. Therefore, it sees itself as critical of society – and at the same time optimizes the existing. So what is the political dimension of Social Design – is it a motor for change or does it contribute to stabilizing and normalizing existing injustices?