Joschua Gumpert likes to think big. When it comes to his art and when it comes to his climate protection projects and thus a better world, he thinks it is necessary. When the man from Hamburg was looking for an artistic mentor after graduating from high school, for example, he traveled all over the world, showering the painter, sculptor and photographer Gerhard Richter with inquiries. With a view to his own old age, he declined, but acknowledged that no one had annoyed him as persistently as Gumpert. When he is looking for a prominent supporter for his climate protection visions, he sends Leonardo DiCaprio a video. He got the contact details from a friend who was once with the Hollywood star and environmental activist. The answer is still pending.
Today Joschua Gumpert is 25 years old and has achieved quite a lot as an autodidact with his vigor and ability, he is well on the way to becoming something like the model artist of the Fridays for Future movement. He has just opened his exhibition “InHuman – Our Decision” in Barlach Halle K (runs until September 5th). 40 large-format paintings in groups of four can be seen there. They address the great civilizational challenges of our time: biodiversity, energy generation, meat production.
Gumpert worked his way into the topics. “We have to make a decision as to whether we want to go on living like this,” he says, and immediately afterwards adds: “We just have to use our intelligence, invest in technologies.” With his art, he aims at precisely such technologies, the possibilities of science and research , to draw attention.
He calls himself a statement or political artist, terms that he created himself. He confidently recounts that he has developed his own artistic signature over the past few years with an aesthetic that subtly draws attention to the grievances. “I don’t work impulsively, but also approach my works very scientifically.” While painting, he also listens to podcasts from political economist Maja Göpel, from Bill Gates, the Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari, who deals with world philosophies.
In the Barlach Hall, his pictures hang freely in the room and are grouped thematically, two each depicting utopias for a better world. If you walk around the paintings, you can see dystopias on the back and thus the destruction of our living space. There is a large elephant that pulverizes itself with the globe, or large red spots, on the other side a seal with large eyes. There are shock moments that Gumpert stages there, mostly in gloomy colors. In another picture he has drawn large bubbles. They are supposed to represent stem cells from which meat is made, for example.
For him, facts count
“I’m always very disciplined in what I do,” says Gumpert. His day in the studio, as he calls his studio in Hamburg, is well structured. In his spare time he plays chess, drums or the piano. Sometimes, he says, he retires to his parents’ holiday home in the middle of nature in Lower Saxony to do research and to have some peace and quiet. It is difficult to imagine that he goes to the hill to corner, flees from the police while partying on the Alster or Elbe, that is, goes overboard.
Gumpert prefers to proceed systematically. Together with a conceptualist, he works out ideas, develops the right color scheme, and tries out colors and materials. Working on a single picture can take several years. After all, some pictures in the current exhibition have prices in the mid five-digit range. And they are also sold for it, the art market has noticed him.
Joschua Gumpert discovered his passion and talent for painting and drawing at an early age. At the Emilie-Wüstenfeld-Gymnasium in Eimsbüttler, he takes the art profile and is allowed to attend lectures and seminars at the HafenCity University while still at school. He speaks of teachers who supported him, of his search for a suitable art school, which he ultimately fails to find. “Nowhere did I really feel at home.” When he ran out of money after his many trips, he painted a portrait of Wüstenfeld on behalf of his former headmaster, already for a five-figure sum, as Gumpert reluctantly tells us when asked.
Animal and human portraits, that’s what he initially concentrates on. “That helped me to understand facial expressions and gestures.” He paints Gandhi, Ai Weiwei, Eminem, Johnny Depp and Dave Grohl, founder and singer of the band Foo Fighters. This work gives him a key moment, as he says himself, and tremendous attention. At the Foo Fighters 2015 concert in Hamburg, he chatted to all the bouncers and security people until he finally stood next to the front man on the stage of the Barclay Card Arena with his Grohl portrait. He signs the picture in front of thousands of spectators.
Gumpert is persistent and does not allow himself to be dissuaded from his path. “You need popular people for a momentum of attention,” says the 25-year-old, not referring to himself as an artist, but to the cause for which he is fighting. You take it from him. He is unpretentious, uncomplicated and pragmatic. When his pictures are being framed for the current exhibition at Kappich & Piel in the Schanze, he paints them a little more, touches them, and lets visitors brush the surface. The remoteness of the art world seems alien to him. A little self-presentation is allowed, however. “I never wear a smock or something, but always everyday clothes, preferably black.”
“Working on solutions”
Joschua Gumpert wants to make a difference. Not just with his art. “We have to work on solutions, for this the connection between ecology and economy is necessary, and we creatives have the task of showing visions so that people can deal with them.” He claims that for himself and acts accordingly. Last year he founded the One Planet organization. It hasn’t really got going yet. But the goals are set. “We want to work on effective solutions for climate protection and support and initiate projects that reduce the CO2 content in the atmosphere,” he explains the rather open objective. He even has a kind of research institute in mind to enable actors from various disciplines to develop developments for climate protection.
“It’s not about stopping using plastic straws and just riding our bikes, everyone does that for themselves.” It is important to invest in innovations based on facts and to educate them about them. The renunciation debates are counterproductive for him. “Environmental protection has to be sexy.” To do this, he wants to fight with his art and his projects and find comrades-in-arms – maybe DiCaprio will answer.