VIKTOR KOEN SHARE'S HIS MAGIC | Flat base decoded
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VIKTOR KOEN SHARE'S HIS MAGIC

 

Hiding away in his small but intimate studio in Gramercy Park, New York, is graphic and illustration artist, Viktor Koen. Those based in New York have probably seen his work in many a publication like, The New York Times, or posters on the subway for The School of Visual Arts, and not realise all comes from this one genius of a man.

We arranged to meet the man himself and as he opened is door, we were greeted by this rather small but intense man. What he lacks in height he makes up for in personality and instantly put us at ease. With the Pet Shop Boys playing in the background we began to find out the inner workings of this incredible artist.
This is what we learned…
Are Pet Shop Boys your work music?
No. Well yes. But also, I’m listening to serious satellite radio. They have 60′s 70′s 80′s 90′s every genre of music. I mean, if you want to listen to Johnny Cash, they have an entire station, you could be listening to Johnny Cash 24 hours a day. But the Pet Shop Boys have not come to the Johnny Cash level yet. It’s like classic new wave. Im an 80′s kid so I like that stuff.
 Does music play any role in your work?
Not really. Unless I’m doing work for a CD, or a band, or something like that, then you have to listen to the music a lot to judge the visuals. But I listen to something at all times, thats the beauty of doing what I do, graphic designers and illustrators can be listening to music at all times. Unless I’m really concentrating or f**king up, then I’m fine. I used to have someone sitting in an armchair. You know, come over for a cup of coffee, I’ll be doing my clipping or retouching and we’ll be chatting. I don’t do that anymore ’cause I had to loose the arm chair and people I know now have jobs. Now I use the phone. There’s a very technical part to my work. I clean all of the photography and then I’m mixing and matching it, so I need stimulation in terms of listening to something or even being on the phone is the great. I can spend 45 minutes just talking to my Mom while clipping.
Do you set out with the same intention with your typography sets in the same way you would an illustrations for a gallery show?
Well, typography sets require an insane amount of raw materials. So in this aspect they are very different. In illustration I need a dozen or a dozen and a half images that I’m gonna mix. Type sets need hundreds upon hundreds of images. I will not start anything until I have a good amount of these shots up front. So for instance, I know I’m doing a tool type series, and I’ll go to a flee market and shoot tools, or at a museum or visit a tool dealer. The latest series I’ve been working on, Warthabet, I’ve been shooting guns for a good couple of years, so I knew already I had a good amount and even then I went to shoot a little more. I just finished an extra ‘t’ for the word strategy because I only have one version of each letter so when another is needed I have to custom build it.
When I was exhibiting in London, I was showing my Warthabet, The next day I went to the Imperial War Museum and I was like “Damn! I could have used those shots!” Even though I shot there maybe five or six years ago and I used a lot of the shots. But now, with more experience and better equipment I thought I would get better shots so those new shots allowed for and formed the new ‘t’.
Guns I have a lot of, toys too, food I had some. You’ve never seen anything like it at a family gathering, snapping pictures of everything before anyone can tuck in. I’m doing more food now so I’m shooting anything that has to do with pasta, pizza… It goes from really mundane daily objects to more exciting guns and military armour.
So thats the major difference- the amount of preparation before I can even start working on a project.
And when you start a project. Do you work with a client in mind or do you go with your inspiration start the project for pleasure?
If it’s an assignment, because sometime the alphabets are assignments, for instance I’ve done medical alphabets for Time Magazine…or the book review…I will do that specifically for a client with a special configuration of words. So I’m counting letters, I’m counting words, And you need to price it accordingly. 20 letters is 20 illustrations. So that’s one way to go.
The other way to go is the more editorial, social criticism work I do, which I know is going to be exhibited eventually and that will take 3, 4 ,5 months to put together. But I have some ‘go-to people’ that I will go to first and see if they want to exhibit them, and you know, people have been very interested, and that’s what led to the type directors club.
How has the response been to that show?
It’s been great. It’s been more than great. It was a packed house. They made me give a lecturer, because it is an educational space, and it’s a salon series, I don’t really know what that means but hey. It’s great, but putting together a presentation, for me, is usually a headache. But with this, giving a lecture at the beginning, I felt, gave a centre to what was going on in the show. It was no longer just people flowing in and out with a drink, or meeting friends there and then heading off somewhere else.  That is what openings are, just a meeting place, “Lets put something cultural in our agenda and then go watch a movie or something”. Instead, it created a core to the event, and people got to listen, and view a little of my process, and my process is a mystery to a lot of people so they got to see how simple, or complicated, depending on who you talk to, my process is.
The Type Directors club is a really active place; they do lots of seminars, lots of typography workshops, so there is a very healthy traffic.


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