“His award winning fantasy landscapes send fans of film and series worldwide into rapture”
Oscar Winner Sven Sauer A Head Full of Magic Worlds
His award winning fantasy-landscapes send fans of film and series worldwide into rapture: The Wiesbaden artist Sven Sauer creates striking realistic scenes on the computer for productions like “Hugo” and “Game of Thrones”.
By Sonja Fouraté, hr-online
A rugged, barren cliff coast. A man stands on the bleak rocky beach, an old boat rows off alone. The man turns aside and the view falls on it: A gigantic dark gray fortress, which rises above the coast. Its towers are narrow and protruding towards the sea, pointed like claws. Each “Game of Thrones” – fan knows immediately: That’s Dragonstone Castle.
These images, like Dragonstone, have been created by the Wiesbaden artist Sven Sauer. He works as a freelancer for effect-companies, such as Pixomondo in Frankfurt. The Matte Painting Artist (see the info box) has been involved in “Game of Thrones” since the second season. With his digital brushes he draws especially the so-called “establishers” – these are great views of landscapes or cities with which new scenes of action are introduced. They are particularly important in “Game of Thrones” because the fantasy saga about power, politics and love plays at many different places in the fictional kingdom of Westeros.
New Standards for the Fantasy Genre
His job is his “Absolute passion,” says the 34-year-old, but: “It really takes the substance out of you.”: With “Game of Thrones” he has five or six times as much work to do as for a two-hour movie – but he has not more time at his disposal than he has for a movie. He works for about six months on the pictures – whether it’s for a movie of normal length or for a whole series.
So there is quite a pressure on Sven Sauer, and it even rises further while many eyes look on his artistic fingers: There is Pixomondo, now a pretty big fish in the international effects-business. And HBO, a U.S. pay-TV channel, which is specialized in the production of quality series like “The Sopranos” or “The Wire”. Meanwhile, it also sets new standards in the fantasy genre: After all, a “Game of Thrones” – episode now costs about 3.5 to 4.5 million euros.
And then there are the strict fantasy-fans who already had picked apart even Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” – “We were scared when we realized how big the fan base really is,” says Sven Sauer. “But then the episodes came out and the fans fell all over themselves for joy.”
Fully Submerged Into the “Song of Ice and Fire”
The secret of success? The effects-team is fully submerged into the original book to the series, the novel series “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George RR Martin. While drawing, everybody has always been listening to the audiobooks of this series, says
Sauer: “This is incredibly important because there is so much more packed in them as in the TV-series.” Meanwhile, he has been through the books by four or five times. He can still watch the TV-series anyway, he says, and laughs. “No, I still don’t feel surfeited!”
Sven Sauer is also fully submerged into the subject matter of the film projects he is involved in. First, the team practices extensive researches; sometimes it flies halfway around the world making photo shootings, after that the task is drawing on the computer. Getting started is not always easy: In Hollywood, everything about the new films is top secret, so initially there is only a rough briefing and only fragments of the films are shown, just in order to let the artists know about how their Matte Paintings should look like. “We always get only some working titles,” Sven Sauer says.
He then gets to see the results at the cinema: For example, Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” and the Sci-Fi blockbuster “Oblivion” with Tom Cruise. Above all, of course, Martin Scorsese’s love declaration to the cinema, “Hugo”- for that one, Sauer and the Pixomondo-team let resurrect Paris in its 30’s and got the Oscar for the best visual effects in 2012.
Magic Tricks Invented and Sold
Film and cinema have fascinated him from early on, tells Sven Sauer, and also the creation of illusions. As a teenager, he invented magic tricks and sold them. The joy for painting and drawing came thereto, which led him to study design – focusing on film. After that, he had a detour of two years into advertising, which didn’t make him happy. “Then I said to myself: Now I start doing my desired job.”
In the beginning he promptly had the great luck to be in the right place at the right time: After building sets for short films, he became increasingly requested for larger productions – because at that time effects-specialists were desperately wanted. “There simply was no landscape for visual effects in Germany,” he says. In 2007/08, the computer game “Perry Rhodan” came out, followed by the TV two-parter “Volcano” in 2009 – and the foundation for Sven Sauer’s career was laid.
The initially rather skeptical parents are proud of their offspring, as there is no shortage of jobs for the Matte Painter – not only because of the Oscar; “There are only a handful of Matte Painters in Germany,” he explains. Since each Matte Painting is needed only for about two to six months in a project, the specialists hike from production to production, be it film, music video or computer game. Sven Sauer, however, needs a break every two years: “In order to continue developing myself.”
So, one of his trips during those breaks was to the Wiesbaden State Theater, where he contributed projections for “The Snow Queen” or “Don Quixote”. Then he shot a documentary about the State Theater. Currently, he is working on two projects: With a new app he wants to attract tourists to forgotten places in Berlin. Together with a fellow artist he is planning a fairly radical exhibition in Wiesbaden (more in the info box “Burning Art?” at the end of this article).
“Sven lives in his own world”
One question remains: How does this man actually conjure up so many ideas out of one hat? “Oh, my head is somehow always full,” he laughs. “It all has to get out then sometime. But I’m certainly no exception. People who do things with passion, do it from an inner need, not for feedback or something.” Sven Sauer’s friends have no problem with the fact that he disappears at times: “They then know: Well, Sven is now living in his own world again… This will pass, and in two weeks we can chill with him again.”
But sometimes, when his mind has to get cleared, he goes rock climbing. And after the side trips to the theater or the world of art he continues with the film-illusions: “The Black Brothers” recently came out at the cinemas, for which he retraced the roofs of the Italian city of Milan in the 19th century. And all “Game of Thrones” – fans can rejoice: Seasons five and six are in the planning and Sven Sauer is “Most probably” back on board.
360 Minutes Art: Burning Art?
Following the example of the 120 minute-parties in Frankfurt, the show is called “360 Minutes Art”: Eight artists present their work – photos, paintings and more – only for exactly six hours. All they won’t have sold after that period of time, will be burnt. The artworks will be shown neither before, nor after the exhibition and furthermore, there will be an absolute photo-ban. “The basic idea is that people nowadays perceive art only barely,” explains Sven Sauer. A cultural event goes chasing the next and also on the internet, art is consumable anytime.
“We ourselves have noticed that we are totally surfeited,” he says. This temporally and spatially limited exhibition shall bring the visitors to relearn appreciating the value of artworks. Or they just won’t like them: “At least they busy themselves with the works and that is actually the basic idea of art – to trigger something in ourselves. We also see this in a two-fisted way: If there’s no interest in our artworks, it will be for some reason.” In the worst case, works of 50,000 euros value will go up in flames.
But isn’t it also a brilliant marketing coup at the same time? “Artists would never burn their babies voluntarily,” replies Sven Sauer. He himself doesn’t know what he will do at the end: “I have now been working continuously since September on the series which I will show on this exhibition – plus the cost of materials that is in the three-digit range. I do not know how I will react if they all burst into flames.” He knows that the fact of burning art is a delicate one in Germany, but: “We just wanted a state that cannot be reversed under any circumstances.”
May 17, 2014. 4 pm to 10 pm
Altes Gericht (Old Courthouse of Wiesbaden) Albrechtstraße Entrance through the inner courtyard 65185 Wiesbaden
After that, the exhibition will wander – with other artists – to Dresden, Munich and Warsaw.