We had the opportunity to interview the prolific and humble street artist Max Zorn. Residing in Amsterdam, Zorn uses brown packing tape as his medium to create nostalgic scenes. Zorn has been featured in Ripley’s Believe it Or Not, Huffington Post, The Holland Times, CNN, My Modern Met, and dozens more. Check out the full interview with Max Zorn and Wall Hop Art.
Who is Max Zorn?
As a street artist I won’t get into too many personal details. I can say that I somehow have survived the first 30 years of my life and nowadays I find myself spending most of my time creating artworks using ordinary packing tape. My cultural roots lie in the Netherlands where I was born, and in Germany where I grew up. After some travelling, I wound up back up Amsterdam a couple of years ago. Even though I’m travelling around the globe, most of the year this city is still home to me.
Tell us a little bit about your style of artwork?
If you work with an exotic medium like tape, the style of your art gets influenced by its characteristics. There are things that come easy and others that come hard. Tape supports straight lines, and it’s sepia tone already pushes you towards nostalgic motifs. So I went along with it’s nature and let the material guide me. The result are motifs reminiscent of film noir settings or old movie scenes (although, my pieces are mostly created from imagination).
As for the technical aspect, well, I’ve tried a million different explanations, but after five minutes I am usually still looking into confused faces. That’s when I try the shortcut by showing one of my “making-of-videos.” So let´s do the same here:
How have you heard others describe it?
Others have found more flattering ways to talk about my art. Here are some quotes:
“[Max Zorn] creates haunting, sharp, and cinematic portraits… His masterful workings of light and shadow make you forget how limiting his materials are and embrace the medium for all its possibilities.”- Huffington Post
“Max Zorn’s tape art is pure mysticism. His use of medium and environment demonstrates extreme care and forethought.”- SocietePerrier
“These amazing, cinematic portraits are… all the more impressive because his only tools are
rolls of packing tape and a scalpel. Imagine: This remarkable piece by the artist known as “packasso” could be coming to a streetlamp near you.” – The Daily Mail
How would you describe the art scene in Amsterdam? What about the street art scene?
Art scenes and their cities are often firmly interwoven. It’s a give and take of influence and inspiration. It’s even more significant with the street art scene in Amsterdam. The city reminds in many ways of a doll house with its pretty sights and cute alleys and canals. But behind the facade there is a certain roughness that shows once you look closer. The beauty and the beast are both smoking their joints together here. And although it has a very distinct Dutch look, the city is greatly international. Those two faces make the city interesting and Amsterdam’s street art scene reflects that. You’ll find a couple of homegrown talents like “Telmo / Miel” or “Laser” alongside a good number of international artist who chose Amsterdam as their home base. Take for example “The London Police”, “Zeus” and many others. Its hard to group them in topics or styles, not the least because there is very limited space to display street art.
How did you first get started in the street art / graffiti world?
I was always a fan of the idea to use your environment as the theatre stage for art. And there isn’t a greater opportunity for that than our cities. In that sense, street art uses a more immediate and unpretentious conversation with the audience compared to its indoor counterpart.
My contribution began with the idea to use urban lights in order to expose art. Most street art is only visual at daytime and I was surprised how few artists use street lights as their natural gallery. On the search for materials that work with light I was serendipitously stuck with the tape, but I believe there is a lot more possible with this niche.
Recently we interviewed a street artist HOTTEA (post to come later this week) and a big part of his work is that it isn’t destructive to property – I would put your tape-art in the same category, how important is this concept to you?
Whether or not it is easy to remove didn’t play a crucial role in my considerations. However, I never felt that street art necessarily needs to be destructive. After all, I’m interested in cities and their people and I appreciate their support sticking my works up and talking about it. In that sense, its helpful if your art isn’t perceived as vandalism.
Weather alone must degrade the pieces, what do you do about that?
Don’t underestimate the nasty tape. That stuff is weatherproof. I have some stickers up on lamps that have been there since 2011 and they don’t show any signs of damage. This isn’t just true for Amsterdam, even in different environments like Hong Kong or Helsinki.
What are people’s reactions when they first see your work? How do graffiti / street artists react ?
Often, at first sight, people don’t understand what my works are made of. And the tape pretty much blends in with the environment. Thus, I receive feedback mostly through Social Media and the reactions are great so far.
As for the street art scene, we are widely supportive to fellow artists: There is always a couch to crash all over the world and a helping hand when you go out at night to create art.
What have been some of your biggest influences? (music / other artists / experiences?)
I find my inspiration not so much through other visual artists but more through movies and writers of the lost generation: Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Salinger, or Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson. They all have an affinity for broken characters and there is a certain nostalgia about their view on the world that draws me in. Not, because I share it but because it fascinates me.
What should we know about your work?
I want to spark a story with my motifs and not finish the narrative. Therefore, if I would talk too much about my own interpretations I would ruin what makes the works interesting. It’s not so much what I do but more what the spectator does with his or her own mind that transforms the image into a story.
What would you like viewers to take from your work?
A moment that lets them drift into their own universe of ideas and narratives. If that works, it creates an odd but great understanding between the artist and the spectator that makes any further explanation needless.
Do you offer any prints or fine art samples of your art?
Yes, there are frequently artworks for sale. Some come in classic black light boxes; others are displayed for example in old cigar boxes.
Very cool – light is instrumental in your works – can you describe your light boxes that you use?
Yeah, light is crucial to make the works come alive. It was a bit of a challenge to find the best material to make this happen but I found my ways. My challenge is to transform anything into an adequate light box, it could be an old suitcase, wine box or fine art frame.
Check out more of Max Zorn’s artwork on his website & follow him on Faceboook & Instagram
Interviewer: Rob Green