Interview with Olaf Hajek

Photograph: Robert Rieger

Interview with Olaf Hajek

Interview with Olaf Hajek

Interview with Olaf Hajek

Photograph: Andreas Pein

Interview with Olaf Hajek

Interview with Olaf Hajek

Interview with illustrator Olaf Hajek

Always busy working on either personal projects or commissioned pieces, German illustrator Olaf Hajek is a prolific artist whose work has been exhibited around the world. He took the time to answer a few questions for those curious to know a bit more about him.

You have been living in Berlin for many years. In which way does this city inspire your work? What is so special about Berlin that fuels your creativity?

It’s the freedom. You never feel the pressure in Berlin. At the time, when I first moved here, things were much easier and relaxing. Berlin’s creative scene was composed of a very small group of people great to be part of. There was a fashion designer, a hat maker, etc. I remember when the mayor of Berlin came with us to New York. We had an exhibition at the Moma Store to showcase Berlin’s creativity. Illustration was so new at the time, and it was amazing to be part of this as an illustrator.

Your work is widely inspired by folk culture and cultures from around the world. Where does that come from? Is that because of many travels, or simply a strong interest in the world and its various forms of art?

It’s a combination. When I was a kid, I was always trying to escape the idea of being German, and stuck in this cold culture the country had at the time. At school, my friend’s parents were all ambassadors, coming from many different countries. At home, they played Brazilian music and had African masks decorating their walls. So from a very young age, I was always interested in escapism. Later on, I developed my own personal taste as well. I hate the ‘bling-bling’ and prefer sophistication. I have always been inspired by art, architecture, and materials like wood.

Do you sometimes experiment with less traditional painting techniques?

The first illustrations I painted were on materials that I found in the street. These days, I like to work on a clean piece of wood and create my own textures. Sometimes, I add sand or coffee powder in my acrylic paint to get a special texture. It gives a dimension to the paint.

How did the idea for Black Antoinette come up?

The idea came up when I was visiting South Africa for the first time, which is a country who has always inspired me. Black Antoinette is the idea of Marie Antoinette combined with something more organic and ethnic. The Black Antoinette is not about wealth. Nature is her luxury.

You seem to attach a lot of importance to details. One can easily spend a lot of time looking at all the details in each painting you create. Why is it so important? Do you enjoy hiding objects and symbols in your paintings?

Of course! I am always trying to bring out some symbols in my paintings, like water coming out from one point to another for example. I often combine something dark beside something that’s full of light, as I think one cannot exist without the other. The secret about my work is that people love it because of its aesthetics but also because it is darker, and touches them on a deeper level.

See more of Olaf’s work here.


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