Artist Helmut Koller’s Vibrant Animal Paintings Can Instantly Cure the Winter Blues—See Them Here

Check out the artist's electric colors in "Koller Vision," an exhibition to benefit WildAid at Gallery 444 in San Francisco.

Helmut Koller, Tiger on Green (2019). Courtesy of Gallery 444.
Helmut Koller, Tiger on Green (2019). Courtesy of Gallery 444.

If the winter blues are getting you down, zap them away with a dose of electric color—or “Kollerism,” as the Austrian-born Helmut Koller calls his style of intensely saturated depictions of creatures, from bears and tigers to ducks and monkeys. Right now, a selection of Koller’s paintings are currently on view in “Koller Vision” at Gallery 444 in San Francisco in an exhibition to benefit WildAid, the environmental relief organization. 

Koller’s paintings are oddly mesmerizing—with animals, majestic and small, rendered in synthetic tones against color-saturated backgrounds. The images have something of the look of hand-colored photographs, which might not be too much of a stretch: the artist worked for many years as a professional opera photographer and didn’t take up painting in earnest until his 30s. 

Here, the painstaking realism of his depictions is contradicted by a Pop-inflected color palette, and one might also assume the influence of the Fauves (“wild beasts”) who shook up Paris at the dawn of the 20th century with their unreal use of colors. But unlike the Fauves, whose brushstrokes were expressive and impastoed, Koller’s hand is so meticulous that it almost disappears. The tension between the incredible specificity of these animals—whether they have fur, scales, or paws—and the utterly surreal tones in his palette creates a hypnotizing charm, which makes the creatures momentarily unfamiliar, and, in the process, reminds us about nature’s power to induce wonder in us all.

See images of “Koller Vision” below.

Helmut Koller, Blue Monkey on White (2019). Courtesy of Gallery 444.

Helmut Koller, Blue Monkey on White (2019). Courtesy of Gallery 444.

Helmut Koller, Bear in Purple (2019). Courtesy of Gallery 444.

Helmut Koller, Bear in Purple (2019). Courtesy of Gallery 444.

Helmut Koller, Snake on Light Violet (2019).

Helmut Koller, Snake on Light Violet (2019).

Helmut Koller, Tiger With Magenta (2019). Courtesy of Gallery 444.

Helmut Koller, Tiger With Magenta (2019). Courtesy of Gallery 444.

Koller Vision” is on view at Gallery 444 through January 10, 2020.


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