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Kilian Fischhuber and Brian Main

On a short film, or why art knows no limits

WE CAME ACROSS A SHORT FILM WHILE ON YOUTUBE CALLED THE ART OF CLIMBING. IT DEPICTED A FASCINATING IDEA: IMAGES OF A CLIMBER MAKING HIS WAY UP A VERTICAL WALL ALTERNATE IN SHORT SEQUENCES WITH THOSE OF A PAINTER CAPTURING THE MOUNTAIN AND CLIMBER ON HIS CANVAS.

The camera pans in and out of the frames but mostly is placed just above their shoulders; however, the sequences are placed so close to another, that reality and the painting nearly overlap. The tension built over the 2.44 minutes is incredible and the picture that emerges from some brushes is powerful to say the least. Reason enough to ask what the project is all about. We got in touch with the professional climber Kilian Fischhuber and illustrator Brian Main. We quickly realised they’d never met before. A perfect example of how art unites and knows no limits.

INTERVIEW WITH KILIAN FISCHHUBER

Kilian, you noticed that the mountain in the Ratiko region of Switzerland is similar to a gouache, optically speaking. Was that pure coincidence or do you see more than just a route in the mountain?

Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder and changes based on his ideas and values. As a climber, I see the alps as a jewel: non-climbers just see grey walls. I believe many laypeople will come to share my view in this specific case.

What is ‘art’ when you’re on a climb?

Art is finding those walls and climbable lines and then implementing them. I was ‘only’ the second climber [on the Headless Children] to climb without any tools but secured with a rope on this mountain. The artistic performance was carried out by the first ascender who discovered this route.

What do you feel when climbing on the wall?

You don’t see the whole wall while climbing and you can focus on the specific lengths of rope and their respective key stages. Only once you reach the end of the wall, i.e. the summit, you can contemplate the wall as a whole.

Do you believe there are parallels between a visual artist and a professional climber?

A good artist creates something new. A climber on a first ascent leaves an established route behind him. In my repeat performance on Headless Children I don’t see myself having performed a work of art.

You still made an artistic film project out of it, featuring an incredible climaxing tension – in your routine as a professional climber, do the moments of tension and relaxation even out?

Yes, for sure. I am never completely tens nor relaxed. The switch makes all processes so interesting. Every time I try something new, visit a new region or travel, for example, my personal representations clash with reality, creating moments of tension and relaxation.

You and mountains: a match made in heaven?

Yes, you could say so. The approach I was filmed in describes my relationship with the wall very well.

INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN MAIN

Capturing movement – how does an artist do that?

For this particular shooting I played a bit more, dancing the brush around the canvas. The larger I work the more chances I have to do that.

Brian, tell us what your process looks like: from the empty canvas to the completed painting.

I do lots of sketches on paper, when I am happy with my drawing I use a artograph projector to enlarge it onto an Illustration board. With a brush I painted some Gesso very loosely on the surface to mimic the texture of the rock face. I used Gouache paint because of its flexibility, it allows me to use water to reactivate and erase the colour. It also seeps into the Gesso-texture and makes for cool effects.

Do you personally see parallels between a professional climber and an artist?

We are very similar. We both strive for self-improvement and need focus and discipline to achieve our goals – which don’t provide immediate satisfaction and take longer to achieve. Our common goal is mastery. When we concentrate for long periods of time we achieve “flow”. We both need to pay attention to immediate details while focusing on wider goals.

Mountains have always been a favourite subject for artists – do you believe there’s a specific reason?

Mountains are awe-inspiring majestic giants, it is no wonder why artists want to paint them. They’re also just darn big – it’s difficult to avoid them if you’re painting a landscape.

Is Gouache a technique you generally like using or did it have more to do with the traits of the mountain?

It’s a technique I teach in my classes at Illuskills – Austria’s Illustration Academy. I picked up the technique by studying the work of David Grove, an illustrator in America. I chose the technique because it’s healthier, less dirty than oil… and is fun to paint with. It also allows me to mirror the “wet” look from the cliffs in the video.

Which is the biggest challenge: to climb the wall or to paint a climber in such a way they capture the audience’s attention?

I think climbing a rock face is definitely more difficult than painting one.

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