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Getting to Know Germany’s ‘Prostitute of Art’

German illustrator Severus Heyn is giving the term “art whore” a whole new meaning.

As the Prostitute of Art, Heyn creates pulpy, pop culture-inspired portraits that cloak subversive queer imagery in the glossy surfaces and bubblegum hues of fashion mags and comic books. Inspired by both high-concept icons like Andy Warhol and commercial auteurs like David LaChapelle, Heyn approaches his subjects with a mix of high and lowbrow aesthetics, rendering them at once smart and sexy, arty and accessible.

With a recent move to Liverpool complete and a busy 2018 underway, Heyn took some time to speak with INTO about his provocative pseudonym, love of underdogs, and big plans for the future.

Tell us a little bit more about yourself and your background.

My name is Severus Heyn (aka The Prostitute of Art), I’m 26 years old, and I’m from Germany. I’m always hesitant to call myself an artist because I feel like people associate so much with this term, like you become kind of an extra thing for them in their minds. So to avoid any expectations for great art, I just settled with calling myself an illustrator. This is also where my pseudonym “Prostitute of Art“ comes from. For money, I’ll do any kind of art (well, sort of).

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How do you choose your subjects?

I think we as members of the LGBT+ community can always relate to the underdog. To the one who is always standing just a step next to society. This is my subject. But as somebody who is part of the rainbow, I challenge myself to find underdogs within our community and shed a light on them, for example POC, transgender individuals, people with HIV. And if you wrap more subversive topics up in the bubblegum-sex aesthetic of pop art, it is way easier for the viewer to digest. And also way more fun!

What artists have inspired your aesthetic?

I think my aesthetic is mainly influenced by icons like Warhol and Basquiat, but also fashion and advertising photographers like LaChapelle and Testino. They are masters in presenting this bleak visual that at first glance is super polished, super sexy, and extremely in your face. But then on a second look, you see all those subversive thoughts and messages. The criticism packed in celebration. That really speaks to me.

Can you talk a bit about switching from pen and paper to creating your work digitally?

Throughout all my childhood, I was drawing with pen and paper. I always like to think back to how I copied page after page of my favorite French and Belgian comics like Gaston or Spirou & Fantasio. Then throughout high school, I found acrylics more appealing. The smell and texture on the canvas is really satisfying. But what always drove me mad was the fact that I couldn’t achieve this slick, polished look that I aimed for. In my inner eye were all those visuals that I fantasized could be right next to photography in Vogue. But instead it was all mushy and with rough edges. That was my spark to try working digitally. That and the fact that I completely suck as a photographer; something I also tried for a few months.

What are you working on right now?

Oh my god, a dozen things, I feel like. Right now I’m laying out the track for 2018: There are book covers in the making, deals with magazines for the whole next year, my online shop that I’m trying to constantly update. It all is slowly coming into place. The one project that is on the verge of happening deals with haute couture and gender fluidity. So, fingers crossed! Till then, I’m trying to practice a visual style that is more storytelling. Something like the good old comics I read fused with modern cinematography. That will probably take ages, but practice makes perfect!

Where do you hope your work will take you?

My ultimate goal would be to see myself in galleries. I’m not meaning like the MET or something, but real life, open, and public spaces where not just the elite are in touch with art. And I’m still searching for other artists similar to me for bigger collaborations. Essentially my dreams are about communication and bringing people together, exchanging perspectives and experiences. And, if I could allow myself some vanity: Maybe, just maybe, seeing one of my illustrations in Vogue someday.

Tags: Art
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