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God of the Grove by Hedi Xandt © 2013 Hedi Xandt /

God of the Grove by Hedi Xandt © 2013 Hedi Xandt /

What lies beneath: An interview with Hedi Xandt

For noget tid siden faldt jeg over nogle værker af kunstneren Hedi Xandt. Særligt hans parafraser af klassiske buster ramte mig lige i hjertet. Hans værker er delt utroligt mange steder på nettet, men da jeg søgte mere information om Hedi og hans arbejde, fandt jeg meget lidt. Derfor skrev jeg til ham, spurgte om han ville svare på nogle spørgsmål. Det ville han. Vores kommunikation foregik på engelsk, og er derfor gengivet direkte her.

Lizards by Hedi Xandt

Lizards by Hedi Xandt © 2013 Hedi Xandt /

First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. I have personally been fascinated with your work for a while now, and I’m intrigued to find out more about your work and your thoughts behind it.

Thank you very much! I am happy to answer.

Can you tell us about your background? Your personal background and your artistic background. How has that affected who you are as an artist now?

Hedi Xandt

Hedi Xandt by Osman Balkan Photography

I grew up in an artistic household and I spent much of my time as an infant to create things. I drew, painted and sculpted, enjoying the feel of tools in my hand.
You really can’t call me autistic, but I spent very much time alone, all by myself, in my own world. When I grew up more, this world became a little bit darker each year, for reasons I can’t and won’t explain here. My real life is closely tied to my life as an artist, if it is not identical even. Everything I feel expresses itself in the work I do, I’m sure that’s what most artists would answer, though.

You studied Liberal Arts at the University of Arts in Berlin – what did this do for your personal artistic expression?

Nothing at all. I studied there not even one full semester. The classes were all about looking at other’s artworks and paint their techniques. At that time, I already had a developed sense of my style, what I can do and what I want. I thought it was useless that some professor tells me to “just paint” and then show him the result at the end of the semester. Actually, you come from this school to be an “approved artist by the state”, which (to me) equals working four years as a street musician: You learn a lot about yourself, but not about WHAT you actually do. I still needed other kinds of education, that’s why I changed to Communication Design at the beautiful Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt, Germany. This almost eerily silent town in central Germany has a marvelous Art Nouveau colony and was the perfect place to learn about various ways to create and communicate. I graduated in early 2013 and I’m very happy I made the decision to change to these more “applied” studies.

Gattaca by Hedi Xandt

Gattaca by Hedi Xandt © 2013 Hedi Xandt /

You actually seem to work with many different artistic expressions – graphic design, photography, 3D rendering etc. – where do you feel most comfortable working?

I embrace and love it all! Creating a world around you, or at least shaping it, is really fullfilling. I enjoy merging all ways of creation. A sketch becomes a drawing, a drawing becomes some digitally enhanced work until I animate it or make a 3D shape out of it. Traditional media and digitality enable me to create everything I envision – this is the most powerful aspect about that synergy!

Can you tell us about your artistic process from inspiration/idea generation to actual execution of a work of art? For example pieces like Apollo Ray or The Longer You Last.

I write very much, stories and poems, and I consume just as much. Sometimes, a certain phrase forms a specific image in my head that really stays. My mind is really like a big cloud full of inspiration that mixes and merges, hence you will always find a lot of references to other art in my work. The Longer You Last stems from a Marilyn Manson song in which he sings about his neglected relationship, stating that he should have picked a photograph rather than the actual person, because the image stays longer. I completely detached the idea of “what remains” from Manson and the song. The only bodily thing that really stays longer than everything else is the bones of your body. So I imagined remembering a (loved) person by making a relic out of the skull. The sculpture references ancient Christian items of adoration and Nepalese ornamented skulls, but in a more modern “design” way.

The Longer You Last by Hedi Xandt

The Longer You Last by Hedi Xandt © 2013 Hedi Xandt /

You seem to be specifically fascinated with the skull as shape/structure. How come? What does the skull as shape mean to you?

Of course, the skull is a very powerful symbol. It’s being used around the world as the sign for death, poisonness or evil. At the same time, the skull guards your mind throughout your whole life, making sure you are safe in dangerous moments. I like this contradiction. Also, each skull has it’s own face and expression. It’s our second face beneath all skin and flesh. Isn’t that mesmerizing? Sometimes I look into the mirror and try to figure out how my skull might look like, and if and how it will someday be visible. This might sound apalling – but actually, it’s beautiful.

What inspires you most at the moment?

I am currently reading a very thick book of Norwegian folk tales. I like how all the tales are very brutal and not at all made for children (at least not for feeble-minded princesses). In these pagan tales, Jesus and his mother Mary are powerful and cruel sorcerers that don’t hesitate to abduct children or turn them into pigs and chicken. Isn’t that amazing? It’s like the last outcry of a dying culture/religion trying to undermine the enemy. I also like how all folk tales in Europe seem to share various strains, as if there is a truth buried deep in the fantastic stories. Facts and fiction, and contemplating about such things, really inspires me!

Apollo Ray by Hedi Xandt

Apollo Ray by Hedi Xandt © 2013 Hedi Xandt /

Especially works like Apollo Ray and God of the Grove seem to be remediations of classical art works – What are your thoughts behind reworking classical pieces?

The pieces that contain ancient Greek sculptures are actually scans of the real deal. I like to use the very classical appeal of marble-white hellenic faces and brutally alter them, either with forcing their forever-hidden skull to come out or adding spikes or nails to them, reshaping their silhouette. Also, that insanely decadent material gold adds to the depiction of these “gods”. The goal was to make them as ridiculously expensive as possible – an all gold, larger-than-life version of Apollo Ray costs way over 150k Euros. At one point the manager of some US rap singer inquired the price and I instantly knew: Mission completed. Of course the sculpture will never sell. You can’t buy a god.

Especially these pieces have an inherent darkness, as well as their majestic and beautiful appearance – where does this come from?

I love thinking about old religions, horrifying gods and demons. Especially in the Christian Bible, at some point, their positions become mixed up and you don’t really know, is this entity evil now or good? And in all other pagan religions, or in Greek mythology, the image of a god is even more twisted: You never know if he will take care of you or smash you with his wrath. Gods must be with animal-like temper, simple but powerful, very aggressive being. Divine, but threatening. I think all these thoughts flow in and out of my sculptures.

My absolute favourite piece of yours is God of the Grove. It’s grotesque, horrifying, and absolutely beautiful. Tell me more about it!

Thanks! I always loved that rendition of Athena, an old marble statue that has been made into a bronze cast by the romans and a bust you can now find in almost any classical museum’s shop. Athena is like the most classic beauty you could imagine: A roundish face, beautiful eyes and a majestic nose. I chopped it all off and let the evil god come out, the “God of The Grove”. Her vengeful spirit creeps out of the distressed shell like a worm. The gold symbolizes the sheer beauty of divine purity but also it’s metallic coldness.

On your website you describe your roots and your person to be very creative. What does creativity mean to you?

Literally everything. My life, my job is composed of creativity. I need to express myself and I think that everybody does. Happiness is creating and shaping your own life and the world around you, even when it involves destroying it. Humans are extremely creative in many ways, that might be the reason why we are on the brink of destruction.

Funny, isn’t it?


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