Julian Kohl is an Austrian artist based in Germany, who specialises in painting and sculpting. His upcoming exhibition “memories of a broken heart” showcases a turning point in his career, where he started to explore the art of sculpting. Julian will be presenting his work from the 13-19 October at Galerie Kandlhofer in Vienna.
We were given the luxury of being able to interview him at his studio in Vienna.
Credits -Mato Johannik
When one goes to art exhibitions, or sees art throughout the day, one usually sees paintings and not many sculptures. What are your thoughts on this?
In your public life if you start looking this way you see that sculptures are everywhere around you and ceramics and pottery is everywhere, as well. There is a distinct line between furniture of course which is also sculpting, and then the art. But of course, when one goes to openings, you see mainly paintings.
Tell us about sculpturing?
Sculpturing is nothing more than a 3-dimensional painting. The idea came to me out of painting. I found that I couldn’t express what I wanted to do on a canvas anymore, so I needed to go in to sculpting. What I started to do was work on very small-scale models. I did this for years with drawings and finding a way of how to express this idea in the sculpting. So now that I’ve found this language of sculpting, for me it’s pretty much the same. If it’s a painting on the wall or a sculpture in the room, I think its fruit from the same tree in the end. Just a different way of expressing it.
When you studied art, did you have sculpting in mind?
No, not at all. I started solely painting and I loved it. I still love it. I did it for a very long time and I still do it. But of course, we were able to do sculpting in art school. Art school is very open, so you can go to a workshop and say, “I would love to do this type of sculpture, can you help me,” and then you start to work on it. I never really did it. I tried, but for me, especially in Vienna during my time, sculpting was when you have a hammer and you chip a stone and you find a sculpture inside, which was never for me. But a lot of people told me my paintings look a lot like sculpting and nowadays I understand what they meant because I have a frame set which is very 3 dimensional, inside space and not just on the canvas.
In the end I think that one has ideas on what your art is supposed to be, to feel, to mean to look like. Then I go and search for the right thing to express this idea. I go and paint this painting and I realize this isn’t working out. So, then you search inside the painting, inside the techniques of painting, in the drawing and you realize it’s not on the canvas. You have to take it out of the canvas, you have to take it in to space. Then I started doing it with wire and this opened up a whole universe for me. I can remember the moment; it was after 3 years of searching in the studio. I called my wife telling her “look I can’t come home early today; you have to put the kids to bed alone because I have to work”. This doesn’t happen very much I’m a good papa. And I remember I had this model and I worked on it and it works. The whole room changed, time stopped, and it was really like a computer game and you enter the 4th dimension. I was dancing and screaming for two hours. It was amazing. From that moment on I didn’t paint for a year.
Was it love at first sight when you discovered it?
I was overwhelmed. I didn’t expect that to happen. It really opened up a new room for me and I stepped in this universe but the influence the sculpting had on my painting was massive as well. My idea of painting changed completely through sculpting and now paintings for me are more a sculpture and not the other way around.
Credits -Mato Johannik
Do you feel limited to using colors with sculpting?
No, I feel very free, I think about using some colors as well. To get to the point of using gold was a process as well. I never wanted to use gold. I did everything to not use gold because gold brings a lot of things with it. First of all, where it comes from, who is working it. There is no Fairtrade gold. Secondly, gold brings a lot of history and so much narrative already in the material. I wanted to do it black at first but then I realized black consumes so much light, that it doesn’t exist. One would need to make a big “mass” so that you still see black in the sculpturing, which drove me crazy because I wanted to use black. So, then I started with white and I tried everything. A friend I was working with told me to try gold and at first. I didn’t want it but then I tried it and it had the most reflection and it exists a lot.
When I gold plated the first sculpture, I realized why humans have been killing each other for the last 2000 years because it changes everything. When you put gold on a material, it starts to come alive. It’s like liquid, always moving.
Has your upbringing contributed to your art?
The first time I realized art is for me was when I was 15 at school and I had a great art teacher. I was copying a Matisse on a piece of paper with different shades of blue and I got totally absorbed in this painting and normally I was always checking the watch to see when the class is finished and with this I stayed longer. I stayed through the break and I would’ve stayed 3 hours longer to finish this painting. That’s when I realized this was a special place for me. School was great, we had a lot of different art classes. We had painting, sculpting, and woodworking, which was a more practical approach. I went crazy after this; I was drawing on everything. I remember one day in the big recess, I put all the tables together and drew a big nude over four tables. Luckily, I only had a pencil. I wanted a chalk, but I couldn’t find one. So, after that I had to clean all the tables for an hour. I think I was always creative and what I always did was watch and I was always keen to absorb things. I still think that. There are two things which change completely when you really start to live in art. One thing is that your receivers are on all the time and you have to create all the time. I think this was already there, I could never sit still. I could never be idol and do nothing. I always had to do something. It’s the same now, I’m already looking. I need something in my hands all the time and it drives everybody mad.
How would you describe that inner feeling when you create your art?
You can do whatever type of art you want, political, etc. In the end it’s all about you. If its about beauty, it’s your idea on beauty. If it’s about ugliness or hurt, it’s your idea on the matter. It took me a while to accept because it’s also vain. The content isn’t what’s on the painting, its what’s inside the painting. What it’s charged with, what the artist thought about when doing it.
Credits – Mato Johannik
What drives you?
I just need to create things all the time. I’m a junkie that way. If I can’t go to the studio, I get really restless.
Do you work in a sustainable way?
Well I work with copper and copper is a metal which comes out the ground, and if you are really ecological you would say no it’s not a good material. I use gold, which is like I said before, you don’t know where its coming from. I don’t know what is sustainable, but art is absolutely useless for society in this way. It’s for your mind and for your inner health and for that, art is always sustainable. It brings more than it takes.