German painter Bernard Lokai uses the historical vernacular of painting – including the gestural brushstrokes of Abstract Expressionism and the spray paint of graffiti – to simultaneously absorb and disrupt traditions of landscape and abstract painting, and to explore the question of how to make a picture.


His “Landscape Blocks,” multi-paneled grids composed of eighteen 12 by 16 inch panels, each present an isolated ‘moment’ that individually appears entirely abstract. Lokai paints the small panels on an ongoing basis in the studio, without a plan for where each will fit in the overall grid. At some point he gathers all of the small canvases and chooses which to combine into a set of eighteen. He thinks of each small painting as akin to a brushstroke, such that the overall final piece is thus ‘painted’ by paintings. Though each panel is strikingly distinct and sometimes wildly colorful, together they coalesce into an impression of landscape.


While the landscape grids explore a different idea on each panel, the larger individual abstract paintings combine multiple concepts on the same surface, wrestling with the meaning of painting today. Each painting evolves in a reactionary process, whereby the previous brushstroke and color influence the next. The works are pluralistically composed of elements and forms that reference the historical building blocks of a century of painting conventions. The most successful pieces, in Lokai’s mind, are the ones that surprise him, that arrive at a place he never imagined could exist. His purpose is neither to express emotion nor reference any particular subject. They are what they are – color, brushstroke, form, composition. Their mood may be discordant or harmonious or both. They are visceral, trans-lingual and endlessly probing.


Bernard Lokai was born in 1960 in Bohumin, Czechoslovakia. After his parents escaped from the former Czechoslovakia Lokai grew up in Duren, Germany. He studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf under Gerhard Richter and now resides in Düsseldorf and Berlin.

Studio views