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Nils Karsten, A Modern Surrealist

Who: Nils Karsten
Where he was born: Hamburg, Germany.
Where he lives now: Brooklyn, New York
Occupation: Artist


What he’s working on:

Going back and forth between different ideas, materials and work processes. I get too obsessed with just one thing or too bored – either way, it depends. Carving a few large scale woodblock prints in sections, all different images. Like cutting out images from magazines for collage, except I make templates of images I am interested in, to carve for printing.

His first experience with art:

I always loved pictures from newspapers. I traced the images I liked, so they became a bit of my own.

Otto Dix’s paintings of outsiders, war cripples and hookers. His depictions of German post WWI society and the brutality of war’s consequences. I was also interested in Picasso and Andy Warhol, but for different reasons. I didn’t understand much of what they were doing – I liked that. Similarly, a wooden cigar box that was signed by Joseph Beuys owned by a family friend who called it an art piece! I didn’t understand the art part then, but the box fascinated me.


His process of finding the fragments for the Wood Chronicle series:

I love dates, and I love the calendar—as a playing ground. I am less interested in the big historic events, more in the unobtrusive ones that impact an individual, or us all—connecting the date and the event forever, a beautiful union. A date is so unique, it never comes twice.

Jimi Hendrix receiving an honorary high school diploma from Garfield High in Seattle on February 12, 1968 is a combination that got my attention.

He particularly enjoys working with: 

A variety. Wood, with its very flexible and forgiving characteristics. I am very fond of paper, a piece of art already. Canvas, it’s very needy.


What is there too much and too little of?

Too much violence. Too little determination and strategy for lessening the pain inflicted on innocent people.

His investments in Surrealism:

Objects in unusual contexts; gave young kids permission to be a bit odd too.


His next challenge:

I am in the middle of a few ….!

His WILD Wish:

Amidst these intense geopolitical challenges all over the globe, one can only wish for peace, and less pain being inflicted on people.

The Block

text by: Michael Valinsky

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