“It’s sort of like the Velvet Underground – though I don’t know if Andy Warhol ever wanted to be in a band,” Berlin-based Sebastiaan Schlicher says of his band-cum-art-project Amerikan Teenager. The artist, who is originally from the Netherlands, has a truly multi-varied practice, that takes in drawing, painting, video – and band management. “The idea really just originated from me being unable to play an instrument but being fascinated by the idea of being in a band, the whole mythology around it,” explains Schlicher. “My solution was to create a band that I could direct and I could come up with visuals and ask people to provide music for it.” A self-confessed devotee of all things rock and roll and whose work has a distinctly punkish edge, Schlicher’s practice is one of spontaneous self-expression. “Creation is the destruction of ideas. You have to get rid of everything in your head, all the garbage, to clear a path and surprise and excite yourself about what you’re doing,” he says. Drawing comes closest to the directness of expression he is after. “Drawing to me is more related to a physical practice and actually it’s a release where you look back at what you’ve done and see the mess you’ve created.” His works on paper - often classic punk-art collages - are darkly humorous, with subjects ranging from sibling rivalry to unemployment, while his materials range from the commonplace – felt-tip pen, acrylic – to the rare. His 2008 work Live On Blood features heroin residue found in a metro station. Straddling figuration and abstraction, and often featuring text, his paintings and drawings have a playful magnetism. He is bringing this sense of playfulness to a new Amerikan Teenager video featuring a cover version of The Christian Life by The Byrds. The footage is of a sleeping man with black smoke billowing out of his mouth. “I am fascinated with combining text and image in a way that suggests narrative when there isn’t one,” he says. “Making a music video frees me from having to do that.”
- Laura Allsop is an arts and culture journalist and editor living in London. She is Deputy Editor of AnOther Magazine.