Christian Klute: “Realism in itself is nothing but abstract elements organized in a way the human brain translates into something known”
Do you remember the moment or the event that you understood that painting was the thing for you?
It was a very long and slow process as art came to me relatively late when I was in my mid-twenties. It sneaked in through a media designer job where I had to edit photographs of a bodypainting event which somehow triggered me to get creative doing digital collages. From there I moved on to drawing and later painting traditionally while this whole thing just grew on me and became more and more consuming.
Your paintings have all a dark tilt. How would you define the aesthetics you go after and the sensations you want to deliver to the viewers?
For me, it´s all about the sublime atmosphere those dark, earthy tones create. I always admired that in the works of Rembrandt or the Tonalists. It´s this calmness and depth they radiate that draws me in and in my work, I explore my version of it.
No or few chromatic elements in your works What do you find in this path that you don’t in colors?
There is just something to low chroma pictures that resonates with me. Maybe it´s this unified, zen-like look that attracts me so much. Of course, I like some colorful images of other painters too, but when I look at which kind of paintings move me the most, it´s more often than not the ones with very limited color palettes.
On your blog, you go through the process of developing a personal painting technique. Where did this necessity spring from? Looking back, what are the artists that may have influenced this work?
I always enjoyed experimenting and finding unconventional ways of doing things and this tendency got supercharged by Jeremy Mann whose workshop I joined in 2017. This started an ongoing process of self-inquiry and an approach to painting purely based on my gut-felt intuition instead of following conventional methods.
So…how can your painting technique be summarized?
It´s basically a subtractive painting method, meaning I cover the surface with oil paint and then work out the light by removing it again using various tools like rubber brushes or towels. The light then shines through the thin paint layer and reflects back from the white ground which allows me to work with all kinds of different textures and effects that would be difficult to achieve with conventional methods.
And what about your creative process?
The foundation of my process is daily routines that keep me creative regardless of how I feel or how inspired I am. I basically paint every day and now that I´m slowly getting out of a 19-month practice phase, I also regularly photograph new motives and experiment with all kinds of ideas. I´m still working on finding a balance between all these tasks, to be honest. There are not enough hours in a day.
Your works, especially your landscapes I’d say, bring to mind certain photographic styles of the past century. What is your relation with this means of expression? What are some photographers that really touch your chords?
I guess you´re referring to the Master study series? When I was starting to develop my technique, I did large amounts of small studies from imagination to experiment with different approaches. After I found my method and got more experienced with it, I began to use reference photos again to learn how to control it more, so I needed a good source of photos to keep my daily study practice going. Luckily I came across Pictorialism, a photographic movement from the late 19th century. It was a perfect match for the look I was striving for in my paintings and provided me with hundreds of amazing black and white photographs of a wide variety of subjects I could use to hone my skills with. My favorite photographers of that era are Edward Steichen, Leonard Misonne and Eugène Atget among many others.
The painter Ken Danby is quoted saying that “Realism and Abstractism work best together”. What do you think of this statement? How do you try to go after it?
I agree and would add that Realism in itself is nothing but abstract elements organized in a way the human brain translates into something known, like a landscape or a face. An important part of my painting process is to alter this organized chaos to the point where a painting has just the right dose of realism to make sense while keeping the level of abstraction high enough to make it exciting. Too much realism and it becomes too obvious, too much abstraction and the subject don´t translate. To me finding this sweet spot is the most challenging aspect of painting.
A living artist you want to give a shout out to and suggest our readers? Why this choice?
For sure Jeremy Mann. A very inspirational guy I owe a lot to. Besides his art, I recommend checking out his interviews and the documentary.
Next and upcoming projects?
I´m currently working on pieces for an upcoming group show and I also experiment with new collage-like elements in my paintings. Updates on all my activities can be found on my social media or the Newsletter on my website www.christianklute.com