Kennet Lekko is the man behind Cannot Letgo Inc, a one man art corporation determined to make art fun again. At just 23, the young Estonian already has a considerable amount of exhibitions under his belt and has managed to make his way from Eastern Europe to the center of Berlin art scene. And this, in his words, is just the beginning. We met with the artist for a brief interview at Rundgang in UdK where he was displaying an impressive amount of witty and colorful work.
KALTBLUT: How did you arrive in Germany?
CEO: After a couple of years of studying in Estonia I made up my mind that the scene was too small for my ambition so to say. Berlin seemed to be the place where a lot of things were happening, so I divised a plan, I applied for an Erasmus semester with the intent of getting accepeted to UdK. There were some people who didnt think it was realistic, but here I am ;) I suppose one has to have a lot of self belief and stay the course.
KALTBLUT: Since when are you studying at the Udk?
CEO: Since 2014. Altho I probably have not been the model student in a sense, I am quite independent in my art practices which makes it a bit difficult to teach me. But I dont think you can really study art, the school is more of a support system.
KALTBLUT: Looking at your website I can tell you production is really massive. How come?
CEO: I prefer actions to words. I feel that the word artist does not really mean much in Berlin, everyone seems to be an artist or a DJ so one has to work hard to stand out and be taken seriously. If I was a bodybuilder I would go to the gym every day not just talk about my muscles, right? So as an artist I make art. Talk is cheap.
KALTBLUT: When you actually work on a painting, do you think of it as a single piece or straight away as a full serie?
CEO: Honestly, I always think in terms of a show. When im working it is always on more than one piece, I have a bunch of works scattered around the studio and I work on them at the same time so the whole thing grows together. Also I am a bit impatient so while one thing is drying I can be working on something else instead of constantly taking cigarette breaks.
KALTBLUT: Your pieces are very colourful, very pop-ish in a way …
CEO: Its funny how people call anything colorful pop. I mean the enviornment we inhabit is not really brown and gray, is it? Our cities are full of colour and so is the web. So for me it makes more sense to make colorful work as well. Also its a lot more fun, I feel there is a lack of playfulness in a lot of art. But maybe it is just because my mum is a florist;)
KALTBLUT: Some elements on your painting are clearly referring to the pop culture we all have in mind. Is it where you find mostly inspiration?
CEO: I do prefer pop culture to the so called high culture, a good dance party is more fun than going to the opera and Bukowski reads better than Shakespeare. But that is all a matter of form. I think good art can be fun while having a deeper message as well. My work is like a collage of imagery, I have elements from history, science, sport and so on. What interests me is contextualizing this imagery in a way that it has something to say about contemporary times.
KALTBLUT: I actually love the fact that the elements you are using, the words, the colors, are actually understandable by everyone. And this, make your art very accessible.
CEO: Well, I feel there is a lot of snobbery on the art scene right now and instead of connecting people art has become a divider, the special thing that only special people can understand. Bullshit. You shouldnt have to know who Foucault is to get something out of an art show. Fuck Foucault. I think good art should be like a good song in a way. You can dance to David Bowie but the lyrics also have a message that can be understood in different ways depending on the listeners background and knowlege. It doesnt matter if you are a construction worker or a doctor, you can still enjoy it.
KALTBLUT: I also noticed that all your painting got the same format. Does it play a specific role in your art?
CEO: Right now it does, since I am working with a lot of found material. Frames are expensive and I am making a lot of work so I have to improvise. The paintings you are talking about are streched on old shelves I found in an abandoned hospital. In my next series I will be using old windows I got from a construction site. So there is a sense of upcycling in my work, but mostly I am the only one who knows about it…I think it adds another layer to the work, its more about continuing rather than starting from scratch.
KALTBLUT: You mention the fact that you are from Estonia. How does your country influence your work today?
CEO: In the sense of subject matter not so much. I feel that in the internet age people get their influences from all over the place, regardless of geography. Also, after the Soviet Union fell everyone wanted to be really western so I am a product of that mentality in a way. On the other hand I do feel that being from eastern Europe has an influence on my attitude. You see in the early 90s we didnt have a lot, but as I said we had the drive to be like the west. So people improvised. My mother used to sew me clothes after the photos she saw in magazines and we used to go second hand shopping before it was cool. And my dad used to build a lot of the things around the house by himself. I recently went to Ukraine to film a commercial and we were smoking pot with some local guys. For the Berlin people it was really important to find long slim papers, the Ukrainians on the other hand just took a coke can, punched some holes in it and used that as an improvised pipe. That is the east European spirit to me, making something out of nothing and not giving up just because you dont have proper tools.
KALTBLUT: What do you like the most about living in Berlin?
CEO: Umm…I suppose the fact that people here are really easy going in a sense, sometimes to the point that I feel weird running around and hustling all the time. But on the other hand that can become like a caricature of itself as well, everyone is different in the same way. I also like the fact that it does not really feel like a big city, lots of parks and green areas. Also the fact that there is no one center. And of course the fact that there are so many different people from all over the world. Sort of a cliché answer I suppose, but its true. Not a big fan of Berghain tho.
KALTBLUT: What are you working on at the moment?
CEO: My cooking, my boxing, lasting longer in bed. Becoming Elvis.