KAREN ROEHL Bio and Artists Statements
About the Artist
Originally from Montreal, Canada, Karen Roehl moved to Denver as a youngster in 1967. She enjoyed living in the vibrant Mile-High City, where she raised her two daughters, Vesla and Andria.
Roehl began her artistic career when she completed a design program at the Art Institute of Colorado in 1987. She enjoyed a successful career as a graphic artist for over 20 years and ran her own design business.
Satisfying a life-long desire to expand her creative talents into the fine arts, she entered the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program at University of Colorado at Denver in 2004. She was the recipient of the Colorado Scholar’s scholarship award in 2007, UCD’s Fellowship award in 2006 and 2007, and completed her BFA degree in December 2007, graduating magna cum laude.
Roehl first became known for her paintings inspired by abstract expressionism. In more recent years she began combining her abstract mark-making with realistic renderings of horses to create contemporary western genre paintings which earned her acceptance into the prestigious Coors Western Art Exhibit. She has been a repeating artist at the Coors show since 2015, and was the recipient of the Artists Choice Award in 2022.
Roehl joined the faculty at Art Student’s League of Denver in 2011, where she hosted classes in basic and abstract painting. She was also a founding member and served on the Board of Denver’s acclaimed Ice Cube Gallery in the RiNo Arts District. She regularly participates in group, juried and invitational exhibitions. Roehl is currently represented by Tierra Mar Gallery in Santa Fe, NM.
About the Abstract Paintings
Inspired by the Abstract Expressionists, my work attempts to gain access to the inner workings of self as an individual, and on a larger scale, as human and a member of larger communities both local and global.
Scale is one element I use to emphasize the larger picture. I often prefer working on large, mural-sized pieces, the effect of which envelopes the viewer while standing up close, examining the painting’s many details.
My color palette ranges from monochromatic to very colorful, depending on my mood. My monochromatic palettes focus on the high contrasts between black and white and emphasize elements such as texture, composition, shapes and the marks themselves, things I think of as comprising an individual and inner quality of essence. Color reflects more the external world we experience daily and the strong emotional forces that influence our moods and interactions with that environment exterior to our selves.
The mark-making I use in my work is an intention on my part to learn another language that happens on an intuitive level of ourselves, one that speaks outside of the intellect. They aim at recreating an experience of self-discovery. I want to explore the things that make us unique, investigate where and what the boundaries are between us, and look for the things we hold in common.
A recurring theme in my work is a focus on the quality of trust. The paintings are built up with many layers of overlapping marks, a process that requires a lot of letting go and starting new. The trust comes in when I decide to cover up a part of the painting that I’m attached to for the sake of the entire painting. I trust that the part that I feel is beautiful is not simply an accident or a one-shot deal. In other words, I trust that it is within my power to create something beautiful (subjective as that is) again and again, and in so doing discover innumerable forms of beauty.
During the course of a painting, there are a number of times when it feels close to finished, but not quite. And "not quite" is not good enough. I force myself to continue, trusting largely in my intuition to lead me along a path to a painting that I can call "Done". I award that conclusive term to a painting only when it fully resonates with me.
About the Horse paintings
The inspiration I draw from Abstract Expressionism, from those courageous aims to enter and explore the ranges of human essence, is only matched by my reverence for painters devoted to realism, who depict the outer world through their keen ability to see into the heart of it. Quite a contrast, these two styles. But contrast, through its characteristic of relative opposites, creates a focal point of interest, a chasm, the borders along which are full of opportunity for insight. My most recent body of work attempts to meld the two genres of non-objective and representational art through the magnificent forms of horses against emotive, abstract grounds.
Horses. Friend and partner to humankind historically, through to present times. So akin to human physicality in some of their architectural components – the divots and knolls of their elegant musculature, the wrinkles, folds and blemishes of their body’s skin. Emotionally, they are kindred spirits, as witnessed through their eyes and personal natures. These powerful and elegant creatures have been indispensable to our worldly accomplishments by way of arduous, dedicated labor – a choice partner in helping sculpt human civilization. We are beholden to them, and admire them for much.
In rendering these majestic and gentle beings, brimming with elegant detail against raw backgrounds of emotional mark-making and color, a synthesis of inner and outer worlds congeal for me. Sensations, those experienced through seeing, mingle with those that exist in cryptic form and line the recesses of my interior. The result is an inspired amalgamation that I earnestly attempt to translate on to canvas in hopes that viewers may capture a glimpse of this experience for themselves.