Artist Interviews 2021
By Laura Siebold
Klaus Kersten is a visionary artist, based in Graz, Austria. His paintings, most of them created by a special painting technique called Mischtechnique, that is supposed to trigger a more subconscious experience of his art, introduce the viewer to a world outside the physical reality we live in. After learning about and from Amanda Sage’s visionary painting techniques, Kersten arrived at his unique style, a combination of visionary art and phantastic realism. With his art, Kersten paves the way for viewers to perceive his art without limiting themselves to the logical thinking of the mind. Kersten believes that “there is more to our existence than what we perceive with our senses”. In his interview, he talks about his journey to becoming a visionary artist and about the ways that his art might be a pathway to finding answers that lie inward, outside of the abilities of the conscious mind, and to discover one’s true nature. We learn about meaningful collaborations Kersten experienced with other artists, current projects, and some special places of creativity.
Your art has a very unique approach, as it blends visionary elements with unconscious worlds of the mind. How did you develop your unique artistic style?
Thank you for your interest in my art and for the opportunity to share my thoughts and my work in your ART SQUAT Magazine. It’s nice to hear that you consider my art being more unique, not too mainstream, which is something I try to do for a certain reason: The messages that I am trying to convey through my paintings are not easily understood by a reasoning mind. Our mind, unfortunately, is a very limited tool if it comes to gathering wisdom about our existence, the true nature of this physical world or the simple question “Who am I?” – which are some of the topics that I am addressing with my art. When watching my paintings, you should feel invited to restrain from logical thinking, switch off your mind for a while, open up to more subconscious ways of perception and let the paintings do their work by triggering something deep inside you. Probably some remembrance of who you really are and what you are here for.
Over the years I discovered that a certain painting style would be required in order to achieve this goal. There are quite a few visionary artists who are already showing the path and I was very happy coming across and learning from them. My preferred painting technique is the so-called “Mischtechnique”, allowing for the necessary transparences and smooth transitions. This technique is not a new invention though, actually at least dating back to Italian Renaissance painters of the 15th century. It was kind of “rediscovered” and applied by a handful of serious artists of the surrealist and the phantastic realists area of the last century, among other places in particular here in Austria. And I was very lucky to actually learn from them and from their scholars. They certainly influenced me and helped me to develop my approach, which I am very grateful for.
“Shamanic Encounter”, 35x35”, oil and casein on canvas, 2015
Was there a special moment or incident in your life which made you dedicate your career to art?
Yes, there was an event that changed my intentions towards painting and opened me up to new potentials. It was almost 10 years ago when I was asked by Anni Fuchs, the daughter in law of Prof. Ernst Fuchs (one of the great Austrian Phantastic Realist Painters) if I would like to organize a vernissage with one of her featured artists, Amanda Sage (@amandasageart II https://www.instagram.com/amandasageart/). I gladly accepted and got to know Amanda, an US-born visionary artist and truly inspiring painter and teacher. Short after I did my first painting seminar with her which became the starting point of a completely new creative phase in my life. I had been painting before that, of course, but more intuitively and self-taught, trying to express my inner thoughts and concepts of the world and the human psyche in a more abstract way. After having gone through a number of teachings and inspiring painting retreats, I more and more managed to refine my techniques and style-wise eventually ended up in visionary art and phantastic realism.
“(Sub)consciousness, 55x40”, acrylics on canvas, 2010.
The fine line between our waking consciousness and everything else that lies beneath. One of my earlier paintings.
Eventually developing a more refined painting style, using Mischtechnique and oils.
Including figures and other phantastic/realistic and visionary elements. This is actually the painted wall in my studio.
Is there a specific message you want to convey with your art?
Thank you for this question. Yes. I am convinced that there is more to our existence than what we perceive with our senses. My art shall be a pathway to this world beyond. I mean, our 5 senses and our thinking mind are amazing tools which enable us to navigate through our life here on this planet. At the same time, unfortunately, they are very limiting. It is a known fact that our 5 senses and our waking consciousness are leaving out more than they are taking in. So the fundamental question to all humans is: “What is left out?” (I am quoting Alan Watts here).
Who am I, where do I come from and where will I go, is there time or is it just a construct of our mind? Same with space? Is this whole physical reality an illusion, including our lives? Are we actually dreaming? All those questions have been tried to be answered by mystics and religions of all times and there are numerous paths you can pursue to find the answer. But there is one thing that all the paths have in common: The answer is not out there, it cannot be found outside of yourself. The answer lies within. And my art might possibly motivate people to start seeking, to look inward, to feel into those questions and probably became aware of some answers – and eventually become aware of their true nature.
“Reality Creation”, Acrylics, casein and oil on canvas, 35×35″, 2016
The universe is inside of us just as we are inside the universe.
We a r e the universe. You yourself are the creator of your reality.
You state that you usually don’t paint what can be seen with the eyes in the physical world, but rather encourage your viewers to look inward. How can art show us and make us understand things we didn’t know about life before?
In my understanding this is actually the true mission of art. Point to the divine (that is actually within you). With this kind of art, it just isn’t enough to look at it with your eyes. You have to feel into the paintings and become aware of some meaning on a different level. Could be the subconscious mind, could be the more evolved level of understanding of your true self. Actually, there isn’t anything we don’t know yet, but it’s veiled, we lost access to this knowingness. My paintings might trigger something within the viewer that helps opening up for remembrance.
“Higher Self”, 24×31″, Tempera grassa, casein and oil on canvas, painted in 2017 at Alex Grey’s COSM, north of NYC.
Higher Self looking down on its facets that are currently incarnated in a human body for experiencing physical reality.
“Dreaming?″, Tempera grassa and oil on canvas, painted in 2018 in Italy.
Did you ever collaborate with other artists throughout your career? If yes, what did you learn from these collaborations?
I would like to mention a few of my teachers, who were incredibly inspiring. We usually painted together for weeks in very small groups and the transfer of knowledge, painting techniques and also general wisdom was phenomenal. Amanda Sage (@amandasageart), with whom I painted not only here in Austria but also in Italy and New York, just like Prof. Phil Rubinov (@professor.phil), Alex Grey (@alexgreycosm) or Lilian Kolster (@liliankolster), just to mention the most important ones. They are all amazing artists and I feel very grateful for having had the chance to learn about their individual painting techniques and conceptional tools. You know, whenever you paint with other artists in the same studio space for days or weeks, there is an exchange of experiences, energies and vibes. That’s why I am very happy to do so, and I really appreciate those opportunities. I collaborated with visionary artist Verena Wild (@verena_wild22) from Germany and Ekaterina Gromchenko, a Russian-born artist who introduced me to traditional icon painting (which is also a truly divine art that I would consider “visionary” in many ways).
“Tree of life”, 35x35”, tempera grassa and oil on canvas.
Collaboration with visionary artist Verena Wild.
I did the hands and the background, Verena painted the animals.
4 weeks painting intensive in Italy with amazing visionary artists and teachers. Ekaterina Gromchenko (@ekaterina_gromchenko),
Vera Atlantia (@vera.atlantia), Kuba Ambrose (@kuba_ambrose) and Amanda Sage (@amandasageart, in front).
Organized in 2018 by the Vienna Academy of Visionary Art, a big thanks goes to the director and artist Laurence Caruana (@laurence_caruana)!
Which has been your favorite exhibit so far? Have your exhibitions provoked different reactions in different countries?
I have started doing exhibitions only recently. For me it is more satisfying to show my paintings in environments that fit my topics and to an audience that already brings along a certain awareness and openness in relation to spiritual questions. On the other hand, it may also be interesting and rewarding to address people who are totally new to visionary art. In general, the reactions of viewers vary greatly. But that does not depend on the country. I think it’s also nice to showcase in smaller places where you can more easily connect to people. I really liked this Yoga center in Southern Austria where I exhibited over New Year in 2018. And right now, I am looking forward to an opportunity in the US. I had some talks with one of board members of the California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks (CMATO) about doing an exhibition there. I truly look forward to that.
Exhibition and talk at Tamanga, Southern Austria, 2018
How did you find your unique artistic voice? Do you consider your art as a pathway to an alternate world or state of mind/things?
Yes, absolutely. With my art I try to point on whatever lies beyond our physical world, beyond our limited human experience. I am convinced that my existence is not limited to those few decades here on earth – just like what we call “reality” is not as real as we think. It’s an illusion, like a dream that we are going to wake up from eventually. I can’t imagine any better story to tell with my art. On top of that, it’s a story that concerns everyone. When I started out on my spiritual journey myself a long time ago, I often found paintings and illustrations more helpful than tons of plain text. Soon after, I decided that I would like to do visionary art myself, contributing to the growing visionary art movement.
55×40″, Tempera grassa and oil on canvas, 2018
While living our lives here in this physical reality, trapped in our bodies, facing great pleasures and painful experiences,
we still feel deep inside that there is a world out there, the spirit world, another dimension,
where we once came from and where we will return to one day.
While we are kind of sleeping here in a monochrome state, we will be alive and awake in the most
colorful spheres on the other side. We all got the divine spark inside that connects us with our higher Self,
with the other dimension, the immortal realm. If you haven’t found it yet, search for it.
It’s worth all the efforts.
Do you believe in the saying that everything happens for a reason? Is this true for art? Which ideas are you guided by in the artistic process?
Yes. I definitely believe that everything in life happens for a reason. Actually, I know that from deep inside. The majority of people call it “coincidence”, when unexpected events occur to them which even trigger significant changes to their lives. By that they probably miss the whole point. On the other hand, when people start to become more conscious and to open up to their inner self, they begin to connect the dots and to see behind the obvious. They understand why certain things happen to them and gladly accept everything that comes their way, may it be joyful or miserable. Certain events for example may trigger the process of looking inside and asking yourself some very important questions, like who you are, why you are here, which experiences you are supposed to go through, are you on the right path or is it time for a change? When looking back on my own life, all the things that happened to me look like a gentle push into the right direction. Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher, once said: “Opportunities increase as they are taken.” So better be aware of all the opportunities that come your way and take them. Like I said before… when I was offered the chance to do a vernissage with Amanda Sage and get to know and learn from her, this event tremendously changed and enriched my artistic life. But I actively had to accept that opportunity.
“The seeker”, Tempera grassa and oil on canvas, 2019, in a nice 19th century wooden frame.
We are all seekers in the one or the other way, just some don’t know yet.
Have you arrived?
We are curious what you are currently working on. Can you give us an insight into future projects?
Yes, pleasure to do so. On the one hand, I am working on another truly “visionary” piece, resembling the human journey and its purpose: The True Self is incarnating here on this planet for many lifetimes through all the ages and in all the cultures in order to make experiences and collect and gain wisdom. The different epochs are symbolized by significant buildings of that times, like Stonehenge, the pyramids of Gizeh or a huge Buddha statue. The collection of wisdom is shown by the water constantly flowing into the chalice and after completion of an incarnation, the newly acquired wisdom is fed back to the True Self. Once the chalice is full, it’s probably time to complete the circle of incarnations and move on to whatever is waiting.
A second piece I am working on and which is almost finished is dealing with the ever-present topic of death, reminding us of the fact that death as we know it actually doesn’t exist. At least not in a human sense. The engraving on the tomb stone says “Vivo. Mors non est”, meaning “I am living. There is no death”. The angel is holding a skull, resembling the mortal human, and at the same time representing the celestial dimensions where there is no death.
On the other hand, in parallel I am constantly working on my fine art restauration projects. It’s hard to describe how much pleasure I gain from reviving old master pieces. It’s almost like walking in the shoes of Italian Renaissance painters. I am loving it.
“The human journey”, Work in progress
“Remembrance”, 40x30”. Still working on details.
I really enjoy putting my unfinished paintings in the designated frame just to preview the final result.
Beautiful 19th century Florentine wooden and gold plated frame.
Restauration in progress, 18th century copy of the Venetian Palma il Vecchio painting “Sacra Conversatione”.
Needs fixing of a hole, stretching, intense cleaning and retouching in some critical areas, like St. Catherine’s face.
Partly completed. Can’t wait to complete it and put it back into the frame.
If you had the chance to create art anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?
My preference would be to paint with like-minded artists, no matter, where. And if I could choose the place? Well, I was quite fortunate in my life having the chance to travel a lot and see some really nice places. For painting I would prefer remote natural environments, with overwhelming nature, good fresh food, clean air and water, and so on. Like for example Hawaii, or certain islands in the Indian ocean. Places where creativity just flows by itself. It’s all about the energies and the people around that make me feel comfortable to paint. For example, I worked in a lovely small eco-village in northern Italy, nicely located in the hills and aside a beautiful emerald colored river where they provided home-grown vegetarian food and comfortable studios for creating art. Just perfect. And when I’m home in Austria, I have my studio which I decorated in a way that I really enjoy spending time there and making art.
My studio in Austria where I painted the wall to create the right mood for painting.