Karen Kunc’s Dream World Symbolism

Karen Kunc, In Transience (detail), woodcut, 2017

I don’t know how I didn’t come across Karen Kunc’s work before, because it often exhibits a fusion I’m awed by, of at least three spheres of art: symbolic, abstract, and printmaking. There’s so much at her web site to study.

For me, there’s a strong Paul Klee influence, but that would resonate for any artist using bright color and line symbolism. There’s a drifting, dream component to much of her work. It feels like the way one segment of dream merges into another. Beautiful worlds are created here, I recommend spending some time just absorbing each piece.

Good Art, Bad Art, It’s Hard to Tell the Difference If Your Definition Is Broad Enough

And I think it should be very broad, indeed. As in, not restricting it to things you admire or even like, beyond to what you find chaotic or obvious.

Because creativity is vast, and the things humans make are sometimes unexpected, and sometimes they look like a mess, framed.

But it’s hard to tell when someone is sincere and when they just have no idea what they’re doing. We praise a child’s exuberant stick figures, but disparage them when they come from an adult. Unless they’re funny! I’m that case, we can’t get enough of them (XKCD, Cyanide and Happiness).

Looking at Paul Klee’s work, there’s a childlike energy to it, and it’s still dismissed at a glance for being too simple or cartoonish. But there’s a deep symbolism within, sometimes invented, sometimes referenced to real world things. You can certainly dislike it, but it helps to look beyond the labels “good” and “bad.” Even in things you find gross or dumb, there’s often a lot of hard work that went into making it the way it is. Sometimes, even the fast sketches and drips contain years’ or decades’ worth of study and practice behind them.

It’s not that you can’t call a thing bad. Opinions are had by us all. But consider leaving it at the cursory or joke level, and always give a shit about looking deeper. It feeds and informs your work to be charitable and open to the stuff you encouter.

More From Uncle Paul

You’d think the great ones would praise their fellow masters, and so they do. But now and then comes insight about the less perfect, the odd, the understated.

As we came to the city limits the Lateran palace diverted us from our project. Also, the mother of all churches next to it. The Byzantine mosaics in the choir, two delicious deer. After this hors d’ouevre, over to the Christian museum in the Lateran. Sculptures in a naïve style whose great beauty stems from the forcefulness of the expression. The effect of these works, which are after all imperfect, cannot be justified on intellectual grounds, and yet I am more receptive to them than the most highly praised masterpieces.

Paul Klee, Diaries, 1901

A Little From Uncle Paul

In my productive activity, every time a type grows beyond the stage of its genesis, and I have about reached the goal, the intensity gets lost very quickly, and I have to look for new ways. It is precisely the way which is productive—this is the essential thing; becoming is more important than being.

— Paul Klee, Diaries, 1914

Being the Moon

Reading Paul Klee’s diaries, I am regularly struck by his insight and seeming general imperturbability.

The evening is indescribable. And on top of everything else a full moon came up. Louis urged me to paint it. I said: it will be an exercise at best. Naturally I am not up to this kind of nature. Still, I know a bit more than I did before. I know the disparity between my inadequate resources and nature. This is an internal affair to keep me busy for the next few years. It doesn’t trouble me one bit. No use hurrying when you want so much.

The evening is deep inside me forever. Many a blond, northern moon rise, like a muted reflection, will softly remind me, and remind me again and again. It will be my bride, my alter ego. An incentive to find myself. I myself am the moonrise of the South.

The Diaries of Paul Klee: 1898–1918

Even when he was later drafted into the army during WWI, Klee kept this same clearheaded accepting mindset. Some things were out of his control, and always would be. He always had somewhere to climb in depicting his images. The work was always just a reflection of nature and thought.