I generally work within the confines of a series and not on standalone pieces. Each series is treated on a case-by-case basis.
Having said that, my approach does under scrutiny reveal strands that run across various series. Using satire, referencing social concerns, setting up scenes of questionable narrative, creating word play and introducing a visual form of onomatopoeia have all been used extensively in developing initial ideas. Concurrently, incorporating varying scales, mediums, recognizable symbols, multiples, playful imagery, witty captions and a direct/refined graphic finish have been important in the overall look.
The following are samples of the various statements and tangents that my work has addressed in recent years.
Killing More Than Two Birds With One Stone (2011-2012)
Not dissimilar to Commentary, this series is a collection of my observations and subsequent responses to specific topical issues that have quickened my pulse in recent years. However, the theme and approach that I used here are based upon the realization that humor and fear are bedfellows. Genuinely caring for something or someone isn’t negated by the serious and frightening issues, actions and circumstances that may accompany the caring… understanding the caring though is complicated.
Each of the eleven pieces (eight paintings & three sculptural installations) from this series involves the death, impending death or implied death of a bird (literally or metaphorically) within the composition. Subject matter includes: oil spills, luck, being desensitized to violence through exposure to video games, reinterpreting the 2nd Amendment, mountaintop removal, the housing crisis, NASA’s closing of the shuttle program and Neil Armstrong’s passing, etc.
Cloud Conversations (2006-2009)
The irony is that a subject matter once limited to small talk has transitioned into serious discussion thanks in part to global warming and climate change.
Cloud Conversations thus sprang from the idea of creating landscapes where it was physically impossible for the viewers to accurately describe the weather and thus force them into a position of discussing things beyond small talk. By removing the recognizable cloud formations (indicators of precipitation) and replacing them with meteorological equivalents (symbols of clouds), the viewer, If inclined to engage in small talk around my work, would not actually be
able to accurately describe the weather in my landscapes unless they
Hundreds of thousands of ink pen lines were drawn by hand on top of the cured oil paint to completely cover the 22 landscapes of this series that span three continents and five countries. The technique was based upon creating four directions of drawing (vertical, horizontal, and two opposing diagonals) and applying a rule that stated never shall the same direction of line meet itself. This results in compositions that reward the viewer at both a macro and micro level.
Speech Bubble (2005)
The simple idea behind this was to alter the shape of a speech bubble so that the shape itself indicates the nature of the conversation. There is no need to fill the bubble with text or even illustrate who is having the conversation.
The idea circulating behind this body of work was that I’d be less cryptic about my subject matter and instead just directly deal with the chips on my shoulder. Each of the pieces in this exhibition does what it says on the label and boldly comments on topical issues, such as the plight and disappearance of the native red squirrel in the Scottish landscape, America’s decision to attack Iraq following 9/11 and the challenge of combining the conflicting theories of evolution
The Missing Verb (2000-2001)
Much of this work developed initially around the idea of treating a painting like a sentence that was being fragmented. By separating the subject matter of the artwork from the direct object with the use of borders, negative space and multiple canvases, one was left with a missing verb. In other words, what was actually happening in the depicted scenes remained a mystery and open ended for each viewer to complete. This deconstruction and compartmentalization of areas within the paintings took on the appearance of film stills. The resulting composition’s reference to film simply added to the feeling that there was an unknown narrative running freely.
Many of the later pieces from this series responded directly to their location, whether they were falling down a stairwell (10 canvases) or wrapping around a room (50 canvases). This marked the beginning of my insistence of developing every following series of artwork specifically for the gallery space in which they will be exhibiting.
© 2014, Michael Koerner All Rights Reserved