Painting As Presence an interview with John KÃ¸rner by Kari Immonen
What is your relationship to the tradition of painting?
It is not really important to me. It might sound naÃ¯ve, but I try to stay out of all that because I don't think that I am really a painter. I don't deny the tradition, but the main thing for me is to produce some good things and energy. Every work that I do should stand alone. Of course, I am aware of the things and discussions that go on. But when I get an idea for a painting I do it and don't really bother that much about who else might have done that before me or what is the work's general position in art history. When I do a piece I just figure out what would be nice to do, what I want it to look like and what I want to get out of it.
You and certain other Danish artists of your generation have been labelled neo-expressionists, which I find quite disturbing. How do you feel about that?
The funny thing is that when writers look for examples of the 'expressionist' in me, I cannot give it to them and that makes me sad. Then again I don't go into deep dialogue about compositional matters with people who write about my works - I do that with my colleagues. Of course, I can talk about how my paintings function and what kind of effect they have. As regards neo-expressionism, I don't share those values and attitudes. I am not really aware of how a single work functions or connects to the history of art. I am more interested in how my work connects to other pieces I have made. Even if my attitude and values are the opposite of the 1980s German scene, I am very serious about what I do. I try to make works that everybody can relate to.
Early on, it was quite disturbing to see how my works were categorised and included in certain movements or developments by the museum people and people in the business. When museums make exhibitions they have this need to be aware of everything and to take care of what kind of information is given out and what interpretations are possible. That was a bit sad and I did not agree with the idea that every single exhibition has to be 'complete' and flawless. We don't work that way, and they shouldn't either. I am not that keen on these 'manuals' containing a few names, which are linked with my works. Besides that, they mention the colours and the motifs, the use of both abstract and figurative means, and maybe also the fact that the representation of painting is one of the themes in the work. Finally, they manage to construct a box that contains John KÃ¸rner. They don't talk about my art and are afraid to go into the work. It is not easy to do it properly and to confront the audience, but I would rather leave the manual out and go along with us. I don't get a hard-on from making the works too hard to read. I try to stay open and to communicate. Doing a painting is a bit like slalom skiing.