Copenhagen born John Kørner uses his painting as a method to exercise the mind – his images are mysterious visions that often feel like snap shots of an ambient dream. It was said that Rene Magritte would place his finger on the rim of a glass of water when falling asleep, and as he drifted off his finger would slip, spilling the glass and waking him up – and it was at this point he would immediately start painting – that impossible point of presence between fantasy and reality. Where Magritte left off, Kørner has picked up from. They’re a contemporary interpretation of a slightly absurd imaginary existence.
Born in 1967, Kørner still lives and works in his native Copenhagen – a city that in recent years has come to the forefront of contemporary art. No longer thought of for its naïve landscapes or minimalist design, the Scandinavian countries have found themselves amongst a resurgence in global interest in their art. Having studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art, Kørner exhibited in many solo shows around Denmark, before gaining recent worldwide recognoiton, having shown at Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2012), Tate Modern, London (2010) and the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2011).
Previously using Danish sex workers and soldiers fighting in Afghanistan as points of departure, this new series of works instead focus on the seemingly incongruous theme of apples.But there is more to the eye from the seemingly innocuous fruit – when one scratches the surface, it becomes apparent the apple is a metaphor for global food production, consumption, survival, and the social relationship with food.
Kørner’s canvases merge scenes of the everyday, which he blurs in to ambiguous and abstracted backgrounds, providing compositions that are bound by neither time nor place but become universal signifiers. The boundaries between convention and object because elasticated and the shapes give ideas of figuration – a suggestion of an apple, a hint of architecture, and a splash of human occupation in the scene leave them open to a personal interpretation. The images seem restless – man’s eternal struggle to provide and sustain ourselves with nutrition and the tension between nature and agriculture, which leads to suggestions of manufacture and our place as an evolving society. The streaks of negative white space leave places for the onlooker to add their own pieces of the imaginative puzzle.
Kørner’s work is whimsical and leads the onlooker on a journey of discovery. It’s topical and is the right side of the line of questioning without being narcissistic. The show at Victoria Miro of his Apple Bomb series shows the painter has great depth, and hopefully will continue to produce more works in this ethos as his popularity no doubt continues to grow.
By Toby Mellors
John Kørner at Victoria Miro, 8 April – 14 May 2016, 14 St. George Street, London W1S 1FE. Admission free.