Austrian born painter, Boris Koller, has such a vast spectrum of styles that his work evades categorization. He resists being labeled as an artist but instead sees himself as a born farmer without a farm to inherit. Like most creatives, his deep inner world finds its way into our world, and for a moment, we get a glimpse of something strangely familiar and beautiful.
Ara: When did you realize that you were an artist?
Boris: First of all, I do not consider myself an artist. Art is quite a new concept, with beginnings in the 18th century, under a definition process during the 19. century, but not fully developed until the 1920s. I have no desire to compete with artists (there is no place for me in the art world), but I love to compete with my painter colleagues, dead and alive. I would rather see me as a born farmer, without a farm to inherit, so I have to do something else. And yes, I knew that I am a painter already when I was about 3 years old. With a cronical kidney disease I was not allowed to move so much in my childhood, I had to sit still, which I did with paper and pencils.
Ara: What was your first piece of work and what inspired it?
Boris: Is there a first piece of work? There is only a last one.
Or: every piece of work is the first, and one is also the last.
Or: imagine a tradition, no first or last painting at all.
Ara: I noticed a few earlier works…when you were 23. I’m referring to the painting “At the Window”. It’s quite a simple painting but yet it doesn’t feel simple. When I look at it, I see a story and many paintings inside of the painting. The scene outside of the window is almost a separate painting yet it moves seamlessly into the focal scene. And the small picture on the pantry door, what is it?
Simple? Try to paint something like that, and call it simple then.
The small print was there in the children´s room. Its a horse in prance above a cascade before a full moon.
This motive is an allegory of creating, and sending Your creations from the studio into a strange world you will never visit. This is, how we kitschpainters think, I guess.
Ara: You have such range as a painter. Your landscape paintings look simultaneously real and surreal. I know that I am looking at a painting yet I do not. Are these actual places or imagined or a combination of both?
Boris: When you are out there, hiking, you remember a moving landscape. When you stand still, to find the motive, this feeling is gone, and any view begins to be banal, the cosmic vibe is lost. I try to recreate the feeling of a moving world around me, sometimes with elements from very different places. Back in the studio I begin to paint from memory, struggling for making it more „real” during a long process. Most other landscape painters begin with a sketch at the place, being human cameras. But yes, I found my perfect landscape on a map. I realised, it would be the world I always dreamed of. Many of the latest motives are from the island „Senja” in northern Norway.
Ara: Can you explain the painting “Aktueller Stand”. It’s a self portrait, yes?
Boris: This painting was not finished, when I showed it on facebook. So, „aktueller Stand” is not the title.
My self-portrait? The viewer of the painting is free to decide: either to hang me, or to let me go free.
Ara: “Stone Age Bison Hunt” is a very interesting painting. What is it about the primal nordics that you find so captivating? What inspired the wildness?
Boris: I got once a commission for the Natural History Museum in Vienna, to fill up a space left on a wall, where a painting from the 19th century got lost after the war. First the idea was to depict a Mammoth hunt scene, but the department in the museum decided, it should become a neolithic theme. Since the sponsor was a lawyer and hunter the idea of a bison hunt stood up.
Ara: I’ve noticed winter as a backdrop in a lot of your paintings. I don’t see a lot of paintings with sunlight or warmth. Is there a reason for that? Do you feel connected to that particular season?
Boris: I would need my portion of snow and ice every day. But I am not lucky enough to live in eternal ice and snow. The shape of a landscape is better revealed by a melting covering.
Ara: The paintings “Devotion” and “Comfort”. Can you interpret them for me? Do you believe that death brings comfort because it is the end of the inevitable and sporadic discomfort of life?
Boris: I am not allowed to tell, where i painted my dear mummies.
In an average horror movie, people are scared by dead beings. In „Comfort” a scared mummy is consoled by loving live.
Ara: You are also a composer and musician. I’ve listened to your piece on YouTube. It is very serene, beautiful, and at times a bit sorrowful. Not enough to make me cry, but enough to make me feel something. How would you describe your music?
Boris: Until now You can hear only one of my pieces on the internet. (The violoncello-harp romance under my video featuring my paintings.)
My music? Hopeless romantic, I guess.
Ara: What type of instrument do you play? Is it hand crafted?
Boris: Its a nyckelharpa, a swedish folk-music instrument, with a great tradition in the area of Norra Uppland.
I have a small collection of custom made specimens. My favorite variant is the old form with a drone string and quarter tone keys (made by my good friend Olle Plahn).
Ara: Do you hear music in paintings or do you see paintings in music?
Ara: Do you have a favorite composer? If so, what is it about their work that speaks to you.
Boris: There is a lot of good music around. J.S. Bach is maybe the first and the last musician ever.
I have to mention swedish and norwegian folk-music. „Lyarlåter” from Valdres in Norway are maybe the only things one can enjoy after having listened to Bach.
There is a power in traditional music (and „western” „classical” music is traditional music as well) unmatched by any attempt of a composer to create something „new”.
What I like most, are the efforts to trace an arc of tension over longer periods of time. Not three minutes, not eight, but hours, an evening. You get this at the opera, or at a dancing night to a solo fiddle.
Music has to act in concert with the body.
Boris Koller Malerei: http://youtu.be/PRbm8OH7sMg/