Now on exhibit at Strychnin Gallery's London location is Chris Von Steiner's The Snow King, an exhibition of new digital paintings portraying an enchanted realm of fear and hope. On the evening of the opening, I had an opportunity to meet with Chris at the gallery and discuss the ideas behind The Snow King. In the interview, Chris explains how his many influences, going as far back as his early youth, played a part in listening to his inner child.
Why is this exhibition title The Snow King?
I used to write novels a few years ago, when I lived in France. The images for this exhibition are taken from a novel I wrote a few years ago called The Snow King, which could be described as Narnia versus Sleeping Beauty. It's the story of a man who discovers a fantasy world where a little boy (the actual Snow King in the story) has fallen into a seemingly eternal sleep waiting for someone to deliver him from this state. It happens that the little boy and the man are the same.
Is there a moral or a lesson to the story of The Snow King?
The story is about meeting the child you were and what that child would tell you as an adult. As an adult you forget what you were and what your dreams were. The lesson of The Snow King is this: don't forget the child you were because it could be dangerous.
Is this a lesson you have to tell yourself?
I think so. This is what I told myself.
When did you first read The Chronicles of Narnia?
When I was very young, I would read it four, five, six times in a row. I used play "Narnia" and pretend that I was in another world like in those books.
How long have you been painting?
About five years with this technique: vector illustration with adobe illustrator. It's a huge amount of work because I have to draw all the lines. I take photos, collect a lot of pictures, match them and make a collage. After this I draw the sketch for the painting. For this show, it took a long time because I had to find the costumes and to study the histories of kings of old Europe and so on.
What are some of your visual influences?
My influences are all very different. It depends on the show that I am working on. For The Snow King, I drew from Disney for the snow. I really like the winter scene in Bambi. I also went to museums and studied the Old Masters, such as Rubens. One artist who especially inspired me was John Singer Sargent because he painted a lot of portraits. He wasn't classified with the impressionists, but his kind of painting is kind of between impressionism and realism. With this show, I tried to translate vector illustration with what he did with oil.
What do you want viewers to take away from this exhibition?
I simply want the paintings to elicit feelings. I don't want to explain the story too much. It's not important to tell my story. I just want people to loose themselves in the picture and tell whatever story they want to tell.
So the exhibition opens to the public in a matter of minutes. How are you feeling? Nervous excited?
Very nervous because, this show is so different from my past shows. The technique is the same, but it's not the same stories. The paintings for the last show I did were much more cartoon-like, a bit more violent and with more blood. A lot of people told me that this new show is very different than the other shows. So I'm a bit afraid about this. But that is what I what people to expect from me: different things.
One of my favourite artists – and one that's truly influenced my work - is in fact not a visual artist, but is David Bowie. I admire him a great deal because every recording he has made is very different, but you know always it is David Bowie. I try to translate this in my painting. I want people to tell me "Oh it's very different from your other shows, but we can tell it's you."
Have a favourite Bowie era?
Berlin years. Station to Station to Scary Monsters.