In Sven Kroner’s new paintings, the indoor world of his studio and the nature outdoors collide. This new series of paintings show parts of a room in which large square vitrines with landscapes in them, diorama’s, are set up. These new works show the accumulation of his painterly invention that has developed in his practice since the early 2000s.
In the work 'Heimatbearbeitet', (2020) you see a large vitrine in a slightly dim lit space of which the walls bear three paintings. The vitrine, or diorama, has two parts: a plinth, around one third of its total height, and a glass casing on top. The plinth is colored with a red, blue and grey band around its side. The lines of the bands are not straight, they remind us more of the lines of a seismograph, with a line going up and down at irregular intervals, or of the view of an ant farm. The diorama is seen from an angle, showing two of its sides at the same time. The whole fills up almost three-quarters of the painting and it is slightly cut-off at the bottom.
Inside the diorama we see a snowy landscape, a lonesome house, illuminating the snow through an opening on a side of the house, a wolf, some trees and a background with a similar looking painted snow scene on it. The wolf looks at the house, or is it looking at the window we cannot see?
The word diorama has its origin in Greek, ‘di’ meaning ‘through’ and ‘orama’ ‘a sight’ or ‘that what is seen’. It was used for the first time in 1822 for a visual show related to the then popular travelling ‘panorama’s’. Louis Daguerre, later inventor of the Daguerrotype, an early version of the photograph, together with painter Charles-Marie Bouton made a diorama that was a set-up of a landscape painted on half translucent canvas. The canvas was presented in a darkened space and with light and sound it was brought to life. This form of diorama with painted canvasses that were brought to life gained a lot of attention in the early nineteenth century but with photography also declined quickly again.
The diorama as a vitrine gained prominence as a scene to replicate nature, showing stuffed animals in painted landscapes in museums to show nature.
Each of Kroner’s diorama paintings show animals. We see wolves, a cow and deer , all in nature and on the border of where the humans have started living. The animals are often seen looking towards mankind, as looking towards newcomers, or are they intruders? The cow in Kuh, 2020, looks down from a hill onto the green flooded meadows, filled with small houses and barns. The deer in 'Trost', (2020) and 'Trost 3', (2020) do the same, looking onto the couple and the parent and kid walking through its vacant landscape.
The historical diorama’s, as mostly seen in museums like the National History Museum in New York, show scenes which are now often erased, mostly through the destruction by mankind or domesticizing of those areas. They as well show sights of daily life or nature of foreign, then far away, countries or places, often in a romanticized way. They often had, and still have, purposes of education. Visualizing nature in this way can also be seen as a way of showing control over it. Where the educational quality as well as novelty of them has eroded over time they can still be very moving. Showing us beautiful scenes and giving us time to rethink our position in the world in relationship to nature and its inhabitants.
The indoor spaces have in the last years taken up a large part of Kroner’s paintings. His studio scenes in the Atelierecke series, as well as spaces in a house, in the new 'Im Treppenhaus' works, or his earlier 'Im Aquarium', (2017) and 'Unter dem Tisch', (2017). The studio and house feature as a decor for often used visual elements of his work, now mostly seen as miniatures, scattered across the floor or set on table tops or windowsills. These familiar scenes are used with to play with light, reflection and creating an atmosphere, one of the most difficult things for a painter.
“Even if in Kroner’s depictions of the studio situations, for example, the shadows of the window bars hinder a comprehensive sensation of space, in the manner of a grid they overlay the motif, which as a result of its inherent compositional pictorial structuring directs the gaze to details in the room, like the numerous model houses and ships which serve the artist as props for his works. As already for [Jun’ichiro] Tanizaki, for Kroner too darkness is not simply the opposite of light, but a precondition for visibility, a source of insight and illumination, it is a different enlightenment. The function of light is not degraded in his paintings, but only unfolds its meaning through the insights of the beholder with respect to the shadows. Seeing, then, is honed not by light, but by darkness.
Windows, whether depicted directly or indirectly, play a major role time and again in Kroner’s works. Even though the window is never a motif in its own right, the artists’ depiction is often inspired by a view through a window, whether from a moving train or through the window of his studio or an apartment. The window functions as the interface between interior and exterior space.”
Oliver Zybok, Sven Kroner: “Snow Is Neither Blue Nor Purple” in Sven Kroner, 2017.
Kroner also started working on paintings depicting wall cabinets, in which the cabinets itself are filled with scenes reminding us of his earlier works. We see his typical small houses with red roofs, boats floating in landscapes and elements from his snow scenes. Also, the stuffed-animals and books which could be seen in earlier works are laying on the shelves of the cabinets. The glass in the cabinets often reflect the view out of a window, unseen in the painting itself, but situated somewhere in the room and through which an outdoor world comes into the painted scene. It reminds us of the half open windows Kroner painted from 2013-2015 in works like 'Ohne Titel', 2013; 'Aerodromio', 2014; 'Paraskeva', 2014 and 'Neuss', 2015.
In several of the new works, the landscape that dominated Kroner’s early works can be seen again, but now caught in the diorama’s created by the painter. In Kuh, 2020 we see the cow as well as scene of a flooded meadow that reminds us of the work 'März', (2009). That same work is seen back in the landscape of the diorama background in 'Trost 3', (2020).
All these different elements; the indoor architecture and nature, the play with perspectives, light and reflections and the repetition of pictoral elements from earlier works all come together into Kroner his new diorama’s. His painterly repertoire has built up over last two decades and this accumulated skill is put to work by Kroner in this new series.
“Sven Kroner creates captivating fantasies in a realistic idiom that cannot be entirely trusted. These are fascinating paintings full of strangely shimmering drolleries.”
Rudi Fuchs, Painterly Fantasies by Sven Kroner in ‘Sven Kroner’, HatjeCantz 2017.