“The fundamental topic of my work is the world of images, in particular our collective memory of images. Therefore, I explore a broad variety of different subjects to convey an idea of the enormous multitude of images that surround us. From this approach I derived the idea to define my practice as a long-time project within which I continuously add new drawings to an archive of images. As these images derive from my imagination and memory, I call it a mental archive.” - SK

Steffen Kern (b. 1988, DE) works with pencil and charcoal on paper in a meticulous method that elevates a conventional medium to a contemporary style. Creating works in both vivid color and black and white, the artist’s style is uniquely marked by luminous contrasts and a mastery of light and shadow. As if drawing in a dark room, Kern experiments with the visual elements of blooming, depth of field, distortion and shadow caused by direct light. The effect is powerful and striking, harkening back to old masters while simultaneously feeling markedly current.


Kern is highly influenced by the principles of photography, and he applies various photographic aesthetics to his works, but the subjects of his drawings are constructed without using photographic or real-life references. Instead, the artist searches for images in his mind that appear to be part of our collective pictorial memory. The images are familiar and yet vaguely uncanny, falling somewhere between film stills and a universal subconscious archive. Within the works one can trace themes from pop culture, film and domestic life. Whether portrayed with bold, saturated colors or starkly monochromatic, the works are refined, captivating and deeply memorable.