Peter Köhler

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Travel Romanticism of a rare kind

Peter Köhler’s pictures are teeming with witches and gothic ruins.

There was a time when testimonials from distant shores where much longed-for. Now the world has shrunk. The explorers of past times, from Marco Polo to Bruce Chatwin - who told stories of that which no one else had seen or experienced, who had the time to stop for a while, who reflected and endangered themselves - are today rather rare. But there are exceptions.

The actually quite unfashionable artist Peter Köhler appears to be one of those. In his exhibition at Gallery 54 he shows paintings carried out from sketches he has done during his travels around the world. Here there is none of the safety of recognition, coupled with exoticisation of the foreign, that characterizes the tourist industry. Rather it can be said that ingrained patterns of behaviour are broken in Köhler’s unexpected combinations. Sure there exists an exoticism here, but it is as much the own heritage that is exoticisted as “the other”.

The man in the moon - who watches through a window in a blacked-out Moscow hotel room in a large painting in black on yellow - could have been taken from a story by Romanticist E.T.A. Hoffmann just as well as from a children’s TV programme. In another image the lines from a log house are billowing, surrounded by African sculptures. Above the roof a dramatic alpine landscape towers. I can’t express what causes this combination to stir up such a feeling of uneasiness, but it is apparent that we are miles from the routes of the package holiday tourism.

But it isn’t the space as such that Köhler reproduces, but the very images the imagination creates in the meeting with it. His paintings are teeming with witches and gothic ruins. But the blackness à la Böcklin’s Death Island are combined with an exhilarated humour. Through the merging of many images in one picture, an uncertainty is created that also says something about how problematic the undertaking of remembering and sketching a memory is.

Daniela Lehmann Carrasco’s video installation Latin Vision is concerned with a complex of problems that is implied in Köhler’s work: colonial structures of which we are still being reminded, in this case in modern Chile. In a video installation the togetherness at the kitchen table - repeated in an abstract pattern - is shown against the drama of the so called “telenovelas”, Latin American soap operas. In another video some silhouettes are sharply outlined against the evening sky as in a Millet painting. The meeting visualizes a Romanticist European influence on the daily Chilean life.

In the chamber the new Gothenburg publishing house Kning Disk is presented. Its aim is to function as a meeting place for sound, image and design. The selection echoes a 1960s revival with the text-sound composer Åke Hodell as a distinct model of aspiration. The initiative is fun even if avant garde 60s is hardly in short supply nowadays. Primarily it is Peter Köhler’s images that make this exhibition well worth a visit.

Kristoffer Arvidsson, Göteborgsposten

Translation: Anna Thylin.


In Swedish

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