Peter Phobia is an Austrian illustrator and artist whose graphite drawings and installations evoke the feeling of Southern California summers. Often mixing imagery and words, Phobia's pieces leaves the viewer to make up their own interpretations while reflect on subjects such pop culture and childhood. In this interview Peter gave us an insight into his work and inspirations as well as his busy plans for the future.
Compound Butter: You’re currently located in Vienna, Austria. What is the art scene like there? Do you have any local spots you could recommend to someone looking for inspiration? A good place to grab a bite to eat or anything in between?
Peter Phobia: There is a pretty talented scene of young emerging artists living in Vienna and most of them are nice and open minded people, so it's great to connect and exchange ideas. Also there is a good mix of exhibitions happening, from smaller ones in off-spaces to more established galleries and museums. Besides the big museums at Museumsquartier I can recommend checking out Atelier Olschinsky Art Store, a super nice gallery with a focus on illustration. Another place I really like is Gallery Nathalie Halgand near Naschmarkt or Gallery Hilger NEXT at Ankerbrotfabrik. Hilger NEXT is located in an old bread factory complex surrounded by several galleries and studio spaces, definitely worth a visit!
One of my favorite places to go out for dinner is probably ‘Am Nordpol 3.’ It´s a traditional Austrian restaurant where you can get great ‘Schnitzel’ and other proper dishes but they have tasty stuff for vegetarians too. Besides their awesome food, the atmosphere of the restaurant is one of a kind. The place is literally full of crazy paintings which remind me of early Jonathan Meese pieces and there´s always funny little details to discover on the walls.
Someone who is unfamiliar with your work might think you’re a Los Angeles native due to your drawings of city staples such as the Hollywood sign, Palm trees, In N Out, etc. What attracts you to LA? Do you hope to move here one day?
As a kid, growing up I was heavily influenced by American culture. Whether it was through watching Walt Disney cartoons, reading comics like the Simpsons or later through skateboarding. Those childhood memories connected to American culture probably just got stuck in my mind; as you can see in my work this still has an impact on me today. Long story short, I could definitely see myself living in California one day.
In your drawings there are often people wearing what can only be described as DIY Mickey Mouse ski masks...is it a comment on Disney or just another relation to Southern California culture?
On the one hand it´s a reference to pop culture but on the other one it´s also a comment on the phenomenon of appropriation in contemporary art. The idea of using something already existing, reclaiming it, putting it into another context and therefore creating new meaning really appeals to me.
Who are some of your artistic inspirations? How do you feel they’ve influenced your work?
The list is long, but some of my favorite artists at the moment are John Baldessari, Marcel Dzama, Axel Void, David Shrigley and Rinus van de Velde. I am very attracted to the combination of word and image and also to a kind of art which communicates in a slightly humorous way. That way of looking at the world describes my character pretty well and for this reason it also reflects in my art.
On a personal note, we always love to see other artists appreciating Thank You Bags as much as we do. One was featured prominently in your past solo show “Knockout” at Improper Walls Gallery in Vienna. Why did you think it was important to include a Thank You Bag, not to mention a sculpture with the classic saying “Thank you! Have a nice day” in the show?
For me, this bag is a reminder of interacting with people around you and that´s why I appreciate it so much. Especially in big cities, a lot of people are just living their day to day life, surrounded by a lot of people but actually still being on their own. A little ‘Thank You’ or ‘Have a nice day’ from time to time can brighten up someone´s day and those kind of interactions between people, especially who don´t know each other, should happen more often. Since ‘Knockout’ was a show with a lot of personal references and this was something really important for me I just had to include those pieces into the show.
What is your studio schedule like? Do you notice that your creative output is best at certain times of the day?
It really depends on the project and often on the deadlines. Usually I have several projects running simultaneously, so I just work on things whenever it fits my schedule. I have to say when I'm preparing large pieces for exhibitions I prefer to work during the night. Somehow it's easier to lose track of time and get in the zone, especially while listening to good electronic music or interesting podcasts.
Can you tell us a little about your collaboration with Absolut Vodka?
Absolut is a brand I´ve been happily working together with for several projects now. It all started with an illustration for a poster I did two years ago and until now we´ve realized several projects together. I like working with them because even though it's a regular ‘commercial’ job I almost have total creative freedom and I think that's great. The most recent project with them was a collaborative mural I painted with a great artist and good friend of mine BOICUT last month at a music festival in the mountains of Austria.
Is there an area of your work you wish to delve into more, or any areas you’ve been waiting to explore?
The fun part about making art is that there´s always something new to try out and discover. That basically has been and still is my main plan for the future. But to be more precise, I want to continue on working on large format drawings and also refine my illustration work. Furthermore, many people are asking me about drawing their tattoos, so maybe I´ll start tattooing soon. Unfortunately the day only has 24 hours, so we´ll see!
What do you have in the works for the future?
There´s a lot of exciting things going on the next months. Next week I´m going to New York, then in September I’ll have a small solo exhibition in Liechtenstein and in October I´ll be in Copenhagen, Denmark for a group exhibition at KVIT Gallery. After that I´ll prepare another solo show for a gallery in Vienna. Can´t give any more details on that, but I'm really looking forward to working with them! In December I'll escape the cold temperatures in Europe and go to Miami to check out Art Basel, meet up with friends and hopefully paint some walls. Besides that I recently started working with Ebay on a long-term project doing illustrations for their Instagram account which is really fun!