Kevin Von Holtermann
What exactly is abstract art? It is defined as art that does not attempt to represent external reality but seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, forms, colors, and textures. However, Kevin Von Holtermann is a talented abstract artist who employs so much angst and raw emotion in his work that his collection emphasizes the natural world and all its emotions and elements. He uses form, color, line, tone, and texture to the level where his art has much to say. His work tells a story and conveys compelling dialogue. Kevin is well-versed in other styles of art as well. This makes sense since he is such a multifaceted artist and person. Kevin's artwork represents an eclectic combination overall and his use of color is intense and poignant. His work speaks to the viewer and represents a window into his soul.
The work of Kevin Von Holtermann explores the relationship between himself and the discourse in current culture. With influences spawned from the eyes of ADHD and anxiety, new synergies are synthesized from frantic and deliberate dialogues. Ever since he was a child, Kevin has been fascinated by the unrelenting divergence of the universe. What starts as a vision soon becomes corrupted into a manifesto of lust, leaving him with a sense of anxiety and chaos and the inevitability of relief. As intermittent derivatives become clarified through frantic and critical practice, Kevin is left with a clue to the complexity within his soul. Through this emotional chaos, Kevin creates beautiful art.
Kevin's work generates tensions in a colorful explosion of color. When he paints, even the slightest brush stroke is a truth. "I feel human and connected to something much deeper than the surface of the canvas. All I want to do is become void of thought while subconsciously expressing my emotions truly and completely through my art," said Kevin.
Kevin is a self-taught abstract painter obsessed with the creative process as a struggle between the physical act of creating and an emotionally racing mind.
"I renegotiate painting as being part of a reactive or, at times, an autistic medium, commenting on oppressing themes in our contemporary society. By manipulating the viewer to create confusion, I construct with daily, recognizable elements that are touchingly beautiful, yet painfully attractive, orphaned with a mix of conflicting feelings and thoughts." (Kevin Von Holtermann)
Kevin's intention is to break free from social expectations and let go of the mundane obsessive thought. Layer after layer, he narrows down the barriers within himself and dives deeper into the subconscious to find freedom in a frantic pace . Hidden memories of despair, truth, and nostalgia are released to the surface in my search for a purpose in his creative journey . Through the physical layers and characters in his works, conflicted feelings of sadness, pain, love, and anger are being processed to make space for what comes next. By applying abstraction, Kevin walks a fine line of intense personal moments created by means of acceptance and refusal, luring himself and the viewer round and round in circles as his styles change constantly. Unexpectedly, in September of 2019, Kevin was diagnosed with kidney cancer. He was shocked but channels his emotions through intense creativity -- both the big life battles and everyday thoughts.
When Kevin had a moment to speak to Gemma Magazine, we talked about his love for all styles of art, the work of the emotional inner self through art, his inspiration for his artwork, and so much more.
What inspired you to become an abstract artist? I always wanted to explore the conceptual side of art as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. I would think while taking breaks from music, "I want to explore the movement and texture in abstract art." One day, I found a trash can full of paint while on my nightly trash scavenger hunt on the Philly streets. Next to that trash can of paint was a bunch of canvas with fruit and landscapes scrawled haphazardly. I hauled them back to my tiny Walnut Street apartment and let out 30 years of angst and emotion onto the canvas. Then and there, the connection was made, and the journey began.
How would you describe your artistic style or approach to creating abstract art?
It has morphed into so many different styles, sometimes all at once, that it's hard to call it only abstract. Yes, that is one aspect of my collections, but my ADHD is kind of in the driver's seat with anxiety playing the role as the fuel that is confined in the tank, burning. I love to explore what makes me feel on any particular day; sometimes, collections of each style spawn over a few years, just organically / painting a few with one feeling, then exploring another, and so on. Only when I am wrangled in I strictly focus on the same style for a long time. However, once you know my work, each style is recognized as one of my expressions. The abstract is a considerable ingredient in the creative recipe for me. Still, characters emerge, and florals and Urban scenes and landscapes (all with a flare and components flowing throughout), where it is recognized as a Kev Von Holt expression. I love to experiment like a child, lost in the process of the unknown. That is the natural allure to me --connecting and exploring the caverns of who I am.
Where do you get a lot of your inspiration from? My inspiration mainly comes from an uncomfortable and sometimes exhausting need to find solid ground from the anxieties inside. It's therapy, and it is on autopilot. I follow my subconscious's lead, and that's all I know.
You were diagnosed with kidney cancer in September of 2019. That is a lot to deal with. What emotions did you experience and how did you decide to channel it?
When I discovered I had cancer, I was shocked and went into an anxiety-induced panic-induced breakdown. I have suffered from anxiety disorder my entire life, so getting the news and hearing that you have cancer was like throwing a gas can on fire. It has exacerbated my anxiety tenfold; I had a lot of help from my girlfriend, Robyn. She was there by my side through the whole thing, and my family was there to guide me along as well, but ultimately, it was my journey, as it is for every person diagnosed with this horrible disease. I didn't do much of anything during my diagnosis. I pretty much was focused on just trying to get through the day, although I did dabble with writing a few songs and painting a few pieces of artwork to try and help me get by. Still, I must be honest; it was a rough road. After my surgery, I started to fight my way back by immersing myself fully into creative songwriting and creating new works of art as I got rolling and felt a bit better. The pandemic hit the world with the shutdown, which took my anxiety to a whole new level; that's when my creativity kicked in and saved my life and mental sanity. I locked myself away in my gallery studio, painted 60 new works well, and wrote about 20 new songs. Shortly after that, I reconnected with my high school buddies, and we formed the band "First Class Creeps" and helped each other through the pandemic by immersing ourselves in what we always knew and loved: music and being in a band. It wasn't easy, but together, Avi Kazman, Dave Kopp, Jarred Oberman, and I recorded "First Class, Creep's" debut record, and we went on to play some shows and have lifelong memories, which will always hold a special place, in all of our hearts. So, in case I am being long-winded, I will sum it up like this: When I was diagnosed with cancer, everything that I've ever known became certain, and it was through love and creativity that I was able to work my way through it and be able to stand here now and give this interview from a more centered place of thankfulness and a deep appreciation for how fragile life is. Creativity has saved my life, and I don't see any signs of that narrative changing. Again, my girlfriend, Robyn, plays a massive role in getting me through to the other side and inspiring me to be a better human every day.
What particular emotions or feelings do you hope to evoke within your work?
The feeling I want to produce with my work is just a genuine understanding personally to the viewer. I want it to be a personal journey for every person who views and brings my art into their world. When someone acquires one of my works, the meaning I initially created is also co-inhabited by the new owner of that particular expression. In ways, it is not for me anymore, not for me to care for or to find the power of what the meaning then becomes. It's a personal and unique journey for each viewer and collector.
I know you are a self-taught artist. Can you expand upon your "obsession with the creative process as a struggle between the physical act of creating and an emotionally racing mind?" When I can wrangle in my wild horse's brain to focus, I can slowly start to sink into a groove where that autopilot kicks in as long as I am not distracted by the outside world. Once that happens, it's over for that day. I need to be more focused on the flow I need to create authentically. My mind constantly races, always racing with thoughts of scenarios and creative avenues. However, when it aligns, it is a very cathartic feeling -- looking upon that purge of emotions that I didn't know were inside but now live upon the canvas, or even song when I am painting or writing music (or both at the same time lol ).
You said, "My work explores the relationship between myself and the discourse in current culture." Please expand upon this. Yes. It is a story of inner turmoil and anxiety always lurking inside me. I am like an emotional sponge of information. When things are in chaos all around me, either in my close relationships with family or friends or with the current state of the world, I always tend to react creatively; that's why some paintings like "Shitshow of Fuckery" and "Bipolar Opposites" have the authentic feel that they do. The exploration of the discourse is the fuel that powers such statements.
Can you discuss antisocial media series and how they fit your artist's vision? In the paintings, everyone ignores each other while on their cell phones. What does this say about our society? Yes, my antisocial media series explores how cell phones and social media are robbing us of life's special moments and stealing the present moment the addiction to the digital screen. Society has adopted this growing obsession; sadly, there doesn't seem to be an end. This series, "Antisocial Media, "is a testament to our times now. I couldn't help but bring it to light and life on canvas.
Overall, do you feel like life's human moments are being ignored? Yes, I think that way. We are all moving too quickly, even entirely, to care about one another.
Can you explain the meaning or message behind one of your abstract pieces that stands out? One that sticks out is "A Conversation after Cancer." I painted it right after my surgery. The movement is visceral and childlike, vulnerable, and raw; it was a painting that needed to happen to begin the healing journey I am still on today.
How do you choose the colors and the textures in your abstract compositions? The thing is, I don't "go about it" at all. I never have. I wait for the spark of "insert whatever feeling," lol, and I go on an autopilot of emotions. I am not in control of the creative vehicle. I don't think anyone is. It's something more significant than an explanation. I can enjoy a frantic and emotional purging after the painting is complete, and then I can access what has happened.
Do you have any favorite techniques or materials that you use in your abstract artwork? Yes, I like palette knives and strips of cardboard for making my city paintings, and also, lately, I have been getting into harvesting burned and weathered paint that has been left out in the elements for a year or more and reconstructing them into a new series called "Burned, Deconstructed and Resurrected."
Have any artists or movements within the abstract art world influenced your work? Everything affects me, I'm constantly scanning for it all, but as far as artists, I have a few that inspire me. One is Joe Strasser and his visceral approach to art and the craft. We both grew up in the same area, and it's cool to see him still being his authentic self; that's rare these days, and I love him for it and the inspiration he has always brought to my creative journey. Another inspiration is Perry Milou; his art and business sense have always inspired me. I used to see him painting in Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, and I always thought I wanted to make art my full-time gig. He is still an inspiration.
What is up next for KVH? Up next is more art and creating and concentrating on some new works. I have a few shows at some beautiful galleries, and I am trying to wrangle my ADHD to focus on a specific series and body of work. Other than that, keeping the gallery/studio going and staying true to who I am. Oh, I am also working on a record with my good friend Ben; we have a 2pc band called BUCKO, named after the happy days saying that Richie Cunningham loved so much ! @buckofuckwhatyouheard Stay tuned.
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