Life in a Box. John Kørner. 2019. Photo: Victoria Miro & the artist

Type R Series*: Painter John Kørner Turns Problems into the Fuel for Life

“Problems are the fuel for life-fat ones, skinny ones, tall ones,” says prominent Danish painter John Kørner. It makes us both laugh because I’ve encountered some challenges at the outset of our interview. I am more than a foot shorter than John and I’ve cut off his head while trying to record a video of us together. It’s a perfect scenario for talking about art focused on working with life’s ‘problems’ for which John is widely celebrated.

The recurring themes in John’s work, such as the egg shape forms representing problems and his use of vibrant yellow tones, draw on his ability to use challenges as a source of innovation and growth.

Recalling the story of Christopher Columbus challenging one of his critics to stand an egg on end on a table, John took to the notion of the egg shape as indicative of problems. And, he began to place it in his work after finding himself at an impasse while working on a particularly difficult painting years ago. In some shows he has even created playful installations where the egg-shaped problems are tucked into beds and put away for the night.

Running from the Sun. John Kørner. 2019. Photo: Victoria Miro & the artist

A road accident John had in Spain years ago has also had a lasting impact on his work. His injuries temporarily altered his sight, producing an intense yellow haze, which he chose to put to productive use in his work. “It completely changed my view… It was like a gift that I had this yellow vision. If you have moments like that something special is going on,” he says.

The title of his recent show at the Victoria Miro GalleryLife in a Box” refers to the things- physical, emotional, conceptual- that constrain us and the ways in which we attempt to overcome them. Like many of John’s other works the show is interactive and he creates layers of engagement for instance placing barriers or ‘problems’ between the viewer and the painting that they have to navigate.

“We relate to our problems by seeing them as painful or not wanting to look at them. In this show they become appealing,” Emily Steer of Elephant Magazine said at a recent talk at the gallery.

In many respects John urges us to embrace them. “I’m proud of my problems and carry them along. There is no paradise-this is it. You have to love how the world is.”

But, he does believe that we are at a difficult moment in history and the challenges of the day shape his work as he, like many of us, grapple with what we forge from them and what comes next.

John’s Bio: John Kørner trained at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Copenhagen. He has won a Carnegie Art Award twice and an Eckersberg Medal, named after the father of Danish painting. John has shown his work at numerous galleries and museums around the world and is known for his vibrant paintings and multi-media installations.

*Type R Series: This is part of a collection of interviews and stories related to transformative resilience and Type Rs- the people, leaders, businesses, families, and communities that turn challenges into opportunities, innovation, and growth.