Christian Rothenhagen is a graphic designer and artist living in Berlin. He creates quiet, timeless urban landscapes in truly emotional colour ranges. His cities may lack people, but we bet that you will never see a more intimately drawn set of traffic lights. He spoke to The Re|view about his art and why he has lost his heart to the rough lady that is Germany’s capital city.
The Re|view: You live in Berlin. Although you have worked all over the world, anywhere from Vienna to the US and Tokyo, your base is in the German metropolis. Do you have a fascination with that city, or why have you never moved?
First of all: I love Berlin. This is the city I grew up in and ‘she’ has always been good to me. From my very personal point of view Berlin is beautiful in its very own way. It’s worn out, kind of fucked up, and every corner seems to tell tons of history – from the golden 20s to the worst nightmares during World War II. The post-war time where Berlin was re-built, the Wall era, GDR, West Germany, the Cold War until ’89 when the wall came down until now, where it seems that Berlin turns into a playground for real estate assholes. The city is rough, the winters really suck, but that makes you love the springtime and summer even more. Berlin is huge, free, open minded, welcoming, hard, dirty, beautiful and honest!
I could imagine living in a few other cities (San Francisco, Toronto, Prague or in some village right by the Baltic sea…), but just for a few years maybe. Never say never. But I don’t think I could leave Berlin for good. She’s a good friend and my home. Berlin will always be my base – the place to come back to and feel ‘warm’.
The Re|view: Your designs frequently feature cityscapes, lone buildings, or traffic lights. Specifically with the latter, is there a symbolism at work, e.g. is the city a space where it’s stop-and-go, more so than in the country?
I am a city kid. I grew up in the heart of Berlin – so I couldn’t really say how it might be living in the country. The things I draw in my artworks are what I would call ‘the nature’ of a big city. It’s like the basic structure of a net, the veins in a body. It’s what keeps it alive. The buildings and empty streets are the core of it.
The Re|view: Your work seldom includes humans. Does that have a reason?
People come and go, cars drive by, but the city stays. It’s pretty hard to describe. It’s about the city, not the people.
The Re|view: Do you think the urban landscape is actually the ‘new nature’ of the 21st century?
That’s subjective, pretty hard to tell. For me – being the city kid – yep. But in general – I hope not.
The Re|view: In ten words, how would you describe the Berlin art scene right now?
Too much, not enough, poverty, money, art is no competition.
By Agatha Frischmuth
Christian Rothenhagen holds the sole copyright for the images displayed.