Brad Kunkle is a Brooklyn based artist who uses gold and silver leaf to paint figurative pictures that are both symbolic and surreal. Originally from rural Pennsylvania his appreciation for nature and the feminine principle are evident in his work. Here is a great chat with John Dalton.
A few works by Brad
Following words about Brad by: Kim Triebsee author at Beautiful Bizarre
Listen closely. Hear them sigh and rustle, expand and contract. Wonder if nature is tender in her touch or if she’ll consume you swiftly. Brad Kunkle’s works have a pulse and I promise you, if you hold still you might just get carried away. They’re cinematic, otherworldly and yet there is the barest of bones of something we inherently know. Something on the tip of our tongue. Borderless spaces in a state of creation or decay? Surrender or resolve? Emotional landscapes that reflect our interior states or perhaps they are more something that wipes our slate clean? “Moments of potential energy are mysterious and command our attention. Imagine a slow silent film happening in real time…that’s how my creative process begins when working with my subjects.”
Brad is a Brooklyn based Fine Artist who grew up in rural Pennsylvania and completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Kutztown University. His leaf work and technique are staggering and yet like a true master they live backstage letting the work obliterate its process of creation. His Midas touch comes from years of experimentation and development, rare in this age of overnight success. After secluding himself in a friend’s house in the woods, he had the time and space to truly keen his ear and find his voice. “It’s like having a tuning fork and finding the right note on the keyboard. You hit the fork, and climb the scale. Don’t listen to other people telling you which note it is, just keep hitting the keys until YOU hear it. That’s all that matters.”
Perhaps more than any other material on earth, gold is that holy grail that has obsessed us, inspired us, blinded us and devoted us. It delineates judgement on value and speaks of capitalism, greed, divinity and worth. And yet at the end of the day these are the things that we have painted onto it as it’s ultimately the stuff of our primordial origins. While Brad’s work can speak to these tropes, it also tells the story of someone who has mastered their medium. There comes a time when craftsmanship falls away and reverence takes its place. Like a Zen artist who learns to speak the language of ink, so too does Brad speak the language of metals. Gold is
his collaborator. “She has a mind of her own and often throws a spontaneous result at me that is beyond my control, but I’ve grown to accept her decisions and they become beautiful unexpected parts of the work. She’s a partner. And I have to treat her with so much more care and sensitivity than the paint.”
In fact, rather than being a decorative addition to his pieces it informs the work as a whole. His colour palettes shy away into a metallic harmony. The landscapes recede behind layers of paint and gilding. Leaves move under the physical surface of the work as ambient light tousles their flair. Aesthetics are turned on their head, as colour becomes a luxury and gold a necessity. “Within the work, I really do believe the idea of stripping excess colour allows the viewer to start with an image in which they can impose their own colours and preferences. Colour happens within the brain. Think of “colour blind” people. Just because they look at a ball and see it as brown, and you see it as blue, does not make the ball any less real…but it makes each of your realities unique.” These pieces come to life in the light of what we know.
It’s within these gold-bleached worlds that his subjects dissolve so sweetly. Stripped of familiar contexts, colour, and stereotypes we see someone heartbreakingly exposed yet congruent with their surroundings. Something inherently feminine. “One of the symbolic qualities of Nature in my work is how listening to our own nature can lead us to find our true path in life or at least one that brings us the most amount of meaning and happiness and purpose in life… I’m encouraging listening to one’s SELF.”
“The stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognised as your own.” Mary Oliver.