An interview with Montreal artist Robert Kramberger
DCMontreal: I know you have been interested in art from a young age. What was it like when you first realized you have a talent for drawing and subsequently painting?
Robert Kramberger: I started by copying characters form comic books, even rewriting some of the stories. Unfortunately, for my school studies, this meant spending an inordinate amount of time doodling and writing little ditties during class time. I somehow still managed to get decent grades.
I did get plenty of positive feedback, mostly classmates, which inspired me to keep at it. I have been studying, refining and developing ever since. The process is ongoing. I have yet to reach anything close to perfection and do not ever expect to do so.
DCMontreal: Who, or what styles have been your greatest influence as you have developed?
Robert Kramberger: As a kid, I was impressed by some of the more daring and avant-garde comic book artists like Neal Adams, Barry Windsor Smith and Jim Steranko. They were rebels, defying what was expected in comic book art. As I progressed as an artist, and moved from commercial to fine art, my strongest influences were (and remain) the impressionist – and post-impressionist – painters. Artists like Monet, Manet and Van Gogh all strove to go beyond what was deemed “appropriate” both in terms of esthetics and technical execution. It is not so much that I try to mimic their style; it’s more about sharing their attitude. Shaking things up is always healthy and refreshing. These artists were essentially the “Punks” of their time.
DCMontreal: What kind of routines or rituals do you have?
Robert Kramberger: I would say the most essential criteria are good natural light and quiet. I do not paint at night. I will, sometimes, listen to music; nothing too distracting. Jazz is good. And once I start painting, there is no point in trying to get my attention. When I create, I am in my own special zone, far detached from everything else going on.
I do get “cranked up” to go and paint to my heart’s content each time I visit a gallery and see some incredible work. Seeing a Monet in person is both humbling and invigorating.
I think this is one of the reasons artists tend to live (for the most part) long lives. Not only do they never retire, they are also able to detach from boorish, everyday routines and stresses. Art is good blood pressure medicine.
DCMontreal: Please tell me about the balance you have struck between artistic and corporate endeavors and do the two ever overlap?
Robert Kramberger: Not a simple thing. These are two different worlds. I switch gears and go into Corporate/Business mode when dealing with marketing matters. It is more of a mental exercise. Painting, as I mentioned earlier, requires different preparation, and is more an emotional exercise. The only overlap is when I may be asked to produce fine art (commissioned work) for a corporate client.
DCMontreal: This blog tends to look at things from a Montreal perspective. What are the current conditions that artists face in Montreal? How is it different from other times here? And how does it differ from other cities?
Robert Kramberger: The cliché is that Montreal is a great place for artists to live and work because of the relatively cheap rent. Unfortunately, that “cheapness” also means that there is less opportunity (paying clients) to allow an artist to succeed, financially speaking. Art should be viewed as any other career: if you are really good at something, you should be able to do quite well for yourself. A lot of my creative heroes may have struggled in their early days, but all went on to certain amount of financial success (Van Gogh being, sadly, an exception).
Also, Despite Montreal having a reputation for being trendy and modern for all things creative, it’s still steeped in tradition. This probably stems from the fact that a lot of the money here is “old money”. By that I mean that you do not see as much new wealth being created as you may find in other large centers (Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, New York, etc.). And this definitely effects buying of art. I know of a number of local (very successful) artists who rely on “out-of-towners” to support their burgeoning careers.
DCMontreal Do you have a particular painting in your portfolio that moves you?
Robert Kramberger: I am really pleased with my most recent work. They are the result of that constant learning and growing that I mentioned earlier. It is not necessarily a particular painting that gives me great joy and pride, but a small detail that gives me great satisfaction. It could be an effect achieved in a reflection on the water, or some other small detail. ‘At The Beach, Cavendish, PEI’ is a good example of how I have been experimenting with perspective. Traditionally, the focus is on one area, with your eye leading towards or away from a point. Here, I am trying to achieve more of an “active” effect, where your eyes naturally wonder back and forth, left and right, up and down. If you look closely, the focal points vary throughout the piece, but the painting still remains cohesive.
DCMontreal: How has your art changed over time?
Robert Kramberger: I have gone from extreme realism (early graphic days) to experimenting with abstraction. My art is a work in progress, influenced by my surroundings and general path of my life. You can see that my focus is now primarily on landscapes (mountains, oceans, skies), reflecting my desire to preserve that in which I find the greatest beauty and pleasure: nature.
DCMontreal: What artists would you like to be compared to?
Robert Kramberger: Hmmm? I’ve mentioned some of my painting heroes. I would also have to add to that list Tom Thomson (probably our greatest Canadian painter of all time). I would also mention creative people from other disciplines like Douglas Adams (writer) and John Lennon: all great “Punks”.
DCMontreal: Professionally, what’s your goal?
Robert Kramberger: To be able to spend a remarkable amount of time painting all over the world. A key goal would also be to get proper gallery representation (across Canada and internationally). Not so much to be universally recognized for my achievements (although, that would be nice), but to be able to have people from all over get joy and contentment from my work. That’s what great art, music and literature are all about.
About DCMontreal: A Montrealer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that. Yin and Yang, Peaks and Freans: http://dcmontreal.wordpress.com/