If there was ever a time in which some whimsy is needed, this is it. If you missed my first two installments of Monday Whimsy, devoted to the art of Christoph Niemann, you can check them out here and here.
These images–along with those in my other two Niemann-themed posts–are from a series called Sunday Sketches. “On weekends I just doodle for the fun of it,” the artist says. “The idea for the series happened organically: because I always have a messy desk there was all this stuff that shouldn’t be there, so I started drawing around that. Now I pick an object that doesn’t immediately invite any kind of connection – the weirder the better – and then I stare at it until some kind of image appears.”
And this quote, taken from a published collection of the sketches, seems particularly apt in these days of COVID-19:
“Relying on craft and routine is a lot less sexy than being an artistic genius. But it is an excellent strategy for not going insane.”
I, personally, can’t get enough of this man’s creativity. I have some favorites among this bunch. What are yours?
Niemann took on our current moment in a recent cover for The New Yorker, a frequent showcase for his art.
Francoise Mouly, the longtime art editor of the magazine, posed some questions to Niemann:
Your first sketch was about the effect of the coronavirus on a global scale. How did you get from the very large to the very small?
I believe that the best concepts develop in the process of drawing. I don’t usually have ideas pop in my head fully formed when I’m not at my desk. Yet the genesis for this image, the idea of a sneezing domino standing on top of a globe packed with other domino pieces, came to me when I was lying in bed, trying to fall asleep. I tried to wake up my wife (who’s my most reliable judge) to ask her what she thought. I got an unmistakable “whatever.” I got up again and sketched down the idea. Only the next day, when I sat down to turn the concept into a proper art work, did I realize that the globe and the pieces actually resemble a virus. In the end, it still proves my theory that all decent ideas come together when you actually draw them.
Unlike a chain reaction, the domino effect is a game-derived metaphor. Was it your intention to play up the element of chance?
As a kid, I spent a lot of time building pretty complex chain-reaction projects with wooden blocks. I vividly remember the constant anxiety from knowing that one accidental move could destroy everything in a second. The situation we’re facing is obviously much more dramatic, but that sense of fragility felt apt.
Your image points to both isolation and interconnectedness. You live in Berlin with your wife and three kids; how has your actual daily life been affected by the pandemic?
Until recently, life still felt normal, apart from the pasta and toilet-paper supplies at our supermarket being lower than usual. But the mood keeps changing drastically. No more jokes about touching your face or funny substitutes for handshakes. It’s like getting punched in slow motion. This is the moment just before the fist touches the chin. I catch myself thinking about how the world will recover, but realize that there will be plenty of agony before we can even assess the damage.
And lastly, yesterday’s New York Times Magazine included this spread on Niemann’s trip to Estonia.
Stay safe, and be kind to one another.