Exclusive: The Artist Who Inspired Jacquemus' Double-Faces
As digital art continues to flood our newsfeeds, it’s harder for fine art to grab our attention. People would rather look at weird GIFs than a cool painting, but there’s one Swedish artist who’s turning heads in the fashion and art world alike. Known for his discernible two-faced concept that has been featured in exhibitions and runway shows worldwide, including Jacquemus’ stunning PFW presentation, Sebastian Bieniek is earning quite the rep for his striking technique. But the artist is much more than a painter in the digital age, he’s an innovator whose thinking has earned him huge social media buzz, the most sought out form of capital among artists today.
We chatted with the painter/filmmaker to talk about the story behind his two-faced style, which politicians he’d like to paint, and his spirit animal.
Could you explain what got you interested in your unique face paintings?
It’s not about an interest. It just happened and than it happened again and again. I’m an artist. I go every day in my studio and make an artwork. Usually I put a color on a canvas and see what happens. In the case of Doublefaced I put a face on a face and saw what happened. I’m not a technician or an economist who goes for an interest and who has a certain expectation. I just do what I have to do, because I have to do, so I never know for sure what’s next. I try to surprise and not to know. This is very hard.
Your Doublefaced series was a huge success worldwide — did you expect such an overwhelming response?
No, of course not. I was very surprised. Especially because when I did the first photo I thought it’s just a fun project (that I made with my son) and than it became bigger and bigger. It has grown so fast, that I have not had the time to reflect what happened, I could only react. And it’s still growing. In March I had a huge success at the Paris Fashion Week with it. Last month I was in Hong-Kong for a Doublefaced photoshoot with Joey Yung, who is the most successful female singer in Hong Kong. Now we have the summer recess, but in September I have four exhibitions in three countries so it will be hard again to manage all the work.
How are you going to continue to evolve this concept?
I want go back to painting with it. I made already several painting with the theme of Doublefaced. Now I want to do more. I would also like to make a video or movie with the subject. I’m also a movie director, so this could be a good opportunity to make movies again.
Did you study fine art or illustration or were you interested in pursuing art as a hobby?
I finished in 2002 after five years of the study of art at the University of Art Berlin as a master of Arts (Meisterschüler). After that I studied for 13 years movie directing in the German Film and Television Academy Berlin (DFFB). Now my work is very interdisciplinary. I paint, I make photographs, drawings, sculptures, write books, make videos. Actually I do everything I want to do and I’m very happy that I studied for 19 years, so I have enough skills to realize my ideas in every technique I want.
Do you feel like people are two-faced in general?
I think everything is and must be Doublefaced, not only people. I don’t judge it. I don’t think this is good or bad. For me it’s just necessary. This is the ambivalence that everything has to have. This is a necessary attribute of everything, not only people. Everything is good and bad at the same time. When you start something you end something else in the same moment, when one wins he automatically starts to lose. I made a series of paintings about this topic. The name is "perfect circles". I think the ambivalence is a main topic through all of my work, because I want to understand it and it’s so hard to understand. Questions like: "why is hate so near to love?", "why does it have to end when one feels that it just begun?". For me it’s very deep, a huge theme and the guideline though all of my work.
Your work influenced the Jacquemus Fall 15 makeup. Is fashion something you’d ever be interested in exploring?
Definitely, yes. Since I worked with Jacquemus I got a few ideas for my own collection.
At the moment it’s not the right time, but one day – I’m sure – I’ll make my own fashion collection.
Are there any artist or art movements that directly influenced you?
Well I have so many influences. It’s hard for me to say which one is more important or less. At the end as more near something to you is as more it influences you. But I have to say that I don’t know where I am (because I change too often and too fast), so it’s hard for me to say who is more near to me and who not, because there is not a fixed-point. I feel more like in a Fellini movie. I swim, I move, I focus on the rhythm not the sound.
I heard you met your Doublefaced model by chance – is there anyone else you’d be interested in working with?
Do you think the art world benefits from social media or do you think it hinders creativity?
It depends on the output you have. If you have a big output you need the social media as a platform to make it visible, because it allows you to show and spread a lot of information. But if you make just a few works in a year, you don’t really need it.
What’s your spirit animal?
I have several. Fox, T-rex and an eagle. In the morning I’m a fox, in the evening an eagle and sometimes I’m a T-rex.
Berlin is up-and-coming in terms of the art scene — do you embrace this?
Berlin is very doublefaced. You can choose, so I choose. One day I go to a place which is up-and-coming and another day to a place that is the opposite of up-and-coming. What I definitely embrace are that they are plenty of opportunities in Berlin. There is not one Berlin, there are plenty of Berlins in Berlin.
If you weren’t doing art, what would you be doing?
My dream profession was astrophysics like Stephen Hawking. Unfortunately I’ve never met an astrophysicist in person in my life, so at this point I guess I have no choice.
Check out Sebastian’s Tumblr here
All imagery courtesy of the artist