John Franzen was born as a single child on the 1st of February 1981 in Germany.  The first six years of his life were already marked by ten changes of residence, which resulted in a complete lack of social contact to peers. When he was 6 years old, he and his mother moved to Belgium, where he grew up in three alternative hippie communes under poor circumstances. His parents neglected him.  His parents, who both worked as nurses, would often leave him alone at home, especially during the night-shifts.


These experiences led Franzen to find refuge in his own inner world, where darkness became home, his breath his comfort, the earth his mother and nothingness his father. Drawing was a form of playful expression in which he could pass time, never having experienced “playing” with other children. Franzen’s family did not encourage art or any other kind of cultural education in his early childhood development, with very few books in his house and no artistic pieces on display whatsoever.


This is relevant to know, as it reveals how deep Franzen’s need to understand life in its most existential elements goes.

His statement could be: Show your wounds & Embrace your darkness.


Franzen’s withdrawal into his inner creative world, combined with his inherent ability to draw, made him an artist - but an artist who disliked art. Franzen never had any relation to art, never went to a museum and never had a role model.

This contradiction to his later profession is an important aspect in understanding Franzen’s art and especially his change of style in 2007, when he radically stopped working figuratively and went into minimal abstract works. It is also here that the roots of some of the major themes of his work lie: darkness, singularity, nothingness, and destruction.

It is also in 2007  that his father died. Although his father had been distant to him, his death deeply affected Franzen. Personally, he became more spiritual, able to better connect with nature, and he began practicing meditation. His art became aniconistic and he reached out for new levels of abstraction and introspection. His process of artistic creation became both a performative act and a personal spiritual process.


At the age of 15, Franzen started a three year long, intensive German and French education at the Robert Schumann Technical Institute in eastern Belgium. This included 20 hours of art classes per week. This was followed by a two-year-interlude, during which Franzen worked both in and close to nature as a woodcutter and creative nature-pedagogue for children. These experiences gave Franzen a new perspective on working with mediums beyond the two dimensions, and made him recognise his love for art that required intense work of the hands.


In 2003 he continued his artistic education by entering the Art Academy in Maastricht, where he acquired structured knowledge and skills that fostered a hard working ethic. He graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.


After his graduation, Franzen stayed in Maastricht where he now works as an independent artist. Over the last few years he has developed a serious production ethic, which links clearly to both the importance of spirituality in his life and the great degree of abstraction in his art. He works in two different studios; one is bright and small, where he does his drawings and most of his delicate and meditative pieces. The other is a big, post-industrial space, where he is able to develop his biggest and roughest pieces. Both places reflect the universality of his character as both a human-being and an artist, and his dualistic nature as a creator. Most importantly, these two places show how his work is deeply rooted in an organized private experience, which results from deep self-reflectivity, conscious seclusion and isolation, and his overall devotion to, and knowledge of, art.

John Franzen’s life experiences have constructed a world in itself, where several themes arise as essential for both his life and his art. Franzen compares himself to a scientist, a shaman, and a priest; his role and responsibility as an artist is to investigate the governing principles of the universe. In this process, he mainly focuses on the nature of darkness, nothingness, destruction, and creation.  The objective of Franzen’s research is to build a cosmology, a coherent interpretation of the mechanisms of the universe.


In order to do so, Franzen experiments with different artistic methods. He begins with the use of paper and the colour white to explore what he considers the ‘beginning’. Next is the investigation of the line using ink, graphite or blood. The creation of the line is the method that formats the blueprint of the universe. The essence of this project is One Line, a single stroke, a mere movement, that aims to embody the essence of all creation. Each further act is merely a repetition of the first one. The analysis of the line and nothingness have led Franzen to transform the act of drawing into a process of meditation, a conversation between the medium and the artist. This connection transforms the visual value of his artistic project into both a performance act and a personal ritual, that serves to answer both Franzen’s inner questions, as well as his cosmological inquiries.


A further essential element of Franzen’s philosophical anthropology is the narcissistic perception of all human beings. This theme, together with the importance of destruction and deconstruction, takes his performative act to a different level with his latest project. This project consists of the use of big reflective titanium panels, which he damages using various instruments. Franzen aims to destroy in order to heal both his and the observer’s spirit. He aims to ‘destroy’ the observer’s narcissistic reflection on the metal sheet. Franzen considers that the viewers, as well as the art market, are nothing more than the center of their own space and time. Every piece Franzen creates always involves both a methodological experimentation and a ritual. The former can help him to create the cosmology while the later can heal his soul.




Gallery Yoko Uhoda - Knokke BE

Gallery Podgorny Robinson - S. Paul de Vence FR

Parkview Gallery - Hong Kong



Gallery Yoko Uhoda - Liege BE

Gallery Podgorny Robinson - S. Paul de Vence  FR

London Art Fair - London UK

Art Central - Hong Kong

First Price Art Dubai Sculpture Award - UAE



Morgen Contemporary - Berlin DE

Oneiro - Paris FR

Sparkasse - Aachen DE

Arusha Gallery - Edinburgh UK

Art & Antiques fair - Hertogenbosch NL

Gallery Dixit Algorizmi - Berlin DE

Parkview Gallery - Hong Kong

Gallery Yoko Uhoda - Liege BE

Gallery Annette Müller - Düsseldorf DE



Künstlerhaus Dortmund - Dortmund DE

Medi Art - Luxemburg LUX

AAA Auction - Amsterdam NL

Shortlisted THFMF - London UK

International Artist Award - Dubai UAE

Havoc - Amsterdam NL



Scope 13 - Maastricht NL

Galerie Freitag 18.30 - Aachen DE

Gallery Morgen Contemporary - Berlin DE