With the project “New Ways” the artist FLORIAN KÖHLER was working out a visual documentation of several weeks of pilgrimage by foot through Austria and Italy. The starting point for the 1.200 km long walk was Innsbruck (Tirol, Austria), wherefrom the route led via Bozen, Trient, Padua, Bologna, Dovadola and in the end via Assisi and Rieti to Rome.
Along the way Florian Köhler was taking notes in the form of sketches, watercolors and a diary to journalize the experiences, the difficulties and the daily routine of the journey. After his arrival in Rome these notes have been used as primary material to work out a cycle of paintings of variable size, which has subsequently presented the results of the project together with the sketches in two final exhibitions in Innsbruck and the Vatican (Rome).
“New Ways” particularly focused on the demonstration of an alternate and innovative approach within the artistic medium of painting: Köhler deliberately confronted himself with the physical and mental strains of a pilgrimage by foot. By using graphic utensils and watercolors the impressions and ideas have been recorded en route while diary entries have documented the progress of the walk. The way itself set the pace of the artistic realization and determined the execution and themes of the paintings by weather as well as its course. Likewise the artist and pilgrim can be understood as an image carrier, his path as canvas primed with the sweat and the endeavors along the way, his memory and experiences as colors and forms.
The walk consciously took place against the background of an ancient routing system, which originates in the pilgrim's routes of the 13th century and since then functions as a cultural network
and connector system between the different cities and countries within Europe. The confrontation with these ancient travel routes further shall broaden the project’s horizon by not only
reflecting the phenomenon of pilgrimage itself but also by analyzing the motivation for such a walk in past and contemporary times.
In this respect the artist declares that
"the subject matter of pilgrimage and walking shows manifold aspects, whereby especially the contrast between the monotony of everyday life and the lighthearted exploration of the world by
foot remains one of the most fascinating. The experience of walking changes our percipience of the passing nature and cities as the hectic pace of our modern world gives way to a leisurely
calmness, which lets us see foreign countries, conventions and landscapes from a different point of view. It is a concern of mine to convey these values through my art and to broaden the minds of
people who nowadays often feel trapped within human society."
[Florian Köhler, 2015]