This is Peter Phobia

Interview by Crist Espiritu.
Photos provided by Peter Phobia.

Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? I’ve read that you are currently in Vienna… are you originally from there?

My name is Peter Phobia, I’m an artist originally from the south of Germany but I moved to Vienna (Austria) a couple of years ago for art school.

When did your interest in art started? Did you immediately decided to be an artist?

I think it all started in my teens when I started skateboarding. Back then I was blown away by all the amazing skateboard graphics and stickers of the skate companies. I can remember buying a board with a Jeff Soto graphic on it and being the happiest kid on the planet!

“because I realized how much power certain visuals can have and how it can push you into a positive direction.”

Looking back, I can say this was my first encounter with art, because I realized how much power certain visuals can have and how it can push you into a positive direction. Through skating in the streets I also came in contact with graffiti and that’s how I got started with painting and drawing. But at that time it was all just for the fun – it took me until the end of high school to realize that I wanted to make a living in a creative field, that’s also when I started to work on it more professionally.

What were your early influences?

Skateboarding was the biggest influence, that’s for sure. If I hadn´t started skateboarding, I would definitely not be in the position I am right now. Besides that, graffiti was a big part and pop culture as well. I was (and still am) a big Simpsons fan!

“Skateboarding was the biggest influence, that’s for sure.”

You have collaborated with a lot of brands and other entities through out your career. How would you compare the experience of collaborating with a brand as compared to creating personal works?

Working/collaborating with a brand and creating personal works are mostly very different approaches. When I’m working with a brand there’s often a briefing and a client with certain expectations. In my personal work it’s only about my own thoughts, ideas and my view on certain aspects of society and life. Also, I think when I work with clients my work is a bit more bold. My personal work is a bit more loose and I try to leave the viewer more space for interpretation.

“I see myself as a collector, a collector of memories, surreal moments of everyday life, quotes, images and other stuff I can relate to.”

What aspect of this collaborative process you enjoy the most?

I always see it as a new challenge to work with a brand. On the one hand I want the client to be happy with it but on the other hand I also don’t want to be pushed into a direction I’m not pleased with. So my goal is to come up with a concept which works best for both sides and on top of it, is also appealing for the eye. Of course, while working on it, it’s not always easy but without any struggle there wouldn’t be that much pleasure at the end of a project either!

Do you have a favorite brand collaboration? What is it and why do you like it best?

So far it’s probably working with ABSOLUT Vodka. I’m really happy about working with them, they’re always open for suggestions and trust me in what I’m doing, therefore I get a lot of freedom in the execution. Plus, the last mural I painted with them and an upcoming project as well is not only a brand collaboration but also a collaboration with a good friend and great artist BOICUT. I feel privileged to work with people I really appreciate as human beings and also as artists, so for me, it can’t get better than that.

Your images are pretty random. I specially like the ones with captions on them. Where do you get these images from? What about the words? Tell us a bit about your process of combining words with images.

I see myself as a collector, a collector of memories, surreal moments of everyday life, quotes, images and other stuff I can relate to. So I collect images and quotes or excerpts of texts from different sources. These can be magazines, newspapers, old books, discoveries on the flea market, my own photos or also the internet. Working with ‘random images’ keeps the work interesting for me. I like variety in life and this probably also reflects in my work. I love to work in series, but I think the main constant in my work is rather a certain kind of humor or the way I try to communicate with the viewer than a purely visual one.

“I like variety in life and this probably also reflects in my work.”

I assume that you always take photos since most of your artworks seem to come from them. What factors make you decide that certain moments are worth capturing?

Yes, one part of the photos I use for reference are taken by myself, but as I said before I also get my reference material from a lot of other sources. Some people probably wouldn’t use other images as reference for their own work, but I have no problem with that. John Baldessari once said in an interview something like ‘Why recreating an image that already exists?’ and I totally understand his point. I see it as visual sampling. The idea of using something already existing and turning it into something new really appeals to me.

What’s next for you? Do you have upcoming projects you’d like to share with us?

I´m already looking forward to the next couple of months. In June I´ll have my 2nd solo show this year at Atelier Olschinksy in Vienna, then in July I got invited to Lithuania to give a lecture, paint some walls and take part in an exhibition. Plus, end of this year I’ll work with a great gallery here in Vienna which I really appreciate (but at the moment I can’t tell you more about that, sorry ). And in December I’ll probably be in Miami again to escape the cold weather in Europe, check out Art Basel, meet some friends and paint a wall or two.

What keeps you inspired? What keeps you wanting to do what you’re doing?

Life, love and all the crazy people I call my friends. For me, creating art is what makes life worth living. It gives me the freedom to do whatever I want, travel to places I never thought of visiting and exchange ideas with people I love and look up to.

Follow Peter Phobia on Instagram @peterphobia
Follow Crist Espiritu on Twitter and Instagram @crist_espiritu