The Fascinating Alchemical Way of David Hochbaum

I first stepped into an exhibition by David Hochbaum around 11 years ago in what used to be the Strychnin Gallery in Berlin. I can recall the feelings and emotions I felt looking at his work as it would be today: surprise, amazement and at the bottom of my heart also a bit of jealousy. He was a young emerging artist too at the time, but yet I felt like the apprentice having the chance on spying into the laboratory of a great alchemist, passing  crucial informations through images.

After years I know why I felt that way. By combining several ingredients and elements David is looking for certain truths and he’s looking to uncover a revelation of understanding. His approach to art is actually similar to the search for gold in Alchemy. Calcining, distilling, fermenting, sublimating the techniques he learned in his studies – like photography, painting, woodworking, film and sculpture –  he found his very own original language, although deeply rooted in the art-historical context.

Starting from being focused on traditional ancient mythology, he soon took these myths and found his personal connection to them, giving birth to new interpretations to explore the world around him. The mythology was slowly becoming less about archaic history and becoming more centered on his private life. David spends a lot of time photographing places he frequented as a child and young man to inject the figurative element of a specific place and time. This process mixed with the spontaneous creation in the studio, he recreates and reinvents his memories and personal history. David will also add subtle references of current events happening to and around him. His collages of cities and towers reflect his surroundings of the cities he lived and places he have traveled over the years. They are portraits and landscapes, giving the layers of architecture human elements and gestures. The people become the cities and the cities become portraits of the figures.


As myths used to pass on universal knowledge of the spirit of the days gone by, the personal mythification of the artist’s life and people in it, raises to the role of mirror of the spirit of our time: hopes, desires, emotions, memories and dreams are the real subjects of his pictures. Although the specific subject matter and process has been changing over the years, from myths, to damsels, to ghosts, to children, to cities, there are a few reoccurring images that have remained in David’s work. The most recognisable of these images are the house, the ladder, the boat and the bird. Their significance and meaning is not locked into one specific thing and are able to adapt to the work they are represented in. But they each do have an instantaneous and underlying personal meaning for the artist:

The ladder is a method of entry and escape. It has become a message of elevation and reaching a higher level of understanding. Also, it has taken on the meaning of collaborative effort.

The house is the mask of memory, the roots of memory. It is the elusive image conjured from recollection and dreams. It is also the thing he is searching for.

The boat  represents quite figuratively the journey.

The bird is the fantastic, the unrelenting power and mystery of the language of nature.


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