Delta D magazine, 12/00,
interview by Dimitris Fakinos,
Art Director: John Karlopoulos

  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