What was your inspiration behind "peace"?
In my first series of sculptural artworks, I chose to interpret Chinese characters, Peace being one of them. This was the beginning of my exploration into the use of aluminum, and various textures in my work. A passage from the description of Peace read, ”When there is equilibrium among humans, then nature and the heavens are balanced, and peace prevails.”
So, my sculptural translation uses stylized figures, natural materials and textures to represent this spiritual concept of a balance of opposing forces, and a reverence for our physical world. This was my first, and certainly, one of my finest artworks. An overwhelming favorite whenever it’s exhibited.
What is your signature style of painting?
My signature style is unmistakable, calligraphic compositions on wood. When I finished my first painting (Inner-Dialog), I knew, this was a marriage made in heaven. I have a special fascination with Calligraphy. This love of line has been evident ever since I can remember. I strongly identify with the beauty, the rhythms, the flow of energy expressed with this art form. Little did I know, that it would one day become my voice.
As for the wood... Well, that was a pleasant surprise. I chose birch wood, as opposed to canvas or paper, to provide my newfound creative energy to grow in uncharted territory. The wood's grain reveals similar rhythms and flow of energy. The relationship between its natural characteristics and my intuitive self-expression grows deeper with every painting.
My respect for this material can literally be seen in the visual transparency of my art... beautiful, calming, and deep with imagery and emotion. To see, hear, and feel beneath the painted surface, allows us to bond with increasing intensity... the real thrill in my creative process!
Today, I’ve transformed into sculptural art. The foundation of my work remains the same...The inherent beauty of natural wood with the rhythm and flow of dynamic energy and intuitive expression.
What made you delve into your fine art career full time?
When I was in my mid-twenties, I was working as an art director and commercial illustrator. I remember clearly, asking myself which direction do I want to pursue, advertising or fine art? I chose advertising for my main focus. 12 years later, I was in a much better “space” and I knew that now was the time. I was genuinely prepared to begin this artistic journey to where I had always wanted to go... deep inside myself. As I said before, when I finished the first painting (Inner-Dialog), I knew this was the path to not only knowing myself, but sharing myself with the world. A new and exhilarating way to go out and “play” with others! I still split my time between advertising and fine art. However, my fine art is commanding more of my attention. So, let me say, “Thank you to Kurt, and to a graciously, receptive audience. Thank you so much.”
What was the biggest thrill as a professional artist?
That’s like asking, what was you biggest orgasm. Pride alone, you’d have to acknowledge at least three, right!?
There have been a few biggest thrills! I would have to go back to my first big freelance illustration job in the mid ’80’s. That’s when I truly realized I was a professional artist. As a fine artist, my first biggest thrill came when I sold my first painting, Heartstrings. The couple that bought it are prominent collectors and my biggest. As of today, my biggest thrill came as a 9’ x 6’ commission by that same couple. My painting, Neptune, is the centerpiece of their collection in a newly built house... an absolute honor. They could have commissioned any other artist. The thrill was reaching a new level of appreciation and stature from someone who loves you... as an artist, as a person. That’s beautiful, that’s what it’s all about.
What do you want people to know most about you?
What I want people to know most about me, is what kind of individual I am. And you will get that information from my art. Look at my art... really look and allow yourself to feel, hear what I’m saying. You will know that I am a powerful & positive force. I have an open heart, compassion for all, a sensual and whimsical nature, enormously optimistic, and a champion for your dreams. All that, I hope you can see and feel in my work.
When I think of all the people that have allowed me (my art) into their lives, that see me everyday, the untold ways I effect them... it brings me to tears. What do I want you to know most about me... I am the only one of me, offering you a part of me that you may find, is a part of you. Enjoy!”
Do you play a musical instrument?
Really? You play the Heart!
Everybody plays it.
It's not that hard,
but at times it's not that easy.
The beauty is, it's in your hands
all the time. With practice, it can
literally play by itself.
So it's truly up to you,
how lovely a melody you wish to play
for those around you lucky enough to hear.
One tip... be gentile, and try not to break any strings..
Loves First Flight
Just as a bird takes its first flight
from the nest out into the infinite spaces,
we too, come to that inevitable day...
and a force inherent in us all,
lifts us up, and for the first time we soar
with an open heart, for all to see.
And when we've caught our breath,
we are overcome with loves all consuming power-
that exhilarating feeling of being.
Anxious for the dawn... to fly into a new day.
Kurt Merkel ©1999
Kurt Merkel was a featured artist in MUSES magazine.
Interview from the MAY 2011 issue...