CLASSICAL PAINTING MEETS MODERN PHOTOGRAPHY
Karl Hammer is a true self-made man. From a troubled childhood he was able to work his way up to television-director and then to successful book author and artist. In the field of photography he is an autodidact who uses his photography to tell stories that are laden with symbolism and hidden messages. His work has a fast growing fan base that appreciates his narrative art, his sense of aesthetics and his use of pastel-like colors.
In the past the art world considered the use of colour often as "not artistic" (black and white was the norm) but that changed in the 1970's thanks to art photographer William Eggleston and his 'New Color Photography'. Karl lets his colours often hover between photorealistic and surrealistic. It is noteworthy that, although Karl uses digital postproduction like other professional photographers, he keeps this to a minimum. As he himself explains; "I don't use, for instance, high pass filtering because it would give the skin of the models a glamour-look, which would not fit the atmosphere I'm aiming for. Instead I would sometimes even use a light gaussian blur to make the character in the shot less razor-sharp as if slightly out of focus like it would look in a painting." Karl wants people to look like people, not like dolls. This gives his work a documentary style although each art photograph is, in fact, staged and directed thus creating a fusion between Hyper Realism and what famous Dutch painter Carel Willink described as Imaginary Realism (from imagination concieved reality).
The way in which Karl frequently uses light and shadows compares to the style of the old master painters and thus his art often walks a thin line between a classical painting and a modern photograph. This is emphasized by the fact that his art work is only available on museum quality German Etching Paper with its velvety character. In fact, much of his work can be labelled "Portrait Historié", the depiction of people as biblical, mythological, or historical personages, which originated in the Netherlands in the later 16th century.
Dutch art curator Marcel Salome of Salome Artventure says about Karl: "As curator of Dreamscapes I'm always searching for new art and I happened upon the art photography of Karl Hammer. His artworks intrigue because of the atmosphere that he realizes in his work but also through their narrative qualities. The often beautiful male and female models distract you from hidden messages in the work that the viewer often doesn't capture on first viewing."
Indeed, looking at Karl's art is not always the same as seeing Karl's art. Each work can be viewed in different ways while discovering new details. Karl conveys stories and even subplots through the use of color, symbols, or just the pose of a model (like expressing shame and humiliation in the artwork "Ginger"). At other times his themed art work seems just a portrait yet on closer inspection shows, for instance, existial loneliness as seen in the artwork "Liebestod". It is therefore important to find the extra layers, which Karl puts in his work. And if the onlooker also notices the hidden geometrical figures that he often uses, also known as sacred geometry, the photograph transcends being a mere visual art work.
Karl is always reluctant to explain his work in detail. First of all, he wants to invite his fans on a wonderful trip through his art, and secondly he wants his fans to have an open mind and not be told how to interpret an art work. Maybe it is best described in the words of David Bowie and Toni Visconti:
"Any great artist wants you to stand back and look at the work to analyse it and feel things... The idea of art is to stimulate your own imagination."
In private conversations and during exhibitions, Karl, however, enjoys talking to his audience about his work and exchange views. He is also the author of several succesful Dutch 'How to'-books on photography and TV-production.