About the work




     Night at Stage, 2002
Acrylic on canvas
180 x 250 cm
John Kørner invokes a long art historical tradition in landscape painting. He reinterprets the classical subject in a contemporary version, adding humour and magic. In Kørner’s pictures the landscape becomes the gateway to a fantastic parallel world where everything is possible.

In Night at Stage we encounter an indefinable landscape. The clash between the fierce abstract strokes and the concrete reality of the chairs creates an odd and ambivalent whole. It is as if we are witnesses to a story which has yet to really begin.

The borderline between actual subjects and what are merely blobs of paint is fluid in Kørner’s paintings, radically opening up the pictures for interpretation. In Night at Stage the red circular shape on the sky could be seen as an evening sun but it may just be an accidental stroke. The same effect happens in the paintings’ missing subjects or “empty seats”: Where a human figure with a hat is missing its head or a row of seats is empty, the viewer must supply the rest of the painting.

As suggested by the title Night at Stage, the chairs could be regarded as audience seats.  However, where the stage ought to be the view is blocked by a black blot hovering over the centre of the painting. In its middle a red and a black sun are glimpsed, schematic as a children’s drawing. Perhaps this black fog is very concretely the night, fallen from the sky and having captured the picture’s stage with its darkness? Any reasonable explanation finds itself defeated in the trippy fantasy world of the picture.

Classical landscape painting, as seen in 17th and 18th century genre pictures, was anchored in a realist tradition. They often depicted specific geographic locations. However, in Kørner’s paintings, the landscape is an alternative imaginary world.

Yet Kørner’s psychedelic colours and fantastic subjects are always rooted in reality. Like the chairs in Night at Stage his paintings often contain recognisable everyday elements such as ships, bicycles, offices, banks, post offices and modern engineering.

Kørner’s paintings create a form of magic realism, displacing fragments of the familiar reality into another sphere where poetry and creative chaos reign. Thus they celebrate art’s illogical and fanciful aspects as a contrast to an otherwise rationalised reality. In this respect Kørner’s art continues the tribute to the imagination and creativity that Asger Jorn pursued in the 1960s with a basis in the Fluxus movement.

Kørner states: - I want to seduce the audience with this poetic language which signals another state, another world that you can indulge in with dreams and interpretations. That is not a direct product of this world.

John Kørner’s art in general
Kørner belongs to a new generation of artists who are self-conscious and explorative about the traditional medium of painting but who at the same time experiment with a fanciful, unceremonious and humorous imagery.

Kørner’s paintings engage the fantastic but they are also inquisitive and analytic with regards to painting as a medium. They are characterised by a reflective and informed attitude to the history and effects of painting. Kørner’s approach is far from naïve or spontaneous although the strokes are casually drawn and his idiom borrows inspiration from e.g. children’s drawings.

He experiments with the boundaries of landscape painting as a genre and with the transition from abstract to figurative: How few lines does it take before a picture becomes a landscape? When does a brushstroke become an abstract form and when does it become a mimetic subject?

These explorations are linked with conceptual art’s analytical and theoretical approach to art. Kørner combines the conceptual exploration with a fanciful, poetic dimension – without generating a contrast. This duality between the self-reflective and the poetic is characteristic of the young generation of figurative painters who have emerged since the 1990s.

With their translucent watercolour-like brushstrokes Kørners pictures appear casual and almost haphazard, as something that has yet to settle. The casual idiom is in continuation of Expressionist painting which traditionally has been regarded as an expression of the artist’s own inner emotional life. However, it is the viewer’s emotions and imagination that Kørner appeals to in his art.

Art’s communication with the audience is a primary theme in Kørner’s art. He endeavours to redefine the viewer’s encounter with the painting.

Often staging his pictures in large spatial installations, he takes the paintings off the wall and places them on the floor alongside furniture and ceramic sculptures, exhibits them on stages or seals them behind glass.

In other contexts Kørner has brought his paintings out into the public space in order to disrupt the habitual art experience associated with the white halls of the museum. He has hung his paintings from trees and cranes, carried them through Copenhagen’s main railway station and sailed them on ships. In these performances the paintings become a form of actors meeting the audience in unexpected places. The dialogue which grows out of the encounter with the picture becomes central.

In these projects Kørner attempts to create a more active and committed role for the art audience. This thought is prevalent in contemporary art and has roots in the 1960s experimental art movements such as performance art, happenings, fluxus and installation art.

DK-2635 Ishøj
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