Right panel from "German Angst" tripyich based on a combination of images from a number of early German Expressionist artists. left side, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner ("Street, Berlin"), standing middle, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff ("Self-Portrait with Monocle"), upper right, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner ("Market Place with Red Tower"), bottom right, Kathe Kollwitz ("Death Seizing a Woman").
After a lifetime of exploration I think I have finally come to terms with the elements in my painting that appeal to me, most of which I have fought to deny in the past for any number of scholarly and stylistic arguments.
I came to this realization recently while painting the "German Angst" triptych referenced on the cover. Something in the painting spoke to me and said "welcome home!" I guess what amazed me the most was that my chosen style would end up being so "German Expressionist", since I am of German heritage. Is there a gene for that?
My Visual Style
My visual style is based around an abstraction of form with high contrast composition composed of vivid, almost-out-of-control colors accentuated by broad line.
The abstraction of form is based on my belief that what we think we see is not what it actually looks like. By abstracting it, diffusing it, losing some of the hard data of the image I feel we may be more free to see the actual reality, although I also believe that a curved line is more "natural" than a straight line.
The high contrast composition is just my natural tendency to composition with impact, and great composition on the fly has always been one of my fortes, so much so that I have to fight the urge at times to overly compose and structuralize.
The use of totally vivid, primary colors is my attempt at a form of controlled sensory overload. If all the colors are jacked way up, then the overall effect is similar to controlled colors within a certain range, while still retaining the overpowering retinal impact.
As for the dark lines, for years I have fought against their use. In many paintings I still force myself to leave them out completely, letting the colors define the shape entirely, but even in those situations I still feel the pull of the dark line, like the power of the dark side, calling me.
My Painting Method
My painting method is based around using a tactile medium, painting with abrupt, strong gestures in a rapid manner with as little conscious thought as possible.
The tactile medium I have opted for recently is the oil crayon. It fills my need for tactile involvement developed from my many years of drawing. Its brute, broad mark steers me away from pure representation, towards the abstraction I want, and its colors exude the energy I want that I could never get out of acrylics.
I paint in a rapid manner in an attempt to tap into as much of the subconscious as I can. I feel that if you paint from the conscious you paint what you know, and the chances of discovering something truly new is slim at best. Also, creation through chance accident can also be a plus.
The abrupt strong gestures are a consequence of the speed of painting, sometimes being blended by hand, sometimes being left untouched like a wound but always retaining that look of human creation. In the end it is all about the mark.
My Subject Matter
I do not stick to any specific subject matter in my paintings. I consider myself a "paint anything" painter. Put it in front of me and I will paint it. I do, however, tend to work serially and in some abstract paintings without any subject matter at all.
My Reagan series is a blend of figurative portrature and expressionist abstraction, again delving into the question of making out-of-control colors appealing. The subject matter is iconic, not unlike Warhol's Marilyn Monroe, and the icon is reproduced serially, albeit not on the same surface and not mechanically. This series, called 1000 Points of Reagan, is based on producing 1000 Reagan. Each painting carries a weight on its own, but a wall of them 10 high and 100 wide would indeed be impressive.
My Football series is an attempt to abstract the color, movement, and composition inherent in sports photography and to create out of it something that is more than just a sports image, although the heightened colors and contrast of the images seem to help convey the emotion of the subject matter. I am hoping on abstracting the image so far that the subject matter is no longer discernable but still have it keep the impact, movement, and emotion.
My Cityscape series tries to show the inner soul of city landscape. To reveil its lifeforce that we would recognize if only pointed out.
What Makes Great Art?
Recently I have been analyzing what makes great art and I have come upon the idea that it is always about their time. German Expressionism was a view of their turbulent times. French Impressionism etc was a look into the artistic explosion that occured there at the turn of the century.
And perhaps that is what I find so appealing in my Reagan and my Football series. They definately scream of this time. Snapshots. Images of contemporary life as it passes us by.
I feel that a number of things have come together for me recently and I know that I will be pursuing this style, in one form or another, from now on. I am sure that it will evolve and mature as I continue to explore, but atleast I know the direction I am heading and will no longer have to continually battle against my inner voice.
Wish me luck,
Micheal O Koberstein