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Interview: Anton Kuehnhackl's Malleable Images

Interview: Anton Kuehnhackl's Malleable Images

Lives and works in Sebastopol, California

Tell us about yourself, how did you become an artist?

Grew up in a normal working class household, where the arts weren't encouraged or discouraged, just seen as something you can do, one of many paths in life. I did consume a ton of advertising imagery flipping through magazines shopping with my parents however, which I believe greatly informed my practice later on, when it started.

Attended "Art" classes growing up, like everyone else, but didn't have that initial spark or interest until much later, when I was in college. The original plan was to pursue a writing career, but when that floundered, decided to pick up the arts out of curiosity. Wondered if this major could go from a "hobby" to something professional. So far, I've managed to meet my expectations, of working full time and focusing on a "practice" in my spare time.

WIP Shot

What is your background? and how did it inform the focus of your creative exploration or the medium you're currently working with?

My background is in general construction/carpentry and caregiving. So quite unique. Each of these professions requires a “hands on” approach and dedication to a “hard” work mentality. This naturally comes out in my practice through my use of constructing sets, objects, and in the final editing of an image. Sometimes i'll spend an hour building something up physically, just to tear it down again in post-production 5min later. Other times it takes me a week just to finish one composite. Length of time doesn’t equate to something being better or worse, its the intent of the work that should come through, regardless of time spent.

WIP Shot

What ideas interested you in the beginning of your practice, which ideas have you continued to explore, and where have they led you?

Through being inundated with fashion magazines growing up I was very drawn to objects, and setups. This carried over into my medium via Still Life, and looking at artists who work in this vein. At first it was just simple setups of items, trying to be an imitator of what I saw online/in mags; But this was too forced and felt there had to be a looser approach towards the medium…instead of learning the rules, then bending; why not bend them while I was learning? This led me to look at Post Photography/Post Vandalism artists and consider how they took the medium and made it more malleable.

More interested in why something looks the way it does, and what happens when a disruption or intervention, either physically or in post-production, is applied to a work. The meaning changes, sure, but the original reference is still there in some form.

Quite the Builder!, Archival Inkjet Print, 24x24", 2021

Who were and are the biggest sources of your inspiration?

At first I was really into artists like Barbra Kasten and Eileen Quinlan, and thought I could make works similar to those, but quickly grew tired of making work that looked “flashy” but lacked substance. I also always admired the work of artists like Lucas Blalock, Nico Krijno who’s unconventional approach to questioning the photographic medium, pushed more of a child like play. Began to follow this path more and more, being less serious with my works.

WIP Shot (When its Hot)

Where do you find inspiration?

The “Photography is Magic” book by Charlotte Cotton, which covers more contemporary artists working in photography and Foam Magazine’s Under Construction: New Positions in American Photography, have both been impactful on my practice and the way I view image-making. 

Questions of Styrofoam, Archival Inkjet Print, 16x20", 2020

Is there are a single work, project, or series that is pivotal in your current trajectory?

I’m not big on working in “series” as it feels too limiting, and predetermined with a starting and ending point. I view my work/practice as more something that is constantly in flux, being added to in big or small increments. But a main starting point was definitely after 2018 ended, and I began to move more into a looser approach with works; Not viewing them as having to be so rigid and “perfect”, but ok to have mistakes seen here and there in the works.


How did it begin? and how did it evolve?

The shift started after realizing that I was working in a vein that was too controlling, and needed a looser approach. I was expecting too much from the works, and not giving enough in return. By being more indirect, but still considerate of where I was placing “interventions” through post production into the works, they felt more resolved.

Jobsite Cleanup!

What were important lessons in the process that you’ve carried forward with you?

Construct, Deconstruct, Remake, Refine, Adapt, Reconfigure, Erase, Mold, Form. But always make sure the intent is there in the work. An explanation or statement shouldn’t come from words but the work itself. If the statement is what “carries” the work, why should people view the piece?

What are you working on now?

Still working on the same "body" of work, hoping to incorporate video and sound in the near future, once construction of my studio is complete.


If you could go back in time to the very beginning of your art practice and give your younger self a single piece of advice what would it be?

Don’t get caught up in gear/trends, or that you have to “diversify” the medium to meet an end goal/ get taken more seriously. Constantly and consistently make something, daily, every other day, whenever…just make sure the intent is there in the work. Everything else will fall into place.

Son, These Ain't LEGOs, Archival Inkjet Print, 42x29", 2021

About the Artist

Based in Sebastopol, California

Anton Kuehnhackl (b.1991) is an artist residing between the North Bay/SF Bay Area.

Their work focuses on pushing the “classical” approach to photography through multidisciplinary methods. Questioning the importance of the medium, it’s “truth”, and materiality.

They received a BFA from San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) in 2020. Their work has been published in WhitePaperBy Magazine, VSCO, and Datz Press. They have been in solo and group shows like: Bpart Berlin, HCA, Lifeframer, Diego Rivera Gallery, Bass & Reiner.

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