oleksiy koval

Archive for the ‘INTERVIEWS’ Category

TRUE PAINTING I LEARN FROM THE TAXI DRIVER AS WELL

In INTERVIEWS on February 3, 2018 at 10:32 am

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I win my way
Oleksiy Koval
370 x 290 cm, tape on wall
Arti et Amicitae, Amsterdam 2016
photo © Rhythm Section


OLEKSIY KOVAL IN CONVERSATION WITH INE DAMMERS

“When I was nineteen, I was fascinated by Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew and Live Evil. During that time someone showed me artworks of this great musician, and I was really disappointed. I thought: „this guy has absolutely no clue about painting“. On the other hand, Piet Mondrian was trying to implement ‘De Stijl’ ideas in music; he gave up this idea after he was listening to Boogie Woogie. I myself do not want to relate my work to music, but of course I learned from music for my painting and I am still learning. In painting and in music, you find the elements of movement, time, space, and matter; and I am always curious about how musicians are dealing with this. If there is something that I can implement from music in my painting, then I do it.”

Ine Dammers: This year 2017, it is hundred years ago that ‘De Stijl’ was founded. Holland is honoring the centennial of this movement in art with a lot of manifestations. De Stijl characterized itself by clear universal forms and primary colours. The mathematician and theosopher Dr M.H.J.Schoenmaekers, who was a friend of Mondrian, defended the concept of De Stijl with the phrase: “The general in spite of the particular”. The ‘general’ is defined by De Stijl as a matter to develop a new formal language, based on the variation of the few basic principles of artistic creation. ’Rhythm Section’ organised several exhibitions in the context of this centennial. Is there a relation between Rhythm Section and De Stijl?

Oleksiy Koval: One hundred years after De Stijl, at the end of the age of total relativism, it is in my opinion unconvincing to let the ‘general’ triumph over the ‘particular’. “Not to be confined by the greatest, yet to be contained within the smallest” is a statement which is characteristic for our group Rhythm Section: The artists of Rhythm Section are linked in their commitment to a hyper reflexivity in dealing with the rhythm, not as a compulsion, but as an original constant. The clear handling of the rhythm allows an endless variety of individual variations. The striking link between De Stijl and Rhythm Section I see in the original handling of their understanding and construction of visual rhythm. If De Stijl laid the general foundation for the form of rhythm in fine arts, then Rhythm Section relates this form to ‘the smallest’.

I.D.: In October 2016 in Arti (Arti et Amicitiae, Amsterdam), at the exhibition ‘Boogie Woogie Rhythm Section’, you showed the work ‘I win my way’. The connection with Mondrian is obviously made in the title of the exhibition. Why do you refer to Mondrian?

O.K.: Actually the title ‘Boogie Woogie Rhythm Section’ is connected not only to Piet Mondrian, but also to De Stijl and boogie-woogie as well. In my work ‘I win my way’ I didn’t refer to Mondrian directly, but I learned a lot from the how Mondrian created his last painting, and I used his experience for the work in Arti. First Mondrian was very clear about the motive of the composition. A photo from 1942 shows the painter in his studio with ‘Victory Boogie-Woogie’: the canvas lies on the table, and Mondrian fills color fields and lines with paint. So this kind of procedure was far away from the ‘true-painting-procedure’, it was more like the ‘implement-the-motive-procedure’. However, already in the autumn of 1943 in an interview with Johnson Sweeney, Mondrian explains the relationship between boogie-woogie and his paintings: “True boogie-woogie I conceive as homogeneous in intention with mine in painting: destruction of melody which is the equivalent of destruction of natural appearance; and construction through the continuous opposition of pure means – dynamic rhythm.” In that time Mondrian changed completely the procedure of ‘Victory Boogie-Woogie’. He destructed the original motive of the composition and focused on the applying of colors on the surface, on the dynamic rhythm. The canvas was on the painting’s easel. Usually I do not like to have a sketch with clear motive on it, but for the show at Arti the participants were asked to make a sketch in advance. That means I had to apply the implement-the-motive-procedure. But I did not want to do it. So I decided to create a composition that allows me to keep the motive and to allow dynamism and spontaneity during applying of colors. Curves, sharp and wide corners, equilibrium of colors – all this resulting from the procedure of entries, fixed positions of meters and spontaneous decisions while painting.

I.D.: “Not to be confined by the greatest, yet to be contained within the smallest” is characteristic for Rhythm Section, as you said. What do you mean by ‘the smallest’? My favorite quote about the smallest is that of Winnie the Pooh: “The smallest things take up the most room in your heart”. In Pooh’s case this ‘smallest’ is a jar of honey, but in your case it is rhythm.

O.K.: Well, ”Not to be confined by the greatest, yet to be contained within the smallest” is written on the tomb of Ignatius of Loyola in Rome. It is about a vital law, and it is what I am trying to achieve in my life and in my painting. I like your Pooh parallel with a jar of honey alot. ‘The smallest’ in painting is everything, absolutely everything which moves us to paint: surface, paint, shape of marks, tools, mental disposition, intelligence, intuition, imagination and rhythm, of course. But all of these ‘jars of honey’ are enjoyable only if they are part of ‘the greatest’. So it is always about balance between ‘the greatest’ and ‘the smallest’, and you have to keep both of them while painting. You will always lose against the surface if you neglect the ‘jars of honey’ or the law.

I.D.: Mondrian was very strict in his formal language. How is that in your work?

O.K.: I would like to start with the essence of painting in order to describe my formal language. Painting is applying colour on a surface by use of hand or any kinds of tools. So we have colour, surface and the movement while applying colour on a surface. In my work I focus very strictly on colour, matter and rhythm to design the movement while painting, but I retain infinite freedom and latitude for spontaneous decisions about the tools, materials and surfaces.

I.D.: You have studied at the academies of Kiev and Munich. How would you describe your process to become a painter?

O.K.: I have learned and I am still learning from people from a wide range of disciplines. While painting you deal with color, surface, movement, time, space, light, matter, health and conceptual ability to name a few. And every occupation deals with these same elements and categories as well. So I learned to paint not only from painters, but also from taxi drivers, cooks, football managers and chess masters.

I.D.: Why did you choose to become a painter?

O.K.: Well, I didn’t really choose it. I started to paint when I was 3 years old and I can’t stop yet.

I.D.: What is your goal while painting?

O.K.: To win over the surface.!

I.D.: If the surface is your opponent, can the surface win from you?

O.K.: Yes, the surface can win the painting from me. After I applied the colors on it, it is not a pure, idle surface any more.

I.D.: Could you describe your painting process?

O.K.: In fact, there is no universal tactic or strategy in my painting process. Lobanovskiy, the famous coach of Dynamo Kyiv, said once: “The team has to have a quantity of different tactics and use the necessary one, once having recognized the opponents way of playing.” I keep this in mind while painting.

I.D.: Lobanovskiy’s strategy was to disturb the rhythm of the opponent, and to impose his rhythm in the game, to be able to beat the opponent. Rhythm is an important part in your strategy to beat the surface. How does rhythm manifests itself in your work?

O.K.: Rhythm doesn’t manifest itself in my work. I have worked on and I am still working hard on rhythm. For me the movement while painting is indirect. I design the movement with the logic of rhythm.

I.D.: What kind of materials do you use?

O.K.: Everything, absolutely everything which catches my eye. It can be polyester fabric, a nice printed textile, a piece of carton, materials from home improvement stores, or canvas, oil, acrylic, ink, watercolor, spray, tape, foil – everything. I was recently in the post office in Munich and spotted an electric cable which was in disorder. Workers put two different tapes on it, and it was a really tasty combination of colors. So I had to go to the store immediately and do something with this material.

I.D.: What is your relationship to the outside world full of media images?

O.K.: I am part of this ‘world full of media images’ and I like it. I like images and I use them daily as well. But I am not satisfied in everyday life with the proportion of images and pictures to paintings. I think most people do not even know the difference between image, picture and painting. It is my job to open their eyes for this, and make people understand what true painting actually is.

I.D.: What is true painting?

O.K.: The painting, that allows the possibility of spontaneity, is true.  The search for the true painting is that which I absorbed from my study of Mondrian and “De Stijl”. The core of the true painting lies not in the image or motive, but in the origin of painting: in the application of colors on surfaces.

I.D.: Are there artists (besides Mondrian), let’s say in the last fifty years, you feel close to because of affinity in work and attitude?

O.K.: Artists I feel close to are Robert Ryman, Valeriy Lobanovskiy and Steve Coleman.

I.D.: You are the initiator of two groups: in 2010 Rhythm Section and in 2011 the Beautiful Formula Collective. Why did you start them?

O.K.: I was interested on rhythm in visual arts in general and on rhythm in the painting specifically. I desperately needed the exchange with other artists on this topic.

I.D.: What is the difference between Rhythm Section and the Beautiful Formula Collective?

O.K.: Well, Rhythm Section is a platform for artists, who are interested in an exchange on the subject ‘rhythm’ in the visual arts. Rhythm Section consists not only of visual artists representing installation, drawing, video, sculpture, painting, digital images to name a few, but also of art critics and theorists, philosophers, teachers for rhythm and movement. Parallel to the group shows, Rhythm Section organizes artist talks, lectures and symposiums on the subject ‘rhythm’ in visual arts. In contrast to Rhythm Section, the Beautiful Formula Collective is only about painting and creating collective works based on the Beautiful Formula Language. We use the combination of spontaneity, improvisation and logic of rhythm, which gives us structures and rules while painting. The Beautiful Formula Collective produces and stages group works not only in the studio, but also as a live painting performance in front of the public. We are not thinking about performance, it is just painting in front of people to bring the people in contact with true painting.

Haarlem, January 13, 2017

LAURA SÁNCHEZ SERRANO IM GESPRÄCH MIT OLEKSIY KOVAL

In INTERVIEWS on May 5, 2017 at 8:51 am
Oleksiy Koval, “Schar”, 2012, 55 x 50 cm, marker, packing tape on polyester. Photo © Klaus Mauz

Oleksiy Koval, ‘Schar’, 2012, 55 x 50 cm, marker, tape on FPY. Private collection, Starnberg. Photo © Klaus Mauz


Jede Oberfläche, jedes Material kann für Oleksiy Koval zur Herausforderung werden. Bewaffnet mit seinen Lieblingswerkzeugen, Farbe und Kreativität, kämpft Oleksiy Koval mit Oberflächen, die seine Aufmerksamkeit durch ihre Form, Textur, Struktur und Farbe auf sich ziehen. Seine Schlacht, die Malerei, entwickelt sich in einer Reihe von bedachten instinktiven Bewegungen, im Zeichnen rhythmischer Formen, in fast musikalischen Pinselstrichen auf seinem Gegner, der Leinwand.

Laura Sánchez Serrano: Erinnerst du dich, wann du zu malen angefangen hast?

Oleksiy Koval: Ich war 3 Jahre alt. Mein Vater ist Gestalter von Kinderbüchern; er arbeitete zu Hause und hatte immer Material und Farbe, die ich benutzen konnte.

LSS: Das heißt, du bist in Künstlerfamilie groß geworden?

OK: Nicht wirklich. Mein Vater ist Grafikdesigner und meine Mutter Architektin. Ich habe auch einen Onkel, der in der Oper singt, aber kein Mitglied der Familie hat mit bildender Kunst zu tun.

LSS: Du hattest deine erste künstlerische Ausbildung in Kiew. Aber du bist schon mit 19 Jahren nach München gekommen und seit dem lebst du hier. Warum bist du überhaupt nach München gekommen?

OK: Ich war neugierig, wie Kunst in Deutschland unterrichtet wird. Der Kunstunterricht in Kiew war ziemlich konservativ und ich wollte mehr über die zeitgenössische Kunst lernen. Zu diesem Zeitpunkt waren die Lehrer in München ziemlich berühmt in der zeitgenössischen Kunstszene. Deswegen habe ich mich entschieden, hierher zu kommen. Außerdem war die Münchner Kunstakademie die einzige bekannte in Kiew.

LSS: Und dann bist du geblieben?

OK: Am Anfang dachte ich, ich würde nur ein paar Jahre bleiben und dann nach Kiew zurückkehren. Aber als ich nach Kiew zurück kam, merkte ich, dass es nicht mehr der Ort war, den ich verlassen hatte. Es war besser, in München zu bleiben um meine Künstlerlaufbahn fortzusetzen. München ist eine Stadt mit vielen Möglichkeiten und gut vernetzt. Von München aus ist es einfach, überallhin zu reisen. Außerdem hatte ich schon Freunde, Beziehungen, und meine Familie hier; also ich hatte keinen Grund in die Ukraine zurück zu gehen.

LSS: Welche Künstler haben deine Arbeit beeinflusst?

OK: Garry Kasparov, Valeriy Lobanovskiy, Segiy Paradzhanov, Andrey Tarkovskiy, Blinky Palermo, Robert Ryman, Steve Coleman, Medardo Rosso, Paul Cezanne, Piet Mondrian, Tizian…

LSS: Eine sonderbare Gruppe von Leuten. Interessanterweise sind die ersten beiden keine Künstler, sondern ein Schachspieler und ein Fussballtrainer. Wie haben sie deine Arbeit beeinflusst?

OK: Ich denke, es gibt eine Menge von Gemeinsamkeiten zwischen Schach, Fussball und Malerei. Alle von ihnen brauchen eine Fläche (ein Schachbrett, ein Fußballfeld, eine Leinwand), Elemente, die sich in einer rhythmischen Weise bewegen (Schachfiguren, Fußballspieler und Pinselstriche) und eine Strategie. Alle von ihnen haben das selbe Ziel: Gewinnen. Egal, ob das bedeutet, gegen einen Schachspieler zu gewinnen, eine Mannschaft, oder, im Falle der Malerei, gegen die Oberfläche.

LSS: Ist Malerei ein Spiel für dich?

OK: Meistens, die Malerei ist meine größte Leidenschaft. Aber ja, es ist wie ein Spiel: die Fläche ist mein Feind und mein Ziel ist, sie zu besiegen und den Kampf zu gewinnen.

LSS: Gibt es Regeln in diesem Kampf? Was ist dein Malprozess?

OK: Zuerst wähle ich eine Oberfläche, die meine Aufmerksamkeit auf sich zieht. Der Prozess beginnt mit dem Akt der Beobachtung. Ich beobachte stundenlang sorgfältig die Farben und die Fläche. Am Anfang entscheide ich über die Strategie, die auf Farbe, Material, Rhythmus, Bewegung oder Struktur beruht. Dann greife ich an. Das Ziel ist eine Balance zu finden zwischen Kontrolle und Improvisation, Freiheit und Wissen, Verständnis und Intuition. Das Endergebnis hängt von all diesen Faktoren ab. Wenn ich gewinne, wird ein Teil von mir auf der besiegten Fläche sein.

LSS: Die meisten deiner Arbeiten sind nach einem überlegten Schema erstellt. Eigentlich hast du eine Art visueller Partitur entwickelt, mittels derer du die Oberfläche in Zonen aufteilst, welche den Rhythmus und das Tempo deines Pinselstriches bestimmen. Ist das als Methode nicht zu restriktiv?

OK: Meine Methode ist nicht statisch. Ich kombiniere Struktur und Improvisation. Die Struktur erlaubt es mir, mehr Freiheit zu haben. Es ist eine Konstante, die Variablen enthält. Die Malerei ist wie das Leben, sie braucht Struktur. Wir haben Termine, Uhren; wir planen Treffen, so wie das hier heute. Aber was wir während dieser Treffen machen, kann spontan und kreativ sein. Dasselbe gilt für meine Methode. Ich habe einen Rahmen, der es mir ermöglicht, beim Malen unbehindert zu reagieren. Am Ende sind es spontane Reaktionen, die bestimmen, ob ich gegen die Fläche gewinne oder verliere.

LSS: Warum ist Rhythmus so wichtig in deiner Arbeit?

OK: Rhythmus ermöglicht es mir, Raum und Zeit zu kontrollieren. Manchmal fängst du an zu malen und nach einer Weile merkst du, dass du dich in der Malerei verloren hast. Ich erkannte, dass ich eine gewisse Struktur brauche, um das zu verhindern. Das rhythmische Gerüst, das ich mir vor dem Malen aufbaue, erlaubt mir, die Fläche zu malen, ohne mich selbst in dem Prozess zu verlieren. Rhythmus gibt meiner Malerei eine Struktur. Er hilft mir, mich nicht auf der Fläche zu verirren.

LSS: Du arbeitest mit vielen verschiedenen Materialien. Wie wählst du sie aus? Was sind deine Kriterien?

OK: Ich verwende die Materialien, die ich anziehend finde. Solche, die interessant und schön aussehen. Die Art und Weise sie zu finden ist ziemlich zufällig. Es kann ein Karton eines Pakets sein, das ich erhalten habe, das Holz, das ich in der Werkstatt eines Schreiners finde… Ich habe viel mit klassischen Materialien gearbeitet; aber ich mag es wirklich, mit neuen zu arbeiten und zu experimentieren. Zum Beispiel arbeitete ich in letzter Zeit mit Polyesterstoff, den ich im Atelier einer Modedesignerin gefunden habe. Ich liebe es, neue Materialien auszuprobieren. Es macht Spaß und ich denke, Spaß sollte ein wesentlicher Bestandteil der Malerei sein.

LSS: Welche Rolle spielt die Farbe in deiner Arbeit?

OK: Es ist eines der grundlegenden Elemente meiner Arbeit; zusammen mit Material und Rhythmus. Farbe ist die Essenz der Malerei. Malen heißt, Farben auf die Fläche zu bringen. Und das ist es, was mich an der Malerei fasziniert: die Farben auftragen, sie kombinieren, sie mischen und sehen, wie sie reagieren; die Wirkung, die sie auf der Oberfläche haben. Aber auch, wie wir sie wahrnehmen. Wenn ich male, bringe ich bewusst drei grundlegende Parameter auf die Fläche: Material, Farbe und Rhythmus.

LSS: 2010 hast du zusammen mit Stefan Schessl und Kuros Nekouian die Gruppe Rhythm Section gegründet. Was ist die Idee hinter diesem Projekt?

OK: Im Jahr 2005 traf ich Stefan Schessl in China bei einer Ausstellung, an der wir beide beteiligt waren. Wir sind Freunde geworden und diskutierten regelmäßig über den Rhythmus in unseren Werken. Kuros Nekouian trat etwas später in unsere Gespräche ein. Wir beschlossen, den Begriff des Rhythmus in der zeitgenössischen Kunst zu erforschen. Wir gründeten die Gruppe, die Künstler bei der Erforschung des Themas unterstützt. Künstler in der Gruppe tauschen untereinander Ideen aus, lernen von ihren Erfahrungen und organisieren Ausstellungen zusammen.

LSS: Wie viele Künstler sind Mitglieder der Gruppe?

OK: Mittlerweile besteht die Gruppe aus mehr als 25 Künstlern. Nicht nur Maler, sonder alle Arten von Künstlern. Wir erhalten ständig Beitrittsanfragen von Künstlern. In fast jeder Ausstellung laden wir neue Künstler ein. Wir wählen die Künstler auf Grund des Projektes, dem Land, in dem die Ausstellung stattfindet, etc. Alle Künstler, die Interesse haben, mit Rhythmus zu arbeiten, sind bei uns willkommen, solange ihre Arbeiten ins Konzept von Rhythm Section passen.

LSS: Im Jahr 2011 hast du eine andere Gruppe gegründet, The Beautiful Formula Collective. Wie ist diese Gruppe beschaffen?

OK: The Beautiful Formula Collective ist eine offene Gruppe, die zusammen an einzelnen Gemälden arbeitet, nach einer anfänglichen Formel: eine rhythmische Struktur, die dem Auftrag von Farben eine Form gibt. Im Gegensatz zu Rhythm Section geht es bei The Beautiful Formula Collective nur um Malerei und über das gemeinsame Erstellen von Werken. Wir verwenden ursprünglich Muster oder Strukturen, aufgrund derer Handlungszonen, Rhythmus und Tempo bestimmt sind. Jeder von uns malt nach den Regeln; aber jeder reagiert gleichzeitig auch auf das, was die anderen tun. Das Endergebnis ist genauso interessant wie der Prozess. Deshalb machen wir es oft in der Öffentlichkeit, als Performance; oder zusammen mit anderen Künstlern oder Studenten als Workshop.

LSS: In gewissem Sinne ist das eine Gruppenversion der Regeln, die du dir für deine eigene Arbeit gegeben hast. Dank The Beautiful Formula Collective bist du nicht mehr allein in deinem Kampf gegen die Fläche?

OK: Sicher, es ist eine Teamarbeit. Der interessanteste Teil dabei ist zu sehen, wie Künstler aus verschiedenen Ländern und Hintergründen (z. B. Traditionelle Malerei, Street Art, Grafikdesign) gemeinsam nach vorher bestimmten Regeln malen, um erstaunliche Ergebnisse zu erziehen.

LSS: Seit dem Du diese beiden Gruppen gegründet hast, hast du deine Arbeiten in vielen Gruppenausstellung in der ganzen Welt (Zürich, Singapur, Kiew, etc) gezeigt. Wo wird das nächste Projekt stattfinden?

OK: Wir haben viele Projekte in diesem Jahr. Am 9. und 10. Februar werde ich einen Workshop in Kiew an der School of Visual Communication organisieren. Im April haben wir drei Ausstellungen: eine in China, eine in Griechenland und eine in den Niederlanden. Es wird ein Jahr voller schöner Projekte.

LSS: Das klingt spannend. Viel Glück mit all deinen Projekten und Dankeschön dafür, mit uns einige Gedanken zu deiner Arbeit auszutauschen. Ich hoffe, du wirst weiterhin die Flächen besiegen!

Für das Katalog Die Fläche besiegen
München, Januar 2013

LAURA SÁNCHEZ SERRANO IN CONVERSATION WITH OLEKSIY KOVAL

In INTERVIEWS on March 5, 2017 at 2:40 pm

kc

Oleksiy Koval, Klitschko vs Chisora, 2012
80 x 70 cm, adhesive foil, marker on FPY
Private collection, Starnberg
Photo © Klaus Mauz


Any surface, any material can become a challenge for Oleksiy Koval. Armed with his favorite tools, paint and creativity, Oleksiy Koval struggles with surfaces that attract his attention because of their form, texture, structure, or color. His battle, painting, develops in a series of deliberate instinctive movements, drawing rhythmic forms, almost musical brush-strokes, on his adversary, the canvas.

Laura Sánchez Serrano: Do you remember when you started painting?

Oleksiy Koval: I was about three years old. My father is a designer of children’s books; he worked at home so he always had material and paint I could use.

LSS: That means you grew up in a family of artists?

OK: Not exactly. My father is a graphic designer and my mother an architect. I also have an uncle who sings at the opera, but no family members involved in visual arts.

LSS: You had your first art education in Kyiv. However, you came to Munich when you were only 19 and have been living here since then. Why did you come to Munich in the first place?

OK: I was curious about how art is taught in Germany. Art education in Kyiv was pretty conservative and I wanted to learn more about contemporary art. At that point in time, teachers in Munich were quite famous in the contemporary art scene. That’s why I decided to come here. Additionally, the Academy of Arts in Munich was the only one renowned in Kyiv.

LSS: And then you stayed?

OK: First I thought I would only stay a couple of years and then return to Kyiv. But when I went back to Kyiv I realized that it wasn’t anymore the place I had left; It was better to stay in Munich to continue my artistic career. Munich is a city with a lot of opportunities; and is well connected. From Munich it is easy to travel anywhere. Besides, I already had friends, connections, and my family here; so I had no reason to go back to Ukraine.

LSS: Which artists influenced your work?

OK: Garry Kasparov, Valeriy Lobanovskiy, Segiy Paradzhanov, Andrey Tarkovskiy, Blinky Palermo, Robert Ryman, Steve Coleman, Medardo Rosso, Paul Cezanne, Piet Mondrian, Tizian…

LSS: An odd group of people. Interestingly, the first two aren’t artists, but a chess player and a football trainer. How did they influence your work?

OK: I think there are a lot of similarities between chess, football and painting. All of them need a surface (a chessboard, a football field, a canvas), elements moving in a rhythmical way (chess pieces, football players and brush-strokes), and a strategy. All of them have the same goal: winning. Whether this means winning against a chess player, a team, or, in the case of painting, winning against the surface.

LSS: Is painting a game for you?

OK: Mostly, painting is my biggest passion. But yes, it’s like a game: The surface is my adversary and my aim is to defeat it and win the battle.

LSS: Are there rules in this battle? What is your painting process?

OK: I first choose a surface that attracts my attention. The process starts with the act of observing. I carefully observe the colors and the surface for hours. First I decide on a strategy based on color, material, rhythm, movement, or structure. Then I attack. The goal is to find the balance between control and improvisation, freedom and knowledge, understanding and intuition. The final result depends on all these factors. If I win, there will be a part of myself on the beaten surface.

LSS: Most of your works are created following a premeditated schema. Actually, you have developed a sort of visual score dividing the surface in areas, determining rhythm and tempo of your brush-strokes. Isn’t it too restrictive as a method?

OK: My method is not static. I combine structure with improvisation. The structure allows me to have more freedom. It is an equation that contains variables. Painting, just like living, needs structure. We have agendas, watches; we arrange meetings like the one today. But what we do during those meetings can be spontaneous and creative. The same is true for my method. I have a framework that allows me to freely react while painting. In the end it is the spontaneous reactions that will determine if I win or lose against the surface.

LSS: Why is rhythm so important in your work?

OK: Rhythm allows me to control space and time. Sometimes you start painting and after some hours you find that you have lost yourself in the painting. I realized I needed some structure to prevent this from happening. The rhythmic framework that I set up before painting allows me to paint the surface without losing myself in the process. Rhythm gives structure to my painting. It helps me out not to get lost in the surface.

LSS: You work with a lot of different materials. How do you choose them? What are your criteria?

OK: I use the materials that I find attractive. Those who look interesting and nice. The way to find them is fairly random. It can be the carton of a package I receive, the wood I find in the shop of a carpenter… I have worked a lot with classic materials; but I really like to work and experiment with new ones. For example, lately I have worked with polyester fabric I found at the atelier of a fashion designer. I love trying new materials. It’s fun and I think fun should be an essential part of painting.

LSS: What role has color in your work?

OK: It’s one of the basic elements in my work; together with material and rhythm. Color is the essence of painting. Painting means to apply colors on a surface. And that’s what I find fascinating about painting: to apply colors, to combine them, mix them and see how they react; the effect they have on the surface. But also how we perceive them. When I paint, I consciously apply the fundamental three parameters, material, color, and rhythm, to the surface.

LSS: In 2010 you founded the group Rhythm Section together with Stefan Schessl and Kuros Nekouian. What is the idea behind that project?

OK: In 2005 I met Stefan Schessl in China at an exhibition we both participated in. We became friends and regularly discuss about rhythm in our works. Kuros Nekouian joined our discussions a bit later on. We decided to research the concept of rhythm in contemporary art. We created a group which supports artists in exploring the subject. Artists in the group exchange ideas with each other, learn from each other’s experiences, and organize exhibitions together.

LSS: How many artists are members of the group?

OK: By now the group consists of more than 25 artists. Not only painters, but all kind of artists. We constantly receive requests from artists to join the group. In almost every exhibition we invite new artists. We choose the artists based on the project, the country the exhibition will take place, etc. All artists interested in working with rhythm are welcome to join us, as long as their work fits in the concept of Rhythm Section.

LSS: In 2011 you created another group The Beautiful Formula Collective. What is the nature of this group?

OK: The Beautiful Formula Collective is an open group that collaborates on single paintings following an initial formula: a rhythmical structure that gives form to the application of colors on surfaces. In contrast with Rhythm Section, The Beautiful Formula Collective is about only painting, and about creating collective works. We use an initial pattern or structure, where areas of action, rhythm, and tempo are determined. Each of us paints following the rules; but at the same time also reacts to what the others do. The final result is as interesting as the process. That is why we often do it in front of a public, as a performance; or together with other artists or students, as a workshop.

LSS: In a sense it is a group version of the rules you set up for your personal work. Thanks to The Beautiful Formula Collective you are no longer alone in your battle against the surface?

OK: Sure, it is teamwork. The most interesting part is to see how artists from different countries and backgrounds (e.g., traditional painting, street art, graphic design) paint together following deliberate rules to achieve amazing results. Painting together with other artists is really interesting and fun. We learn a lot from each other.

LSS: Since you created these two groups, you have showed your works in many group exhibitions all over the world (Zurich, Singapore, Kyiv, etc). Where will the next project take place?

OK: We have many projects this year. On the 9th and 10th of February I will be in Kiev organizing a workshop at the School of Visual Communication. In April we have three exhibitions: one in China, one in Greece, and one in The Netherlands. It will be a year full of nice projects.

LSS: It sounds exciting. Good luck with all your projects and thank you very much for sharing with us some thoughts about your work. I hope you keep on defeating the surface!

For the catalogue Beating The Surface. Munich, January 2013

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