contemporary art / history of art

Irene Kung

Born in 1958 in Bern, Switzerland, Irene grew up with a mother who was painter and so she started painting early. Nevertheless, another of her earliest passions was photography, as she stated in an interview in 2014. When she was aged 20, Irene was shooting portraits. Due to her interest for images, she studied graphic design in Rome and worked for years in the advertising business. During this time, she continued to study painting. Her first subjects were realistic and she was early recognized for her still-lifes. While starting to exhibit her works, her images slowly became more abstract. Stimulated by the Roman gallerist Valentina Bonomo, she concentrated on photography, using it as a new tool of expression after working with different techniques like painting, graphics, sculpting and incision.

In one of the ongoing series, Irene focuses on architecture. Here she isolates classical and contemporary buildings of their surroundings. They are mostly shown with a black background. The artist illuminates only the parts of her interest (Invisible Cities). Since some time now, she edits selected images of this and other series in platinum palladium print. This technique refines the greyscale gradations and underlines the deep black. Our artwork of the month of February 2022 “Pingyao” from 2021 is part of these particular editions.

Moreover, Irene photographs landscapes (Clouds, New Mexico, Water, Mountains) and animals. Another series is dedicated to trees. Here again, the object stands alone; there is no environment in the image only a diffuse background, emphasising the atmosphere. These trees are often surrounded in black, reminding paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. Could this be a glimpse to her beginnings as painter and portrait photographer?

Besides many solo and group exhibitions all around the world (inter alia Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, UK, USA, Argentina, China and Russia) Irene’s works were featured by international magazines like The New York Times Magazine, The Sunday Times Magazine, Sette del Corriere della Sera and China Daily. Moreover, she was selected at ParisPhoto 2010. For the EXPO 2015 the Contrasto Galleria invited her to a solo show at the Fruit and Legumes Cluster, where she presented 26 of her fruit trees. One of them is our artwork of the month of May 2016: “Melo in fiore” (Flowering Apple Tree), though this tree is depicted with a light background. A selection of her trees entered in a book and a limited edition of 100 original signed prints published by Contrasto Galleria, Milan. Also in 2016, she won the International Photography Award in the categories Nature and Fine Art.

Two years later, in 2018, Porsche asked Irene to make an art edition for the new Porsche 911. For this purpose, Irene created the series “Timeless Machine”, where she embedded the model in urban sceneries like in movie stills. During the worldwide presentation of the new car, the photos were shown in large format. Subsequently, the pictures were exhibited in the Art Hangar of the Saanen/Gstaad-Airport in 2019 and 2020. Currently, Irene’s works are on view at “The Temple” in Beijing (until 8 April 2022) and the M97 Gallery, Shanghai (until 20 March 2022).

Irene lives and works in Switzerland.


Artwork of the Month / February 2022

Artwork of the month / May 2016