The artist Bernhard Ludwig Rieger revives the Alpine painting style "Lüftlmalerei" with his unique ideas and innovative design techniques and thus, keeping the historic folk art of the Alpine region alive. Traditionally, this art form uses mineral colours and it typically features rural and religious motifs, as was common in the 18th century. But Rieger considers himself an "Alpine street art artist" who gives this art form a modern touch, making it a part of contemporary art.
Photo credit: Bernhard Ludwig Rieger
Further photo credit:
Bernd Römmelt Fotografie
Gert Krautbauer, Bayerntourismus
P. Kornatz Fotografie
LS Photography Sandra Wörnle
Atelier Bernhard L. Rieger
How did you come to your current profession?
I hear this question very often from my clients. I then ask myself what profession I would pursue if I could not pursue my current profession. I have never been able to decide, but one thing is for sure: I bring all my experience from the various creative and craft professions into my current profession. In the early years, I gained deep insights into the main branches of arts and crafts by working alongside and exploring it for myself. This allowed me to learn what I need for my work, where weaknesses are and what work I can hand over. As handicraft and agriculture have been rooted in both my parents' families for generations, it was foreseeable that my brother and I would also develop in this direction. For me, however, it took longer to find my way and I had to go through a phase of self-discovery. In any case, I would say that I would rather speak of a vocation. Even at the age of 4, I found kindergarten too unchallenging and saw painting as a passion. So without further ado, I set up my studio and my first workspace under the corner bench of the kitchen table - my first "workspace", as they would say today.
Thanks to my creative skills and hard work, I started my own business at a young age. Without financial support from my parents, I got on my own feet early and learned to work independently and with discipline. Already during my school years, I earned my first money through commissioned work in our region and financed my work as a Lüftlmaler. This is how my development as a Lüftl painter took off. For me, doing a painting is almost like meditation: I blossom in the process of painting and find myself in a state of well-being.
What is the preparation phase of a project like? How long does a project take on average?
For larger projects, about half of the time goes into the phase of brainstorming, correspondence with the client and preliminary work such as drafts and planning.
I work hard on preparing my commissions, especially for façade designs with a focus on Lüftlmalerei. Each new commission is exciting for me as I am creating something new and I am looking forward to the reactions. However, my preparation and planning allows me to work more confidently and with more focus, much like a mountaineer planning and acting out the ascent to an unknown peak. The end result is the goal I always have in mind. The end result is the goal I always have in mind.
"The execution of my paintings is meditation for me, I totally blossom in the process of painting, enter into a state of absolute well-being and feel inner contentment and balance. Or in the words of Winston Churchill: Painting is complete relaxation. I know of nothing that engages the mind more completely without exhausting the body."
What has been your biggest/best project so far?
For me, every project, regardless of its size, is special and associated with beautiful moments. I enjoy contributing my ideas and skills to give people long-lasting pleasure and enrich their surroundings. Particularly appealing to me are facade designs in my home country, where I get to live on old traditions in my own way and leave my mark on local views.
However, I have also had some very special projects that have remained particularly memorable to me. For example, I did the northernmost Lüftl painting in the German-speaking world at the foot of the Siebengebirge, made a guest gift for China for the Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs and painted Bavaria's most famous maypole at Munich's Viktualienmarkt.
The highlight of my career so far, however, was a project in which I was commissioned to paint a newly built chalet property in the Alpine style. The client gave me a free hand and I suggested that the theme of the paintings should be based around the story and figure of King Ludwig II, which is an important part of my work for my client. Over a period of two years, I painted more than 230 square metres of façade surface in a naturalistic and detailed manner and was able to realise my ideas and conceptions.
What are often the biggest difficulties? Are there moments when you sometimes wish you had a different job?
I see it as my task to keep Lüftl painting alive. Although the painting of facades by means of decorative and ornamental painting or entire sceneries has gone out of fashion in the last 30 years, it used to be a figurehead for buildings and an enrichment for streets and townscapes. Today we build mainly for ourselves and no longer for the common good. I want to keep alive the old traditions and techniques of previous generations through contemporary impulses and influences. I see this as pioneering work, but I believe that the design of facades in rural areas will experience a revival, similar to street and urban art in conurbations. I would like to see realistic imagery in art come back into focus and turn its back on abstraction to highlight the craftsmanship and talent of the artists. Art does not live on the theory of art history, but on the artists who practise it.
As an artist, it is difficult to communicate and pitch one's creative vision to clients and customers. It requires mutual trust and the clients' understanding of the art and the artist's work. The process of preparing and realising a project takes a lot of time and effort, but the emotional and mental rewards, as well as the positive feedback from the viewers, inspire me to continue with my art every time.
How does it feel when a work of art is completed?
For me, being an artist means that art is not the goal, but only a journey. When I finish an artwork and hand it over to the client, it does not mean that it is finished. Most artists would agree with me here. When I am working on a project, I personally feel when I am almost at the end and start thinking about a new project. The journey of a project and the process from first client contact to execution is what still attracts me to my work after 20 years of self-employment. The goal I reach when the client looks at the finished painting and is satisfied gives me a pleasant feeling. This is where I get my creative motivation for new challenges and projects.
"For me, art means more than creating images, precisely the visible part of art, the image itself - the path there, the process to the finished work, represents the real focus of my creative work."
What would your dream project look like if you were allowed to wish for one?
It's difficult to say where I would work, as it depends on the state of mind and orientation of the day. However, the place should be impulsive and socially interesting, where cultures, generations and emotions collide, such as public buildings, schools, social institutions or places of worship. It would be ideal if there were no financial restrictions to work more freely. Famous buildings are also important for public relations, as with Christo and his wrappings. For me, it is important that the project runs harmoniously and is about the building and the art.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy my work as an artist very much, it is more like a hobby or a vocation if you ignore the financial aspects. However, it requires a lot of discipline, perseverance and stamina. I love to bring joy to others with my art, be it through my ideas or through client commissions. It is also fun to create something from nothing and to take on new challenges. But there are also moments of doubt and being overwhelmed. However, the joy outweighs this and when a piece of work is successfully completed, I feel a deep inner satisfaction.
What excites you about our colours?
From the very beginning, I was fascinated by the history of KEIMFARBEN and the story behind A.W. Keim. When I started working on walls a good 25 years ago, I only knew the term Keim through a church painter and restorer who always drew my attention to Keim products when it came to quality and high-quality paints as well as artists' paints. At that time, I was still working with acrylic and emulsion paints.
I soon realised that KEIM paints were much better suited for outdoor use because they last a long time. I began to work with painting grounds, paints and colours from KEIM. Today, the products are indispensable for me when it comes to my work in the field of facade and wall painting.
I am particularly fascinated by the fact that at KEIM I can create a historical mural with a modern character using modern colour systems and the traditional basic colours. The basic colours have proven themselves over generations and suit every type of building and design idea. They are unsurpassed in their colour brilliance and durability and have been continuously developed to meet contemporary requirements. The quality of A.W. Keim's products is confirmed by this continuous development.
Which KEIM product do you prefer to work with?
I love working with KEIM's most original colour system, Purkristalat. I love soaking the colour powder and seeing the wonderful colour rendering of this material. I simply enjoy standing at the scaffolding while working on a wall design and mixing the colour powder with the fixative and applying it to the wall.
For me, KEIM's select range of colours is the key to my work, as it allows me to implement my motifs precisely in terms of design and colour. In this way, I can ensure the continued existence of "Lüftlmalerei" as an important cultural asset in Bavaria and the Alpine region. Although KEIM colours are used worldwide for artistic works, the specific local colour of Lüftl painting is important to me.
I can no longer imagine my work, especially outdoors, without KEIM paints. The company offers not only technical support, but also a family-like atmosphere and open communication.