Vivien Kohler featured on Artthrob_

29 Jan 2018

Out The Box: A Profile of Vivien Kohler

By Nolan Stevens

January 29, 2018

 

There is a cynical notion that art is a rip-off, a scam. It is near impossible to explain to those cynics that there are people who use this gift of artistic expression not to enslave but rather to free, to show that beauty is possible in the world, even in the most wretched of situations.

Vivien Kohler is such an artist, using his creativity as a beacon of hope. Kohler’s work, whether in its hyper-realistic figurative form or his more recent abstracted pieces, has always drawn from his surrounds– the realities which make up life in Johannesburg. Originally from Cape Town, Kohler’s figurative works were born from life amidst the gang-plagued environment of the Cape Flats. Against this environment, the influence of family and community instilled him with an outlook of togetherness and hope. This has become an interwoven conceptual thread through his work and process. In Aither, for example, an oil painting on found metal and board, a male appears to be ascending from a bed of cardboard. Works such as these echo sentiments of being able to transcend the seemingly hopeless realities of poverty and hardship. In this piece, as in so many others, Kohler paints layered surfaces of Masonite board to mimic the appearance of cardboard.

The cardboard box, for Kohler, refers to the dualism between poverty and excess so prevalent in this country. The metaphor which Kohler extracts from cardboard is twofold: on one level cardboard boxes allude to economic potentiality, having contained something of value. On a completely different level is a quality that most of us are far too familiar seeing in our urban environments – discarded cardboard boxes which have more in common with loss of potentiality and hope than the crisper variety. Kohler’s references this form of cardboard by introducing carefully added creases, tears and scuff marks on to the meticulously painted surface of cardboard. The figures he paints however are  not shown as people who are trapped and hopeless. In works such as Those Who Dream a woman rests on a bed of sprawled cardboard. Her expression, not caught in the grips of torment, but somehow exuding a peacefulness, seems to convey a sense of tomorrow being a better day. This work sees Kohler use lettering in a manner which references the realness of the grungy Johannesburg inner-city he engages with on an almost daily basis.

In Kohler’s aesthetic deviation into the abstraction in his Pareidolia series of geometric cardboard constructions, we see him continuing the conceptual threads created in his figurative work which speaks to hope and hopelessness. This he does without the inclusion of the figurative forms. In this body of work which takes its name from the psychological term for the mind’s obsession for finding patterns in random objects, Kohler’s investigation with meaning and meaninglessness draws from the excess of cultural waste within this urban landscape. Works such as FRGL SML see Kohler attempting to make sense of the nonsense existing within the dualistic cityscape he inhabits. It is a duality which sees rough sleepers, living under buildings owned by billionaire moguls, to interrogating the architectural appearance of a city in conflict with itself. Terms such as ‘A world class African city,’ touch on a history of Dutch architecture attempting to fuse with contemporary African aesthetic. These works also ask questions of the art market itself which attaches value to conceptual importance of objects. Vivien Kohler’s repackaging of contemporary African existence via the appearance of discarded cardboard poses enough questions for buyers in Johannesburg, Cape Town and London to take note of him.

In a world of cynicism and negativity, Vivien Kohler’s creations are refreshing. His choice to provide an alternative viewpoint to the negative African narrative we see regurgitated so often, is an enlightening take of contemporary urban African life. Kohler portrays the harsh realities of the common African experience whilst simultaneously showing how a positive mindset is still  possible. Vivien Kohler by no means is an artist who has figured out all life’s answers, his continuing interrogation of the African condition is alive in every piece he creates.

To view the original feature on Artthrob.co.za, please click here

 

  Profile Page (Vivien Kohler)

Vivien Kohler featured on Artthrob_

Related Articles

The latest related insights from Sulger-Buel Lovell around the world.

The Sunday Times reviews 'At the Still Point of the Turning World'

The Sunday Times reviews 'At the Still Point of the Turning World'

Vivien Kohler
Reviews
05 Nov 2018

Vivien Kohler's work offers viewers the chance to explore, discuss and share the dreamscape of ordinary South African life, writes Andrew Miller

   View more
Conté Magazine features Vivien Kohler as contributing artist

Conté Magazine features Vivien Kohler as contributing artist

Vivien Kohler
Press
04 Jul 2018

"Unsubstantiated is tantamount to assumption, and assumption is equivalent to the lie which frames its victim."

   View more
Jozi Jols Issue #8 - Cultural City Guide: Interview

Jozi Jols Issue #8 - Cultural City Guide: Interview

Vivien Kohler
Press
20 Nov 2017

"I have found that my art gives to me before it gives to others." - Vivien Kohler

   View more
Thami Mnyele Best Sculpture Award Winner

Thami Mnyele Best Sculpture Award Winner

Vivien Kohler
News
26 Sep 2017

Vivien Kohler announced as Thami Mnyele Best Sculpture Merit Award winner 

   View more
Top 15 entry for Thami Mnyele Fine Arts Awards

Top 15 entry for Thami Mnyele Fine Arts Awards

Vivien Kohler
News
08 Sep 2017

Vivien Kohler has been shortlisted as one of the top 15 entries for the Thami Mnyele Fine Arts Awards

   View more
The Power Of Dreams

The Power Of Dreams

Vivien Kohler
Press
14 Jun 2017

Visual artist Vivien Kohler reflects on socio-economic issues. 

   View more
Finding Beauty in Decay

Finding Beauty in Decay

Vivien Kohler
Press
29 May 2017

Artist Vivien Kohler has mastered the art of re-purposing discarded objects to create poignant snapshots about humanity and society.

   View more
De(Re)tritus interview

De(Re)tritus interview

Vivien Kohler
Interviews
07 Sep 2014

Name: Vivien Kohler Age: 38 Type of artist: Contemporary mixed media South African Artist  City/Neighbourhood: Pta / Jhb / CT     

   View more

No results