Peter Köhler

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Maps Magazine

Issue 139, December 2019. MAPS TALK I

10 pages art + interview by Cinjay Lee (in Korean, see English translation below).

-Are you originally from Stockholm? Could you tell us about your upbringing and background?

Yes, I am from Stockholm. I grew up in a 70's suburb with high-rise buildings and a lot of concrete, ten minutes from the inner part of city. There were beautiful old forests not too far away though. Nature reserve areas with old trees, plants and animals. I was living in between and found great pleasure in both worlds. As far as I can remember I have always been busy drawing. I was in my late teens when I verbalised for myself that I wanted to be an artist. I studied at a preparatory art school in Northern Finland for two years and then five years at the Royal institute of Art in Stockholm with an exchange term in London. After the last art school, I was actually pretty tired of Stockholm and left for NYC, staying for one and a half years. I have travelled all over the world but seem to always come back to the city. Stockholm is really beautiful, with all of its water and its history. Most people like it best in the summer but I don't. I love the dark periods when you light candles and need a wool scarf when you go out. It's a big modern city but much smaller compared to Shanghai or Los Angeles. I like that. I also work with a great gallery here called Galleri Magnus Karlsson and I have my family here. My roots are here I suppose. I can be influenced by the city just strolling around. Having a cup of coffee in an oldtown café that is hundreds of years old. It's also fascinating to see the city transform in different ways. When you have a bunch of memories from areas and places that are not there anymore or have completely changed. You feel that you're part of the history of the city itself.

-Living in an era of compactness, it's rare to have some sort of urge to appreciate an image on a large scale. We absorb things through a tiny screen in our hands. However your works, immediately bring about the yearning to see them bigger and closer. Have you always been working on a large scale?

I have always been really into detailed paintings and drawings and often, not always, worked on a larger scale. I draw all the time. On airplanes, when I am waiting for buses or just sitting somewhere, in a crowded place or when I'm totally alone in a forest. I would say that I work as much outside of my studio as inside it. Since several years back I have been drawing in accordion style books. These are easy to bring and take a good amount of space when folded out. When I work on a larger scale, I still keep the details small and tiny. I spend a lot of hours on the piece, in the "world". It can be hard to document the work sometimes. When I post stuff on Instagram for example, I often show details. A couple of years ago I worked on a painting for one year, parallel with other things. It was a great feeling to be able to work on something consistently and yet here and there, for that long.

-Let's talk more about the concept of 'enlargement', but beyond the term of width and height. They are also deep (they almost seem they're engraved) and divided, in a unique way that is only possible to be realized in a two-dimensional world. Do you space-plan in detail before you take on your work?

No. I totally improvise when I work. I never do sketches. I throw away a lot of drawings if my gut feeling isn't right! I often have some idea in form of an air-skeleton for the work. Like I can have an idea about doing a green painting, a big Toad feeling or a dry earthy one. I am interested in the feeling you can have in dreams. That the rooms are dissolved. The architecture inconsistent. You don't really know if you're inside or outside or both at the same time. Morphing the space. I had a very vivid dream a couple of years ago. In the dream I was waiting for a person. I was standing next to a door entrance on a street here in Stockholm. The day after I went to that exact place for real. The door entrance wasn't there even if I still could remember it so well and detailed. The line or membrane between being awake and in the dream realm can be so thin. I carried the feeling of that moment with me for the rest of the day. Like when you can feel the waves after you left the boat for land.

- There are lots of things happening in the universe that you've created. It's like I stepped into an eccentric party and everything's so strange and unfamiliar, yet somehow I want to fit in that world. Like Fellini's films. Could you elaborate on the process of creating those characters, and figures, and their behaviors?

I try to be open with unexpected things I see and experience. Ordinary things, the mundane, news, memories and the spirit of a place. I can put in a person or a room or an abstract form that wasn't planned at all from the start. Things that comes to me under the working process. A lot of the folks in the paintings are people I have seen for real. Memories of people. Sometimes I have been working after a photo. For example, pictures of old relatives. Sometimes I just start with a form, a colour and then later on add the outline, and the detailed characters comes out of that. Spontaneous figuration. A lot of the figures and characters are not planned at all. They suddenly appear. I often lose track of time. What can feel like two hours can easily be six hours and so on. It's a meditative flow sometimes.

The characters in the pictures can be like a chain of events. Like the shadow of a horse skull can turn into ivy or a pitchfork that leads to a stairway can open up like a starry sky or a bold Sea. That freedom is important. Especially when I work in the streets, among people and so.

- A boring question, but I like to ask it. Where do you get your inspiration? I personally read Wikipedia on a daily basis, I am sure you have a better source than mine. Could you share with us?

It's not a boring question! I have come to the conclusion that I get a lot of inspiration from not exactly knowing what a painting will turn into, how it will be in the end. I like to surprise myself. I get a lot of inspiration from traveling, meeting people. Reading books and films. Since I was a child I have been inspired by the Hidden folk, folk lore and witchcraft. Old folk Tales like the Grimm brothers. Trees and plants have been a source for as long as I can remember. Wandering in a beech forest or a dark spruce forest will totally affect my mind. My two sons Leo and Jack inspire me a lot!

-What's your plan for the rest of this year, and early of next year?

I recently started a collaboration with a fantastic American writer. She is a folklorist and plant historian. We'll see what comes out of it but we indeed have things in common! I just started a solo exhibition here in Sweden, Sandviken. The title is Bewildered and it will run for a month. It's a generous exhibition with many works. I am also close to complete an outdoor commission project where I have 8 permanent prints of drawings, on two Building facades.


Short Stories.

Series of 8 images printed on tempered glass and placed on two facades
Hållövägen / Fyrvaktarkroken. Blåsut, Stockholm / 2019



26.10-24.11 2019

Peter Köhler
Utställningen Bewildered presenterar ett större urval av konstnären Peter Köhlers (f.1971) arbeten på papper. Stora delar av utställningen består av nya arbeten, men här finns också ett urval av verk från de senaste åren.

"Inför denna utställning har jag gjort ett urval av arbeten från min ateljé samt andra platser jag arbetat på. Jag tycker om att arbeta utomhus och att vara i rörelse. Det finns en direkthet som är genomgående i allt mitt material. Jag undviker att skissa och improviserar mig hellre fram. Jag försöker att vara öppen och lyhörd. Inspiration kommer till stor del från min vardag. Resor och platser jag besökt, från olika möten med människor. Likaså från det outsagda, det folkloristiska den mörka sagan och framför allt fantasin. Dagsaktuella händelser och känslan av en allt mer komplicerad framtid." - Peter Köhler, maj 2019.

"Hans teckningar må vara historier men de blir aldrig fullödiga berättelser, även om de upprättar hallucinatoriska narrativa strukturer med noggrant detaljerade och visuellt stimulerande skildringar av vad som ofta verkar vara konkreta personer, platser och saker. De här bildhistorierna kan till och med ha både början och slut - och en massa handling däremellan - men utan att låta berättelsen fullbordas och anpassa sig tidsmässigt: deras gestaltningsmässiga

flexibilitet är förankrade i läsbarhet och ett kompositoriskt ramverksom gör det möjligt för teckningarna att överskrida varje begränsande tolkning (Ändå är det inte orimligt att tänka sig att vi namnger de flesta figurer, varelser och annat som vi ser i dem, oavsett hur bisarra sakerna i sig kan tyckas). Teckningarna nästan kräver mikroskopisk inspektion, men den sortens undersökande sätt att se leder vanligen till antaganden om vad något måste betyda, och jag är säker på att det är en återvändsgränd - eller kanske snarare en kalldusch för den förvånande öppenheten i hans myllrande men välbyggda teckningar." -Terry R. Myers om Peter Köhlers konstnärskap, från texten All Ends Well, 2017

Vernissage lördag 26 oktober kl. 13, i närvaro av konstnären

Konsthallen, fri entré

Bewildered på Konsthallen Sandviken

Peter Köhler
Lay of the Land, 2018
Tusch och akryl på papper / Ink and acrylic on paper, 113x200 cm
Foto: Galleri Magnus Karlsson

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