IIT’S BROWN, WITH SHORT LEGS, AND PLUMP. THE PAINTING’S TITLE ANNOUNCES THIS WORK AS ‘BIG TIGER’, BUT IT RESEMBLES A BLIND MOLE OR A FAT CATERPILLAR. THE PAINTING BY THE ARTIST BORN IN 1971 IN KLAGENFURT LEADS US INTO A FRESH, ORIGINAL AND VITAL PICTORIAL WORLD HERE EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
Kohl’s works are a passionate declaration of belief in fantasy, the absurd, and the adventure that can be art. His universe is lightyears away from all that that could fall under the possible remit of labels and conventions. In his world, pigs are green, Hitler wears pink underpants and Micky Mouse is a rat. Attraction or repulsion, beauty or fright – where’s the difference? If upon seeing these beings, the viewers don’t step back in fear, well, they can surely laugh at themselves. This game of colours, shapes, short texts is an event that strikes at the heart of something.
Peter Kohl’s joy in the grotesque knows no limits, and he uses said joy to turn the real and surreal planes on their heads.
On his canvas the visible world becomes surreal and the surreal becomes reality. He brings the dead to life and the living become dead in his paintings. That means that the ghost has to protect its ‘life’ with a gas mask (‘nature.ghost’, 2017), and the man with the black bunny rabbit cap has angel wings and is ready to ascend to heaven (‘mind.RACER’, 2017). Nothing is sacred for Kohl, and so drastic and macabre pictorial stories, bizarre and expressive shapes and narrative and pictorial comments come about in his works which cross, with gusto, the ‘border of good taste’.
If you were to read Kohl’s poems, which are often closely connected with his paintings, then the way in which he uses his terms resembles his pictorial approach: Kohl copies and cuts, assembles and makes collages, his process is that of employing associated thoughts and behaviours. Instructions to decode his written, painted, drawn stories isn’t provided by the artist, because it doesn’t exist: his words, specks of colours and doodles are located in a river that draws its beauty and depth from permanent transformation.
Peter Kohl has, in the time being, moved back to the former fa rm of his parents in the Ebenthal, Carinthia. He’s a person that needs space, he’s an indefatigable active man, who doesn’t find it difficult to fill those old barns, bursting with agricultural tools, with life. However, what does stand out is that the creatures which may have found entry in his pictorial world often lack hands and fingers, they’re therefore nearly unable to use them. This defencelessness is strengthened by huge, helpless breasts to the side, stretching away, that now and againreplace arms. Even if the Micky Mouse rat from ‘mind.RACER’ is grinning in anticipation, the rat won’t be able to pull the revolver’s trigger with its plump stumps. In Kohl there’s a deep scepticism towards what society aspires to and the basic values on offer. The figures on his paintings don’t hide their true face behind a mask, as the mask shows people for what they really are. When his clear line abruptly breaks and the borders crumble, then the destruction of the contours which gave the shape reflect the weakness of the world.
A work from 2013 is called ‘Wanderweg in meine Welt’, and a quote by the artist says, ‘To me, my work has to represent a means to find the way within me’. This makes sense, as his prominent name and the year in which the work was completed affixed to the painting is more than just a mere signature and date. This is integral part of the painting and is a statement which screams out to the viewers, ‘I exist’ and ‘I was here’. Kohl’s works are allegorical, painted with wild gestures or drawn, written, scratched or painted, and open the floodgates to a wave of fantasy and imagination. Now, one would guess that an artist, who possesses an unprecedented skill to create vocabulary, must be suspicious of any type of perfectionism. Yet by taking a closer look we see there is no type of favouritism at play here.
Even if his compositions have a number of equal acting characters, symbols, colour specks, and text fragments, you can still identify every detail for what it is and where it should be. Rotating and overlapping, the overlaying of countless colourful surfaces and the oversubscription of image are wellthought and deliver the illusion of a space behind which viewers find no vanishing point or perspective. The pictorial elements emerge from a base, stay there for a moment and could drop down on the viewer at any given moment. Kohl’s paintings ask the viewer where it starts and ends, where left and right, up and down are. Within this chaos made of colourful specks, overlapping elements rushing to the foreground and background resemble a manifold folded paper boat which respects all the regular tenets used to give a sense of perspective. It anchors us in a world that we know, its beautiful plastic shape calms the eyes wandering about and over what could be a personal yardstick. Are the soul and tiger not as big as this boat? A smidgen of doubt remains, because you never know with Peter Kohl. His small paper boat could be as big as huge ocean vessels.