Ole Ukena | Artworks
Art portfolio of German artist, Ole Ukena (born 1983). Ukena is a multidisciplinary artist working within the fields of sculpture, photography, video, installation, and film.
Ukena is a multidisciplinary artist working within the fields of sculpture, photography, video, installation, and film. Breath. Draw. Eat. Sleep. cut. Piss. Paint. Speak. Rewind. Conceptual Art, Art, Minimalism, Fucking Contemporary, Collaborative Art, Opposites, Interrelating Opposites, Spirituality,

Artworks / It is always what you think it is

oleukena_playgroundseries_ 2

Playgrounds is a series that explores the appropriation of space through play by children playing. It focuses not on the built artificial “playgrounds” by city planners but on the enviroments in nature and everyday life that become that ground for exploration, joy, laughter and ultimately growth.

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Struck by Structures

The photographic series deals with the subject of structures in its various forms. The title can be read in a formal way relating to the geometric shapes that are clearly visible but also the social structures that lie behind the surface.

Handy Evolution

A series of 7 hyperrealistic hands are growing out of a regular flowerpots representing different phases of attitude towards life from the moment of birth till the day of death

In The Absence Of War

What seems to be a green peace flag from far away reveals itself as a massive war zone filled with 20.000 toy soldiers when approaching the piece. Where the sodiers don’t  stand the peace sign is revealed, each side of the dyptichon contributing equal part of the well known symbol.

Self (expanding)

In many spiritual traditions the metaphor of encagement is being used to describe our relationship with the mind. By identifying with it and its limitations we are not aware that the door out of the prison cell has always been open.  


Over 15.000 nails are hammered on top of a wooden structure that evokes references to the beds of indian fakirs. Not all nails are facing with the sharp side up, some are turned upside down reflecting the light in a different way and creating this way the appearance of the word trust. The act of turning the nails upside down can be read as a metaphor for changing the perspective towards things that cause pain. In this piece what potentially hurts becomes a supporting structure. Where one trusts it doesn‘t hurt.

One day we will all see the white light

Nine welding masks have the sentence One day we will all see the white light inscribed on the the glass that usually protects the steel worker from not being blinded. The light looks like it is pulsating and is accompanied by the sound of regular deep breathing. People with near death experiences continously claim to have experienced a white light. At the moment of death all our masks will have to be left behind.

Giving up is not an option

The viewer who enters the exhibition place gets confronted at first sight with a situation in which the artist is about to finish setting up the artwork. A ladder, nails and paint are still on the floor seemingly waiting to be used. At second sight the sentence Giving up is not an option is surely to be read ironically. The artist gave up installing a piece named Giving up is not an option and the work is finished exactly by not being finished.

The Great Yellow

What looks like a silhouette of a shark, an archetype of fear and reason for much anxiety in the ocean, is made up entirely out of little yellow rubber ducks that might have just returned from a relaxed swim in a nearby bath tub.

Protected Paradise

A large 4 meter wide rainbow with bright colors at second sight reveals itself being made from barbwire. A symbol of paradise made from a symbol for protetcion and limitation. Paradise seems to be protected by a layer of limitation as well. The initial attraction turns into repulsion. Comissioned work done for Thaillywood Artist Residency

Who is the blind one now ?

The title suggests to look for an answer inside the piece but the mirror reflects a distorted image of the viewer. Mysterious floating stainless steel balls seem to hold the key but not everyone is able to sense the answer. The stainless steel balls contain three letters written in braille, the font for the visually impaired: YOU. A simple touch of a blind person could reveal the answer.

Making mistakes are okay

Many evolved societies punish children for their mistakes. Through incorrect grammar, and a crooked way of hanging this piece irreverently explores a common practice for bad behavior in school and silently questions our societal quest for perfection and its coercive effect on creativity.

The weight of the present moment

Gold colored bricks are carefully assembled into a square and wrapped by a red ribbon, creating the appearance of a present that is awaiting to be unpacked.

Burnout Syndrome

Over 9000 matches stuck on a canvas to write the word „work“ over and over again. While the first matches are still completly intact the last ones are gradually more and more burned down leaving traces of smoke. The piece can be read as a commentary on the habit to overwork and this resulting in depression or physical problems.

Look at yourself

Conception of self is perhaps one of the most scarcely comprehended depths known to man. Self reflection requires so much more than a physical mirror. The reflection of self is provided literally through mirror material in the words “look at your” and in the absence of material in the word “self”, provoking the question: “can the self only be described as emptyness?”

It is always what you think it is

The subjective nature of art comes to life in neon reminding us that there is no right or wrong answer or way to perceive things. Individual interpretation in art and in life is all there really is.


A cagelike welded gridsquare is cut open circular like someone is trying to escape. Another circular shape, made from hundreds of white feathers, is floating behind it with a tiny circular opening in the middle that let’s the viewer see the word “hope” written on the wall in tiny letters. The piece can be read as a poetic and reduced statement about the feeling of hope.

Behind lies lies truth

A raw silken fabric with hand embroidered letters consists of 3 different layers that can be manually opened and closed by the viewer. The first black layer is covered by the word lie and the second layer of white silk is covered by the word truth. Additionally a third translucent silk layer floats behind the first two without any words written on it, suggesting a layer of perception which is beyond any of the first two opposing concepts.

The One And Only Truth

A red arrow pointing in two opposite directions suggesting this being the way to the one and only truth. Our mind likes to have rational answers, a clear direction and linear thought systems but the reality of our world too vast to have a predefined path.

Original Fake

The word fake seems to be written as large red letters on a white canvas. When the viewer comes closer the letters reveal that it is in fact made out of thousands of original stamps. The work is sold as an edition of 5 while at the same time being sold as an original because each stamp structure differs slightly. It sublimly questions the contemporary production processes and the resulting value system we give to „original“ as opposed to reproduced „fake“ art works.

Planet Ego

Tiny men atop a disco ball use large, personal caption bubbles to compete for their place in the world. Light hits the disco ball and reflects into all directions of the room, manipulating any other artworks present and leaving its mark. As the figures stake their claim, this piece draws attention to the colorful absurdity of the ego.

Copy Machines

A photograph of a copy machine is given to an asian painter that is specialized in realistic painted reproductions with the simple instruction to copy the copy machine displayed on it. After creating a painted reproduction another painter is then given the painting, again with the instruction to copy the copy machine. This process is repeated 5 times resulting in a noticable change of quality and perfection. The title Copy Machines can therefor be read as the subject of painting or the producers of the paintings.

Breath of a Trumpet

This video piece invites the viewer to sit down and watch the rhythm within everyday objects and scenes. Shot over a period of 5 years, the scenes respond to the breath that can be heard in an amplified manner. We are surrounded by Jazz, layers ob musicality are awaiting to be discovered at all times.

Binary Symphony

Zeros and ones are dancing in top of a silk fabric that is covered with lines of thread resembling musical note paper. In this work the binary code is used instead of notes to create a musical piece with a strong visual representation.

This is a real thread

In language, “thread” and “threat” are only separated by a single letter. In impoverished society, they are only separated by a thin layer of waste materials. Inspired by the blue plastic material providing make-shift roofing over the slums of Mumbai, this piece plays on both words and culture by creating a common a visual thread to ignite inquiry over that which threatens to kill our world.

Protected Paradise

A rainbow with bright colors at first sight reveals itself being made from barbwire. A symbol of paradise made from a symbol for protetcion and limitation. Paradise seems to be protected by a layer of limitation as well. The initial attraction turns into repulsion.

Creative / Reactive

In this piece the letter C is jumping in between two different positions and this way spelling two different words and ways of approaching life: CREATIVE and REACTIVE.

Dreamer / Doer

A bedheet made from raw silk with hand embroidered  text elements that can be read from two different sides.A dreamer at night. A doer during the day.


A t-shirt is not just made out of cotton and buttons. In this case its is also made out of embroidered t-letters and a shirt.


A bunch of  canvas frames are arranged on the wall resembling to a loose rectangular composition. It might just be the leftovers of a framing job or is it more ? The part of a painting that usually remains unseen becomes the work itself.

Systematic Laughter

A young woman with a red nose stands in front of a group of black dressed cops in Berlin, Germany. The baton hanging next to the photo seems to have been used to smash the glass of the frame leaving open the question who laughs last.

Infinite Oberflaechligkeit

The original German title for a single hat is “Mütze zur Vermeidung oberflächlicher Gespräche bei Austellungseröffnungen” which translates to “Hat for avoiding superficial conversations at exhibition openings”. This Installation combines 24 hats into an infinite symbol suggesting the never ending nature of this story. The hat  answers the questions: 1. Where are you from ? What do you do ? How are you ? And ends with “Okay, bis dann.” which translates to “Okay, see you then”. It became a part of Berlin subculture and could regularly be seen at art and music events with various people wearing the same...

Barbie Broom

A set of barbies, the stereotypical icon of female youth gets transformed into an item of a regular housewife, a broom.

Cher / Chair / Share

The power of language can both separate us and bring us together. This piece, which is based on Joseph Kosuth‘s masterpiece „Three and One chairs“ from 1965, playfully capitalizes on linguistic similarities while highlighting cultural absurdities bringing about the question: could a pop icon, place to rest and a single noun have anything in common/share common ground? In this work the intended act of misinterpretation becomes the actual act of artistic creation.

Musical Hanky

Making fun out of and within the mundane is a noble mission. With a hand stitched musical staff at your fingertips, this piece requires interaction; inviting you to compose your very own “nose symphony”.

Digital Vagina

A typographic element taken from a facebook status update is transfered by hand embroidery to silk. The viewer has the choice to see it two ways, either as a heart in parentheses or a womans private parts.

Death of an old habit

Whenever the ending “ism” is added to a term describing something, it creates a limitation of experience. Modernism, Conceptualism and Realism are simply fancy words for the boxes we put art in. This piece exists not only to bring awareness to this pattern of the mind, but to lay it to rest. And as this habit dies, the beholder of the piece will cease to be able to define it.

So much fucking effort

This hand-woven sentence represents an entire month of master weaving work in India. This phraseology and font size are selected to provoke an ironic point, simultaneously pay homage to the craftsmanship and the time spent to create it.

Punk is not dead

A group of regular garden rakes has been spraypainted in bright colors and now stand facing head upwards in a room. Looks like trouble.

Planet Littlewonder

The video was shot in the hill regions of SE-Asia with the camera standing all by itself on a tripod and the LCD screen switched around standing all by itself.  The images capture the wondering of these tribes that have not been hit by mainstream civilization and it´s media presence. The camera turns into  a magical object ob curiosity , a reflection for the locals but also a reflection for the viewer to reflect on the power of (self)images.

The Silent Watcher

In the bathroom of a gallery space monitors are installed in which the artist stares at the person intensly while he is about to do his private buisnes. The encounter with the artist at location dedicated to privacy revalues the last corner of the gallery to (slightly disturbing) art.