Michaela Konrad is an Austrian artist living and working in both Vienna, Austria and Santa Cruz, Tenerife. She does paintings, drawings, and comics that are both visually vibrant and wrought with emotional tension. Recently her drawings came to life thanks to collaboration with Romanian multi-media artist Daniel Dorobantu, for a multimedia installation, Memories of Now, currently on view till March 2012 at the Ars Electronica Center. We catch up with her to discuss her influences, ideas, and what it truly means to be lost in space.
Space Culture and Pop Art from the 60’s seem to be huge themes in your work; what specific influences do you keep at the forefront of your mind while you work?Yes, the visual themes of my work are influenced by Pop Art and especially by American Comics from the 60′s, like Flash Gordon by Alex Raymond. I also admire some of the contemporary comic artists, like Frank Quitely. Roy Lichtenstein is another big influence, especially because he was the first artist to elevate comic motifs into “high art“ and have it exhibited in museums. Also, Art Nouveau artists, like Alfons Mucha, who were able to depict their subjects realistically and at the same time in a very minimal style with bold outlines impress me. However, more than just draw from the things that inspire me, within the last couple of years I have been able to develop a personal style where I am able to communicate what I want to say.
Moonstruck with LR Prints starting at 78.00
Your color palette is very bold, what techniques and supplies do you use to maintain this pop vibrancy?First I start off my drawing traditionally with pencil and ink. Then I scan my handmade ink drawings and correct the lines digitally with my tablet and make some corrections in the composition. The last step is the color composition which is perhaps my favorite part of my work. I usually use my computer to play around with a variety of combinations in order to decide my palette. A lot of trial and error goes into it. When I make a painting, I try to come as close as possible to the digital colors I decided on. It is the selection of bright, vibrant colors of the computer that guide my color palette.
Your drawings were recently used in a multi-media experience at Ars Electronica Festival how has working collaboratively and within the New Media genre influenced how you make your work and form ideas?My collaboration with the Romanian electronic musician and multimedia artist Daniel Dorobantu began in 2008, when he made a live music performance and a sound installation for my exhibition Comic Impacts Art in the Museum of Fine Arts in Temeswar (Romania). He created a song called “Spacelove”, which he performed in a generative way. I was impressed by the way he could transform the mood of the images into music. Later on, the idea to create Memories of Now was born. We now are directly working with the Ars Electronica Center in Linz (Austria), which also organizes the famous Ars Electronica Festival every year. When we had a first multimedia performance of Memories of Now in the Deepspace of the Ars Electronica Center in 2010. I was so deeply impressed by the new dimensions (16 x 9 meters-roughly 52 ½ x 30 feet, split between wall and floor) and by the movement and sounds Daniel had created, that I literally thought: “I will never paint again…” This didn’t happen of course and I still love to paint, but since then I often apply “movement” in my images – a little video-like.
Installation of Memories of Now
What sort of experience are viewers of Memories of Now in for? Generally speaking, Memories of Now offers a changing experience, a mulch-faceted, chameleon-comic strip that goes beyond linear storytelling and invites the user to create his/her own narrative. The audience normally becomes quite calm and contemplative.
Video Presentation of Memories of Now
Every episode of Memories of Now is different. With “Spirit of the Positrons” for the Ars Electronica Festival, is going to be a little faster and bolder, but it will still trigger contemplation within the audience, a kind of faster contemplation. The festival theme of this year is “Origin-How it all begins” and it is connected to CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research). This is a wonderful opportunity, because it fits perfectly to Daniel’s and my interests.
OLGA Prints at 78.00
Your images although mimicking a comic book format, seem more contemplative rather than narrative-driven. Is this due to the quiet space location or setting an emotional tone?That’s true, my images are not comics in a classical sense. My new “surrealistic” comic Mondwandler is a sequence of images, which take place on the moon. My protagonist follows the footsteps of the 24 Apollo Astronauts, who made the journey to the moon. I have arranged selected sections of the astronauts’ original quotes into a kind of contemplative narration. When I chose the quotes, I focused on selecting on the ones that described the impressions and insights the astronauts had there. These men inspire me a lot; they are the only people, who were able to see the Earth as a small globe, from outside. Science usually is the most important inspiration of my art, or rather: the philosophical interpretation and understanding of science. Quantum mechanics, string theory, astronomy … all these things inspire my work and my thinking.
Do you keep a sketchbook? If you do, what’s in it and would you mind showing us some sample pages?Yes, I do. Sometimes I use a sketchbook, sometimes I make my sketches on loose papers.
Micaela’s sketch vs final presentation
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?I am lucky, because I have a lot of close friends who give me lot of advice that is greatly appreciated. So it’s difficult to choose the best advice. However, 4 years ago, a friend of mine sent me an email with an interview of Charles Saatchi talking about his Online Gallery. My friend wrote: “This might be interesting. Maybe you should try it out.” I tried it out and she was right. Saatchi Online has become a very interesting and vivid platform recently. And in my opinion it is really contemporary, breaking the sometimes very rigid structures of classical art galleries.
Do you take breaks while you work? If you do what do you do and where do you go?I love breaks. And I have to make many breaks to prepare the liters of tea I usually drink during my work. If I have more time I like to go to the beach or to meet a friend.