Describing both a process of drawing and a way of being, Yehonatan Koenig’s mesmerizing, gently fractal ink on paper drawings evince a harmonic tension between creation and dissolution, pattern and chaos, macro and micro, certainty and exploration — and most saliently, between states of knowing and not knowing. Both a personal chronicle of experiences in consciousness and a physical manifestation of universal forces at work, Koenig’s work embraces his omnivorous curiosity and polyvalent background. In addition to his appreciation for the humanist power embedded in the murmurations of his organic, ritualistic drawings, Koenig’s experiences in technology, music, immersive design, gaming, and various hybrid permutations all inform his perspective of constant discovery. His latest exhibition opens at Bestor Architecture Gallery this week.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
YEHONATAN KOENIG: An artist I was born, long before I knew the name for art. My hands, eyes, and mouth feasted on the beauty of the material world, and the secrets of light were mine to behold. My first brush with creation was as a child, folding silver wrappers, and polishing them on the pavement, thus creating shiny little silver pyramids and cubes that gleamed in the light.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
I make art to explore beauty in the chaos and impermanence of form and meaning, using my practice of “knowing-not-knowing” as a way to access deeper truths inside yourself. My work is a meditation on fleeting moments of beauty and the impermanence of all things, and serves as a springboard to the wonder this truth brings. I hope to invite the viewer of my work to connect with a sense of wonder and awe by experiencing “knowing-not-knowing” for themselves.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
Had I not found solace in the realm of the senses — cooking, music, dance, and song — my heart would have sought delights elsewhere … Perhaps as a mystic or a wild priest of the ancient lore of my heritage.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
I completed my MFA at Hunter College in NYC. While art school provided me with a wealth of knowledge, inspiration, and practice, the realities of being a working artist crushed my confidence. It took me 30 years of honing my confidence in various adjacent pursuits before I found my unique artistic vision and the courage to create without seeking validation. My confidence is now rooted in my ability to trust and believe in my artistic vision, regardless of external approval.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
Los Angeles is a paradox, a dystopian city that somehow thrives and thrives. Underneath the glitz and glamor, there lies a hidden world of novelty and creativity, waiting to be discovered. It’s this allure of the unknown that always draws me in, like an inkblot that spreads in water, creating mesmerizing patterns in the bright sunlight.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?
I would most like to show with Hilma af Klint, as her use of abstraction and symbolism to explore spiritual and mystical themes speaks to my own exploration of the relationship between form and formlessness. Her focus on accessing higher states of awareness through art would provide a powerful context for my work. I imagine a show called “The Tyger” based on William Blake’s poem which explores the idea that art, while reflecting the natural world, cannot fully capture the sublime nature of the world without the interior lens of the artist’s devoted mystical pursuit.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
My next show — Ink on Paper — opens on Friday, February 3rd at The BAG (Bestor Architecture Gallery) on Hyperion Ave.
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