In a hidden courtyard in an old quarter of Berlin we meet up with Danish artist Allan Bestle. Our meeting starts in Allan’s 6th floor studio in a pre-war building that isn’t amongst the many in Berlin that have undergone restoration. The raw brick walls and timber structure make an impressive setting for Allan’s creative exploitation in terms of colours, style and artistic expression. The studio has a chilled atmosphere and Allan offers us what he calls “cowboy” coffee (no filter – just coffee and hot water mixed in a ceramic cup). 

Allan, tell us about your journey in art and how it led you to Berlin.

I was originally from a small town in Denmark called Vamdrup – which is in the middle of nowhere. Once I’d finished school – at the age of 15 – I moved to Copenhagen to pursue the idea of becoming a chef working in a restaurant. It was a tough environment to be thrown into as a young man, and I tried all sorts of different jobs in the field of catering and cooking... 

...It really didn’t work out the way I thought it would, so I started to focus on something else. I’ve always sketched things on paper, but funnily enough I didn’t think my drawing skills could lead to a career opportunity at first… As my stay in Copenhagen lengthened and I filled my time with different jobs, I gradually managed to build up a good network in Copenhagen’s creative environment. I learned a lot from living in Copenhagen compared to the small village I grew up in. At one point, I was working at a cafe called Morgan Diners...

...At the time, I didn’t have my own flat, so the owner of the next-door gallery, who was a regular customer at the café, offered me a place to sleep for a while until I found my own digs. While spending my nights lying on a mattress on the floor of the gallery surrounded by all that art, the idea of using my artistic skills again began to crystallise in my mind. The quiet nights spent in the gallery inspired me to take up painting once more – so that’s how my journey in art began...

...The gallery owner introduced me to the artistic environment in Copenhagen and things just started to happen… One thing led to another and after a while I found myself heading to Berlin, which is something of a Mecca in terms of art, with my painting equipment stuffed into a beaten-up old car. I guess back then it was all about exploring and testing new things, meeting people, drawing inspiration from conversations and finding myself and what was important for me in my life – I remember it as a great period in my life.

What is Berlin to you today?

Berlin is limitless, so much creative vibe in one place. And the art scene is massive. Berlin is a great place to have your base as an artist; the inspiration you get here is incredible. I wanted my journey in Berlin to be different, and found myself stepping up and working on bigger projects, bigger canvases and bigger ideas with other artists.  I used to have a great workspace in Copenhagen, but the space I got here gave me the opportunity to evolve my artistic side even further. During the Berlin art week, a lot of people from the art community come here to discover new artists and find different styles...

...You meet artists, designers, collectors and gallerists from all over the world. The world literally comes here to see your creations at exhibitions and in galleries. In that respect, Berlin really is second to none. Last week the Asian edition of Vogue Magazine used my studio and paintings as a backdrop for their next campaign and photo shoot; next week it’s another brand. This wouldn’t have happened anywhere else. Creative environments attract creative people from all over, which is a great thing...

...At the moment, I have my work on display in different galleries, fashion shops and exhibitions throughout Berlin. I can’t really tell you why my paintings are so popular; I can’t even tell you what my style is called… But people seem to like it. I think it could even be referred to as sculptural painting, as my work often contains media other than paint. It’s very satisfying spending time at the canvas and seeing how the image develops from one state to the next. There are often multiple paintings underneath the finished result. The process really pushes you to take chances and keep going until it feels right... and there’s never only one kind of process.

What are your future plans?

At the moment, I’m focusing more on sculpture to create objects that have form, but with the same style of expression that my paintings have. That’s another discussion – and hopefully a new chapter in my life as an artist. And yes, I’m in the process of building a new work space in Bulgaria – way off the beaten track where my only companions will be the sheep and the panoramic views of the countryside. This is a project that I’m embarking on with a musician from Bulgaria whom I happened to meet on the street, right here in Berlin. You see, once you’re open to new things and once you start letting go of your comfort zone, you’ll be rewarded with new content, new energy and – in my case – new creativity.

 

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