Joana Fischer’s paintings evoke curiosity and invite to explore life and roam freely beyond the canvas. As the viewer experiences dream-like landscapes unfolding on layered Mylar, with partially hidden details peeking out from behind, Fischer creates not just visually complex and beautiful artworks, but also creates engaging narratives that inspire to think, dream, discover, and enjoy nature.
The delicate and intricate collage-like artworks combine drawing and painting, and are filled with technical, visual and conceptual juxtapositions and dualisms. Created in an outpouring of the artist’s personality, Fischer examines subjects such as childhood, urbanism, nature, the environment, pollution and the Zeitgeist.
“Joana Fischer: Playtime” is currently on view at the German Consulate in Miami.
Can you please tell us a little about yourself and your personal background?
I was born in Ahlen, Germany. I went to study fine arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Muenster and then for a scholarship to study in Aix-en-Provence. During my studies I focused on drawing and painting. I studied under Irene Hohenbuechler and Sushan Kinoshita.
What brought you to Miami?
I met my husband in the South of France when I was studying there. His job discontinued there and he had to move back to work in America so I moved with him. I studied art but also French literature, linguistic and education, but then I really started focusing on my art and decided to make art my career.
How long have you lived in Miami?
About four years now.
You are a resident at the Bakehouse Art Complex. What is it like to work here and what has your experience been so far?
It has been really great. I think the Bakehouse is a wonderful environment for emerging artists to be more visible. They offer a lot of exhibition opportunities and I had a great solo show here last year. They have two gallery spaces and that’s good to take advantage of. It is also a nice community of artist friends. I want to work on an exhibition with my friend Sarah Henderson in the future.
What inspires you about Miami?
Contrasts. The beautiful Florida flora of trees, flowers and grass, and on the opposite, the architecture of buildings. I am also interested in urbanization, and the contrast between the building boom in certain areas like in Miami Beach or Downtown, and then you have decaying buildings in other areas like in Wynwood and even around the Bakehouse Art Complex. There is a contrast of wealth and poverty. In Germany you have so many more open fields, and not city spaces. Here, it is very much city all over. You can drive an hour or two hours north on the I-95 and it is like city and so much population all around you. You have the Everglades, but they are not so accessible. There are only very few places to escape civilization, to be totally by yourself. And most is men-created, such as many parks.
How does your German background feature into your work in terms of thought process, imagery or conceptually?
We travel a lot and through my drawings I often integrate images from places in Germany and Europe.
I think some of it is more my personality like using these translucent colors or delicate drawings. Right now I am focusing a little bit more on the topic of children playing and I see myself and how I grew up playing wild in the forest and the fields, building things, building forts or discovering. Here, it is so controlled. The playgrounds are not very interesting. A lot of plastic and metal and not so many natural elements. Also, it stops. Children from seven years old, you don’t really see them playing so much outside. Everything is very organized. They have a lot of after school activities, which are all organized and not free and unstructured.
We will come back to the works about play in just a moment. Many of your works have German titles like “Heute,” and “Zeitgeist.” Why?
I kind of like to do it, use those words. I still feel very connected to Germany. I feel that is part of my roots and I do not want to just abandon it. I feel it is also interesting and I have had people visiting from Germany and then they see the German title and they do not know necessarily that I am German but when they see that, they kind of connect with it more and differently. The exhibition I had last year was titled “Zeitgeist.” It is a German word but it is used in the English language.
Your current series, entitled “Playtime,” was inspired by childhood and your own children. Can you elaborate on your considerations and the subject matter?
I kind of started with…my daughter goes to a small Montessori school and she was saying, why do we have to do these math and language lessons, I would like to play more. She was four at the time. I started researching more about play and how children naturally develop. Children learn through play. There is this schooling, especially during the early years, here in America, that is so much more academic than in Germany or Finland. They have more play-based kindergartens. They only play all day and they also play a lot more outside.
How did you approach that on canvas? How did you interpret the research and thoughts?
I play with the materials myself and work in layers. I like to hide certain things and some things are more visible than others. You have to discover. I also like to interlace nature and urbanism. Also, sometimes it is just a structure of certain materials which are interesting to draw. First I lay the material down and then work with ink and acrylic colors and dilute them with water and let it dry and then, when it is dry, I put another layer on it. I even work with two layers of the artworks. Right now I work on Mylar and drafting film and put two layers on top of each other, which gives a different dimension.
“Playtime” is on view in a solo exhibition at the German Consulate in Miami. How did the exhibition come about?
They asked me a while ago. They had seen my work at the Deering Estates. There was an exhibition – “Wunderbar.” So they saw it and asked me if I wanted to show at the Consulate.
What has the response been?
The response was great. I was really surprised by how many people came. It was really good to see so many people coming to the opening. There is a wonderful German community here. I sold two pieces from the show. Hopefully more will follow. We will see. I always feel when you have a gallery behind you for a show it gives the artist more credibility. My gallery is in Hamburg. Galerie Schimming.
You briefly spoke about your work process already and medium already. What is your favorite medium and why?
I always love to work with watercolors. I love the beautiful stains when they dry.
You have incorporated LED lights in your work before. What is the significance within the context of your work?
It reminds me of the illumination of the city but also the colors and everything become stronger with the light. It gives it a different impression with the light. I deliberately design the light to go with the work so it has a specific track. I also like, when you see some of my works, I hang them floating, you can go around it and see a different image. The installations becomes sculptural.
Your choice of material often seems to be a direct reflection or even a further investigation on your subject matter such as using plastic bags or other plastic materials to reference pollution. When did you start using the material as an additional conceptual layer?
Working more with the plastic materials I think started with what I see. The plastic consumption here in the US is just a big problem. If you go to the grocery stores you get so many plastic bags. I use my reusable bags because otherwise you are at home and you have tons of plastic bags and your garbage is full of them. I feel like Germany is more proactive about that already. When I go to the beach here, I see plastic on the beach. The interesting thing is that in my work you do not really notice when it’s plastic. It looks very organic. It plays with organic and synthetic appearances. It is not an in your face message. It is kind of behind it.
Your artistic considerations are often based on oppositional others, dualities and juxtapositions. How do you examine those in your art?
It is in the painting and drawing and how they contrast. They are also part of the subject matter. I use building structures but also nature elements. You have paint but there are also a lot of white spaces and fine filigree drawings.
What other topics do you generally explore in your art or do you want to explore in the future?
One thing I am thinking about is to write an exhibition proposal to have an interactive show where children can manipulate and change and play with the structures. A lot of exhibitions you go to are “please don’t touch.” I would like to encourage that and do something different with it, like take a video of it, or photographs, and use these again in my future artwork.
Which artists inspire you?
I like artists who draw. There is this German-Israeli artist Yehudit Sasportas who does a lot of ink drawings. I also love the drawings of David Hockney. There is this German artist Hanna Nitsch she also does very wonderful ink paintings. And I love the work of Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann.
Have you seen any exhibition that changed your view or art?
I have seen someone working on Mylar, I think it was at Miami Project a few years ago. That did catch my attention. I started working on Mylar after seeing that. I do think it inspires. Every time I go to see an exhibition. I now see more and more people working with plastic and combining different materials.
Do you collect art?
Yes, a little bit. We got a piece from Adler Guerrier, one of Jenny Brillhart’s works, an artist from here in Miami. She is with Dorsch Gallery. We also have a few paper collages by Felice Godin and a photograph from Jude Broughan and two drawings by Sarah Henderson.