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Emil Michael Klein

Born in 1982 in Munich, Emil Michael Klein grew up in Ernen, in the Swiss canton of Valais. After studying at the at the Academy of Art and Design in Basel (2002-2005), he completed a master’s in visual arts at the École cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL) in 2013. He lives and works in Zurich.

Klein’s artistic approach, whether it involves wood, textiles, painting or drawing, reflects a penchant for handicrafts and manual work, which he discovered in his teens while training in wood engraving. Although fundamentally different from painting, this technique enabled him to understand the painting as an object, and to multiply his methods.

Beyond his acknowledged inspiration by geometric abstraction and minimalism, Klein seems to be guided by a formal independence. In his large body of painted works, two of which are part of Collection Pictet, the pictorial language is reduced to lines crossing the canvas—approaching and moving away from each other—in such a way that they form a weft of varying density. Never keeping to a straight line, his creative process follows the contours and detours of an underlying, dark state of the world that reflects the title Darkotic, the name of his exhibition at the Kunsthalle Zürich (2017).

By transcending the feeling of repetition, his desire to start from scratch every time is reinforced. With either black lines on a bright background or lively lines on a dark tone, Klein treats the surface by superimposing pictorial layers, like so many imagined possibilities, rejected or retained. These winding circuits, with their clear or evanescent outline, act like mediums of a mysterious force, a source of powerful vibrations. Between intuition and reflection, his work does not escape the many references to the history of art, yet it seems to free itself from them. Lines and surfaces determine his abstract paintings, which are infused with visual energy just like the rest of his creations.

The Kunstmuseum Basel (Museum für Gegenwartkunst) exhibited his work in 2008, the year he won the Manor Art Prize Basel. He has participated in several group exhibitions at the Modern Institute in Glasgow (2010) and the Fri Art centre in Fribourg (2013), and a solo exhibition was dedicated to his work at the Kunsthalle Zürich (Darkotic) in 2017.