Richard Winkler's Evolving Life Forms
, Edition 8, 2012
FASCINATED BY NATURE, FRUIT, AND THE HUMAN FORM, THE SPECTACULAR WORK OF SWEDISH-BORN PAINTER AND SCULPTOR, RICHARD WINKLER, IS A CELEBRATION OF LIFE AND THE FERTILITY OF THE SOIL.
Richard Winkler's sensual oil paintings celebrate the tropics with distorted human figures and flora and fauna, set within vividly coloured landscapes inspired by his life in Bali. His decorative style could be described as abstract but his departure from realism is only partial. His work clearly depicts tumbling rice terraces, fairytale mountains, tigers, monkeys, snakes and water buffalo, as well as jungle vegetation with fleshy spiky leaves, palm trees, flowering brugmansia and heliconia, seed pods, watermelons, bananas, mangoes and other fruits galore. Yet he dares to take liberties, conspicuously and deliberately altering colour and form vis-a-vis reality.
His male figures are the men who work the paddy fields or squat with their prize roosters, sarong clad and bulbously muscular with swollen exaggerated curves to their limbs. Likewise, the women are voluptuous and rotund, sometimes appearing naked and obese, other times clothed and tubular, their spherical breasts mirroring the form of the oranges that they carry in baskets upon their heads or sell in the markets.
When he was a small child, Richard suffered from a rare genetic bone disease that caused bulbous growths of bony matter on his limbs, so he spent a lot of time in hospital undergoing bone surgery. "Because of this," he explains, "I became quite focused on the body and felt strongly that there was a difference between body and soul." He continues, "Behind my family home was an old botanical garden with fruit-trees-gone-wild and strange exotic blooms, so I spent lots of happy times there. The garden was where I fell in love with nature and plants, seeds and big flowers, all of which helped me to forget about the pain; for me it was the place where people and nature became one in harmony" Today, it is this experience that is expressed, subconsciously and almost naively, in Richard's art.
Meanwhile, Richard's grandfather was a born artist; he never personally pursued a career in art but he taught his grandson how to draw and paint the fruits and flowers that had captured the boy's fascination, before encouraging him to attend life model drawing classes. Later Richard attended the prestigious Beckmans School of Design in Stockholm, where he studied advertising and graphic design, illustration and photography. It was there that he learned how to create forms and objects with a strong visual appeal, but he was always enthralled by human life drawing, "So the model drawing lessons took priority and I often skipped the other classes." When he finished school, he opened up his own little studio and freelanced as an illustrator for magazines and advertising bureaus. "During that time I was also painting and, by stretching the lines, I developed a style that presented very round abstract figures." It is this style that has become the artist's signature.
THE WOMEN ARE VOLUPTUOUS AND ROTUND, SOMETIMES APPEARING NAKED AND OBESE, OTHER TIMES CLOTHED AND TUBULAR.
Despite the success of his design studio and several solo painting exhibitions in Stockholm, Richard's dream was to go somewhere tropical and exotic, and Sri Lanka was beckoning. He also dreamed of meeting up with Regine, his Jakarta-based Indonesian pen pal of 11 years, so they arranged to meet in Colombo. The rest, as they say, is history. In 1997, after a year of ridiculously expensive international phone calls between Stockholm and Jakarta (yes, this was long before the joy of Skype) the couple married and settled in Bali, and the artist became a fulltime painter.
Four years ago, Richard decided to go three-dimensional and reproduce his bulbous figurative artwork in the form of limited edition bronze sculptures, some of which literally weigh a ton, standing up to 2.2 metres in height. In fact, he had to buy the house next door in order to create more workspace. "This is hard, physical work that involves a lot of carving, sanding, filing and rasping but I like using my hands, feeling the form and working up a sweat, it's a real contrast to creating a fine, detailed painting in an air-conditioned room."
Richard's work is popular and has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan, Sweden and Denmark. Indeed, from contrast to similarity, this evolution of the artist as a painter and sculptor ensures that his work successfully stands alone, almost forever elegantly a finished work-in-progress.
Text by Rachel Love
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