||Viktor Koen Profile for B.O.B. Viktor Köen may have just created
an avatar for Silicon Alley - an inspirational character to balance
out the depression of the Internet economy. Plug is a techno-mutation
of child and bug who battles evil corporate executives that return
to life as insects. Set in a post-apocalyptic landscape, Plug and
his sidekick, Mug, inhabit a sinister world of greed, oppression,
and vengeance. Koen's office overlooks the American Stock Exchange.
What started out as a melding of "visual debris" from past
illustrations to create a promotional image for viktorkoen.com, became
an international exhibit and soon, a graphic novel. Plug's first incarnation
as a digital icon grew to fourteen near floor-to-ceiling fine art
works in three months as part the International Comic Book Art Exhibit
in Greece. The massive illustrations depicting Plug and his foes,
showed in September this year at the Gazi Exhibition Complex in Athens,
Greece. The work traveled to other galleries throughout Greece, including
the prestigious Paratiritis Gallery in Thessaloniki before returning
to New York. "People were coming up to me at the exhibit asking
if my pieces were photos of existing toys," says the 33 year-old
Koen. "That's what I want, to make it look as alive as possible.
Successful digital work is where you wouldn't know it came from a
computer - the computer stops being a cold execution." The Plug
series is pure digital output on canvas - a first for Koen. For over
5 years he has created illustrations on his old school Mac 8500 Power
PC, however, in the past, he merged digital imagery with traditional
fine arts. Koen's Tasks & Games installation at the Veridian Gallery
in Midtown this December took 24 digital, absurdist images of mutant
children, turned them to film then burned on copper plates. In his
1998 series, Funny Farm: Alphabet of Mental Disorders, Köen etched
his computer-manipulated images on acetate sheets, and then painted
the sheets for a finished fine arts exhibit depicting a psychological
disorder for every letter of the alphabet. The common thread in all
of Koen's work is chaos; and this thread has seeped offline into Koen's
daily life. He surrounds himself with disorder - toys, gas masks,
antique weapons and tools are mashed together in anarchical disarrangement
against all four walls of his office within LPNYThink, an Alley design
firm he co-owns and is the creative director. Painter Xenis Sachinis,
Koen's mentor and Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Thessaloniki
says, "Fifty years later, maybe less, Viktor Koen's daring prophecies
may be the proof of a predicted present; the chronicle of predicted
disorder, disharmony or even an abuse by science and government."
He adds, "Those prophecies are manifested through images. While
his technique matured through technology - with noticeably worthwhile
results - it goes back to a previous type of narrative painting."
The process of melding fine arts and technology for Koen, however,
isn't chaotic, but methodical. Almost maniacal, the artist admits.
He doesn't believe in waiting around for inspiration. "Inspiration
is for amateurs, says Koen. "Professionals generate inspiration.
You will never catch me sitting in front of a blank screen."
At the beginning of every project, Koen spends months researching
the topic. For Plug, he devoured tons of information on insects, although
he says it was difficult to eat and work at the same time. Koen went
to The Strand and picked up books on management and corporate job
descriptions to develop Plug's fiendish foes, and he also did a great
deal of reading on Pythagoras's work on transmigration to inform his
concept of corporate souls devolving into insects. The next step is
composing the title for the piece and determining how many illustrations
to create. Köen favors large bodies of work, usually 24 pieces
in a series. He becomes depressed once his work is complete, which
may account for the large number of images. Once title and concept
are developed, he starts out with traditional pencil sketches in his
notebook. Koen develops the image on paper then heads for the Chelsea
Flea Market to peruse and purchase antique photos - copyright free
- and scans them into Photoshop for manipulation. "I use a digital
method, but just like paint on canvas it is a free process with accidents,
twists and turns, revisions. I take a step back from the screen and
look at it from a distance and at difficult angels, " says Koen.
"The most difficult part is deciding when to stop. I look for
balance and strength of the image, then I can say it's done."
Plug is still a work-in-progress. Koen is developing a book entitled,
"Plug in the Quest for Mug", with writer Melanie Wallace
that should be out this spring. His main focus is creating 14 additional
monstrous characters for Plug to battle. But Koen is hopeful for his
progeny. "Plug will win out. He personifies everything that is
good about technology - he is positive, light, and hope."
||Silicon Alley Reporter magazine, 2/01
review by Marisa Kakoulas
Art Director: Steven Moris