German artist Lena Schmidt captures the spirit of the modern city in her art, channelling its gritty energy into her carvings and paintings using found pieces of wood. Wonderland speaks to this urban explorer.

EMERGING Lena Schmidt

First up, tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born and raised in Bremen, a small Germany harbour town. Art gave
me the possibility of expressing things I couldn‘t put into words, so I started to study fine arts at HfBK Art School in Hamburg and graduated last year, in 2011. Early in my studies I started to fall in love with the silent city at night, where I also found my first wood pieces to work on.

You’re based in Hamburg. What’s the art scene there like?

Although Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany, there are comparatively few big collectors and art-fairs – but the underground is cooking.

What’s a typical day in the life of Lena Schmidt like?

I live in an artist house, so my studio is my home. That is great, because I don‘t have to go back and forth to work. But it can also be quite stressful, as you can imagine! It’s located in an industrial area of Hamburg, which is perfect because I can find all the materials for my work already “charged up with the street“. So in the night time I‘m very often walking or riding my bicycle to suck up the vibe.

EMERGING Lena Schmidt

You create gritty, urban landscapes on wood. What fascinates you about urban space?

The locations in my pictures could be anywhere in the world. I try to appeal to the collective memory of nightly urban spaces. At the same time these places are charged with history for me. I refer to places we might not usually find interesting – that we just pass in our everyday lives. But during my night walks I have discovered their beauty, grandeur and elegance.

Which cities do you want to visit and experience next?

I‘m planning to visit Miami again in the near future – it really cast a spell on me. The power lines, the jungle and the wide horizon with the barren wastelands fascinate me. You can also find masses of beautiful sun bleached weather-beaten wood everywhere, which is a woodcarver’s dream!

What’s so special about working with wood?

Wood is very versatile. I can bend it, let it stand up, put it up on a wall, work with it like a sculptor or paint and draw on it. It stores and saves everything that is done to it and it reacts to that. Each board has its own character, and I love the fact that there are never two pieces of wood that are exactly the same. I am often amazed how much you can get out of it.

EMERGING Lena Schmidt

Where do you usually find the wood pieces you use?

The wood I use for my pictures are mostly boards I find somewhere in my surroundings, usually in the places I show in my pictures. I always try to make use of the singularity of each wooden board, and so the wood and the motif are mutually influenced.

What are you currently working on?

Right now I am working on the impressions I brought from trip to India. The power lines in Delhi are completely crazy, like the nervous system of this mega-city. They’re the main focus of my work right now.

Do you have any upcoming shows or any other news you would like to share?

I’ll have an exhibition in my hometown Hamburg in early 2013 again. It will be a solo exhibition at Artlounge-Projects.

EMERGING Lena Schmidt

Words: Heike Dempster