The Rescue, 2007,
oil on linen, 38 x 24 inches
LG: When composing his paintings, Dino Valls uses the famous Jungian technic “active imagination”. Do you use it too?
SK: Salvador Dali developed a similar technique called the Paranoic-critical Method. I believe very strongly in the power and importance of the unconscious mind. Over the years, I have begun to rely much more heavily on my intuition when composing paintings. Relying too heavily on my intellect makes for stiff and predictable compositions. Working intuitively keeps me interested and allows for surprises that I wouldn’t have considered otherwise.
LG: Surrealism is very alive nowadays, so many talented amazing painters all over the world and many exhibitions going on. Why, however, in your opinion, is it still unknown to a wide audience and why do people generally tend to think about Surrealism only in terms of Dalì and that’s it?
SK: Dali, through his own efforts, has become commercialized. All of his contemporaries are mostly unknown to the public. The average person has a very poor knowledge of art history, at least here in the US. Although many people know Dali’s work, they know nothing about who he was or what his creative process was about.
Awareness of surrealism may be growing due to the efforts of various social media groups, galleries, and publications. Yet, I think that awareness is mainly spreading among like-minded artists and the public has been slow to respond. Surrealism requires an ability to surrender psychologically to those aspects of ourselves which are frightening and uncontrollable. Today’s world is a threatening place and many people prefer art that is familiar, non-confrontational, and reassuring.
The Crux IV, 2014,
oil on canvas, 24 x 60 inches
LG: What are the positive features of Surrealism?
SK: One of the most positive features of Surrealism is its accessibility. It allows the general public to recognize what they are viewing but challenges them to think and wonder. Realism tends to dictate its message to the viewer. Surrealism encourages viewers the think more broadly and question reality. In this sense, I think Surrealism is more real than Realism.
LG: In your opinion, why has only Surrealism, among the avant gardes, survived and now lives so intensely?
SK: All the “isms” are still very much alive, in my opinion. Look at all the most popular artists who are in the news today and you will see all aspects of art history still in use. As the various forms of art keep multiplying, each one must struggle to find its audience. I see this as a good thing.
LG: The semaphore is another terrific painting, it really floors me... Could you please tell me something about it?
SK: This one has to do with how we can sabotage ourselves. Birds, for me, often represent hope. We can kill our hopes and desires by our mental and emotional outlook. This woman made her own crown of thorns and her hopes are impaled on it.
LG: I see you paint children sometimes, what do they represent for you and for your art?
SK: Children represent the most honest and innocent - the most pure - aspects of ourselves. They express themselves clearly and without hesitation.
Also, children can be a reflection of our own adult naiveté. Adults try desperately to appear to be in control but often are not.
So, by using children in my paintings, I can comment on both our inherent sincerity and goodness while also revealing our egotistical limitations.
LG: Could we say that painting children could be also a moment of self-knowledge for the painter?
SK: Sure! All the figures in my paintings are aspects of myself. By painting the children I am expressing something that I've learned about my personality and how I move through the world.
LG: This is my last question, I’m just very interested... what's behind the "Self-portrait as Satan"? That work astounded me, I think it's very brave artistically speaking, beyond the contents' implications... I mean, I find in it a deep sense of freedom, already evoked from all those kind of birds in your work but here it's stronger... It's like all that freedom elegantly and gently exposed by birds and birds-like human creatures, find its concreteness in a very, very powerful and unsettling way... You mightly say: "I'm totally free, I'm flying, I'm a real artist, and just because I’m an artist I am beyond (your) judgements".
SK: I like your interpretation very much!
I painted this during a time when things were going badly in my life. As a child I was told that all I needed to do was play by the rules and everything would work out well. The truth is that even though we try to do our best in life, bad things can still happen. I was very, very angry at this time and decided that it was time say what was on my mind and not worry about what others thought. I was prepared to shock my family and friends and knew that they might see me very differently. I was determined to live by my own rules and not the rules that were given to me. I also embraced the fact that I had a dark side... a shadow, as Jung called it... and this dark side was important to who I was. It was part of me.
The butterfly pinned to my chest is there to symbolize the pain that often accompanies change. Often, that pain is necessary in order for the beneficial change to occur.
The Semaphore, 2007,
oil on linen, 22 x 18 inches
Dear Steve, first of all thanx a lot for accepting this interview. Just a quite straight question to begin… what does art mean for you?
Art is a form of human communication and there are as many different forms as there are humans on the planet. The beauty and power of art is in its capacity to create a dialog between people. It encourages us to look, listen, think and consider points of view other than our own. The best artists don’t present us with what we already know, they offer new ways of considering ourselves and the world around us.
LG: Can we consider art as a tool of inner evolution somehow?
SK: Yes, but that’s each artist’s choice. For some it is an aid to psychological, intellectual, and spiritual development; for others, art is simply something they do to make a living. I have learned a lot about myself through my work over the years. The fact that each painting is a new beginning forces me to reconsider all that I know. I struggle not to repeat myself and to discover something new with each painting.
The Gardener's Daughter, 2014,
oil on canvas, 38 x 28 inches
LG: What do you think about esotericism? I sometimes see elements in your works. Is your art exposing esoteric truths? Is esotericism a source of inspiration?
SK: I’m not interested in esotericism, per se. At one time it had some allure but, as with religion, I eventually lost interest. I’m interested in what applies directly to the present moment.
LG: Considering your profound connection to nature, do you find any affinity with Madeline Von Foerster’s work (although she is mainly into extinct animal species)?
SK: I have been watching Madeline’s career for years and greatly admire her technical skill. There certainly are many visual associations between our work but I tend to find inspiration in artists whose work is very different from mine.
Leda and the Swan, 2008,
Oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches
LG: How does Surrealism differ from the other kinds of art?
SK: I’m not so sure it is very different from other forms of art. Surrealism is just one of many ways to express how we relate to the world.
LG: Paul Klee said that “art should make visible what is invisible”. Do you agree?
SK: Absolutely. George Braque said, “One must not imitate what one wants to create. There is no certainty except in what the mind conceives.” I believe our most basic human need is to reveal who we are, to be heard and seen, to be acknowledged and understood. Art is the best way to do that.
The Shadow, 2010,
oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches
oil on linen, 18 x 24 inches
The Fracture, 2006,
oil on linen, 28 x 22 inches