Interview: Michael Kopplstatter
Luca Curci talks with Michael Kopplstatter during VENICE INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR 2021 at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
I am a German artist who lives and works in Austria. When I was young, I spent some time in New York where I got to know the German artist Salome, an artist from the art movement The New Wild (die Neue Wilde). In the 1980s, Salome’s group was considered a counter-movement to the prevailing conceptual art scene during which they shifted to painting. Needless to say, I was infected by the spontaneous and expressive elements of the Neue Wilde at a young age. I currently work and live in Dornbirn and Schwarzenberg, Austria. My works are mostly large-format oil and acrylic paintings which are simultaneously realistic and alienating. Shapes and contours are blurred, out of focus, distorted or alienated. However, the realistic impression is retained and is heightened by a dynamic color composition. Since 2011, I have been working in my studio located in Hohenems in the historic Villa Rosenthal, as well as in my studio loft in the building of the Arche Noah Museum since 2018. My switch to representational painting may have been impacted by my prior work as a designer, or be interpreted as a counter-movement to the still prevalent conceptual art genre. The influence of the artist Salome in my early years can still be seen today in recurring “violent” details. If noted that the general trend is back to painting in recent years, especially in its figurative formulation, this would mean that my works are associated with these mediums: individual handwriting, expression, singularity, references to historical positions. Portraits and depictions of women play a vital role in my work.
Luca Curci – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
Michael Kopplstatter – When I was young I spent some time in New York where I got to know the German artist Salome, an artist from the art movement the new wild (die Neuen Wilden, Berlin). At that time Salome’s group was considered a counter-movement to the prevailing conceptual art scene during which they shifted to painting. I was infected by the spontaneous and expressive elements of the Neue Wilde, and these influences you still find in my works today. At that time I was hanging around a lot in the Hamptons, and in many friends’ houses I have seen works of Warhol, Basquiat, Lichtenstein and Salle. Especially the modern, figurative paintings of Salle impressed me a lot and influenced my work.
LC – What are you currently working on?
MK – Portraits and depictions of women play a vital role in my work. In these works, I am trying to bring out the vulnerability and its effects of passion. Objectively merging and dissolving, the protagonists depict themselves in a unique and modern expressive language. The surfaces are often filled with opaque layers and the images are gentle but built up expressively in layers. Like visions, bodies and portraits tremble and loll, flooded with sex appeal. They resist invisible norms while the viewer stands before them in silence. In the portraits, the viewer literally dips into their eyes. The painting approaches the viewer, expressively abstract, yet based on a clear object. If noted that the general trend is back to painting in recent years, especially in its figurative formulation, this would mean that my works are associated with these mediums. Individual handwriting, expression, singularity but also references to historical positions. Currently, I am working on a new painting technic in oil strongly influenced by Gerhard Richter. With faded painting technic I am trying to give my portraits and female bodies a kind of isolated atmosphere. With this technic, I am working also on landscapes. My studio is in the building of a private museum with a collection of impressionism and expressionism of grandmasters like Monet, Manet, Gauguin and others. So I am picking up landscapes and put them into modern handwriting and bringing in calm isolation. In this way, I am questioning climate change and actual wrong social directions.
LC – How do you choose your subjects? Is it a reasoned or an instinctive process?
MK – My subjects are mainly a mix of reasoned and instinctive processes. The expression, may it be the spontaneous expressive elements or the calm faded handwriting I have in the beginning in my mind and I find the correct subject to it. During the process, the development is then more and more instinctive.
LC – Do you use art to express something in particular? Is it your medium of expression?
MK – In my portraits I express in particular the idea that the portrait approaches the viewer, expressively abstract, yet based on a clear figurative object. I want really the viewer to stand before them in silence and literally to dip into the eyes of the portrait. In the figurative subjects, I want him to feel the emotional vulnerability of sex appeal. And in the landscapes I want the viewer to feel the sadness of isolated nature. In some works, I focus on social themes. A cultural shift is not in sight and we are on a course of destruction and ruthlessness. With regards to social criticism, I make light of topics such as religion, cruel rituals, sexual assault, and obsession with power and destruction. I work excessively with spatula techniques, torn up surfaces made of earth and destructive elements, with underlying sadness and calm.
LC – Do visitors’ suggestions enrich yourself and your art?
MK – Certainly I have an ear for suggestions of my visitors and collectors and they enrich my work. Anyway, generally I go my way, and I have the feeling that most visitors and collectors understand what I am doing. They see that it is important for me to work on a good craftsman base, that they see that I am a master of technics and that I have a good eye for forms and colors. For me, it is very important that my visitors understand that the craftsman base in art is the first step to enrich a higher level.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the festival?
MK – In my opinion, the vision of the festival is right on the point. It gives the artist a great opportunity to present collective and solo projects and a forum for direct exchange for ideas between collectors and artists. The surrounding of Venice is amazing, as well as the places of Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello and THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space.
LC – Can you explain something about the artworks you have in our exhibition?
MK – I am showing two large-scale portraits. Both are following my typical work of portraits by expressing in particular the idea that the portrait approaches the viewer, expressively abstract, yet based on a clear figurative object. The focus in both works is to resist invisible norms while the viewer stands before them in silence. The viewer literally dips magically into their eyes. Then I am showing two smaller-scaled paintings which are typically for my actual work with the faded technic in oil influenced by Gerhard Richter. The nude, figurative subjects are flooded with sex appeal, yet through the faded motion the paintings are getting an isolated expression.
LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
MK – The ITSLIQUID Platform is highly professional. It is a great opportunity for artists to build up their international reputation. For collectors and art lovers, it is a great way to find the contemporary art statements of today. Specially the events during the Venice Biennale are a great setup with amazing locations. But also the other international projects like in London and Barcelona are very interesting and focus important location events in one organization.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
MK – The ITSLIQUID GROUP represents defiantly a great opportunity for artists. With their different online projects like Artist of the Year, but also as said before with their events in great important international locations, it is one place for an artist to work on his international reputation. I would be very happy and honored to work on more projects with ITSLIQUID GROUP.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
MK – Certainly I am very happy to be part of the ITSLIQUID GROUP in their events during Biennale. For my buyers and collectors it is great that I had shown my works at Palazzo Albrizzi, as it is an amazing location and in the place of art in Europe. Your service was uncomplicated, easy and professional.