The late watercolour painter is celebrated at La Nit de L'Art
A German artist who is no longer alive will have his work exhibited on Mallorca for the first time this September. Andreas John looks at the art of Oskar Koller.
In his watercolours, the artist Oskar Koller – who died in 2004 – projected the “art of leaving out”. His work will be exhibited here for the first time during “La Nit de l’Art”, the annual nocturnal art festival in Palma.
Koller achieved fame through his watercolours. With this technique, the German-born artist, illustrator and graphic designer, could express his enormous strength, his effortless way of using colours, particularly well.
He used sprays and blots in a very sensitive and minimal way, always highly focused on not restricting the imagination of his work’s beholder. His favoured themes were flowers, landscapes and portraits.
Oskar Koller was born in 1925 in Erlangen. His childhood was shaped by hardship and austerity and – even back then – the strong desire to become a “painter”. However, livelihood being a priority, his mother convinced him to start a commercial apprenticeship. In 1943 he graduated as a commercial trader. During his apprenticeship, Oskar Koller dedicated his weekends to drawing and painting.
After the war, in 1957, Koller earned a grant for a scholarship in Paris, which was the centre of contemporary occidental art at that time. It was there where he had his first encounter with abstract trends and began to paint his first abstract paintings. “Over the time I developed my own authenticity. I realized that the more precise and clearer I used my creative means, the stronger my paintings grew. Nonetheless each new painting is a challenge towards artistic development. For me it means a journey of small steps. The more I commanded the picturesque, the more liberal and daring I learned to express myself – consequently making the fruits of maturity visible,” Koller once admitted later.
From 1959 he worked as a self-employed artist; his numerous solo exhibitions in his home country and abroad established his international reputation. His work was acknowledged in the achievement of various awards and prizes. Many published books, calendars and TV features made him recognized by a broader audience. At Nuremberg he was a member of an artist group called “the circle”.
Flowers, trees, landscapes and people are the themes of his watercolours, which developed from seeing nature during his travels: colour sparkling processions in India; extensive Mediterranean beaches; Buddhist monks in Thailand or Burma clad in radiant orange, and vibrant markets in Guatemala or Mexico.
Travelling and painting were inseparable contexts for Oskar Koller. “Travelling acquires new experiences – not only in places but also in people. I am a painter and far away from being a travel illustrator. I don’t tell stories, but use my means, colours and formal elements in my way.” Apart from his fascinating, colourful and cheerful paintings there are also contemplative emotions to be found among his works. His tree presentations, which he returned to several times over the years, demonstrate strength and expressivity. It was in 1976 when he expressed: “The joy of painting made me an artist. I sensed the air; saw the flowers, the people, the houses. I studied their forms.”
His painting can be identified by the precise recognition and the vivid reproduction of the expression without it remaining visible. With the effort not to restrict the imagination of the observer too much, he minimizes his themes to their essence and grants the main role to the “art of leaving out”. With his sensitivity towards colour and form, his unique spontaneous brushstrokes are formed.
Oskar Koller: “The detail is not the bottom line but rhythm and congruity of the weights in the painting’s sequence. Thereby life and a world of its own are created.”
The ‘signature’ of Oskar Koller is explicit: His applied abstract paintings – whether floral still lifes or landscapes – concentrate on the essential, they incorporate the empty space into the area and illuminate from afar with their radiant chromaticity.
Oskar Koller never made it easy for himself; on the contrary, he chose the hard way in order to make it easy for the viewer. For him, art signified always something that had to be performed by the artist and not the observer.
To see the exhibition visit:
C/ Can Veri 7
Palma de Mallorca
Open from 10.00 – 18.00 Monday to Friday.