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During the two years that has passed since he graduated from Royal College of Fine Arts, 30 years old artist Peter Köhler has had several collective and individual exhibitions, presented numerous editions of his own fanzine ¨Mascara¨and published the book ¨Open¨. What holds the key to his sucess?
When Peter Köhler in 2001, after a year as an assistant to New York artist Donald Baechler, came back to Stockholm, he brought hundreds of little drawings with him. Naive little doodles that in a short comic strip format act out scenes from the downside of life. In the book ¨Open¨ (Biondi Books), which consists of Köhler´s American drawings, there are scenes from reality interpreted in a highly personal manner. Here the viewer is proffered page after page of fragmented perceptions from a, to say the least, bizarre existence. ¨Really there are just as many weird types here in Sweden¨, Peter Köhler explains. ¨But in the States things are a bit more extreme. When I wasn´t working as an assistant I would just be sitting around drawing. I also travelled around the States and drew what I perceived of what I saw. It was very stimulating¨.
The absurd permeates every page of ¨Open¨, and in looking at it there is a distance, but it is more often loving than scorning. Really there are as many themes as there are drawings, but some of theme are undeniably reoccuring: kinky sex, how to handle depression, ironizing commercial messages and so on. In Peter Köhler´s consciously naive comic strips there is always a large portion of deliberate satire. ¨Certainly there is a sense of isolation in what I do¨, Köhler continues. ¨But it easily becomes sterotyped when it is talked about. I have been affected by writers like William Burroughs and Isidore Ducasse, and inn their work there is definitely a sense of isolation and an observation of the absurdities in life¨.
On a purely stylistic level there are certainly traces of the uncrowned king of underground comic strips; Robert Crumb. Köhler recounts how also the Swede Öyvind Fahlström and the French imagist Moreau have worked as sources of insperation. Moreover, painting occupies as much of more of Peter Köhler´s time as drawing does. Recently he exhibited some of his paintings at Gallery Brändström & Stene in Stockholm, and he is now preparing paintings for an individual exhibition in New York next year. ¨I don´t work specifically for a particular exhibition, I just work all the time¨, Köhler says. ¨Exiting things are happening all the time. Sure, being an artist can be hard, but you have to keep your own ball rolling. That is what I am doing¨.
In the fanzine ¨Mascara¨ Köhler has, alongside his own work, presented paintings, photography, collage and writing by friends. In the periphery of the project a network of DIY aesthetes was originated, who have exchanged material and helped each other over the years. Recently an exhibition around the work of his little group was held at Gallery 54 in Gothenburg. ¨It was great fun¨, Köhler says. ¨Fanzines like Mascara and Monolit were lined up on velvet beds in display cases! A completerly new perspective¨.
From art school and DIY out into the great international world of art, with large inner subject landscapes and subtle drawings. Peter Köhler doesn´t know why he has had such sucess, but suspects that it is a mix of hard work and pure luck. ¨It is a good motivation to never know exactly what will happen to you in life. Right now my forthcoming exhibition in New York is very important to me. What comes after that, we´ll just have to wait and see...
Stockholms Fria, April, 2002