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Per Kirkeby

From Nature

14.12.2018 - 24.03.2019

The exhibition “Per Kirkeby. From Nature” by the Schleswig-Holstein State Museums Foundation was planned to honour the 80th birthday of the well-known Danish artist Per Kirkeby, who was born in Copenhagen in 1938. However, during the course of preparations, news was received of his death: Per Kirkeby, one of the most famous contemporary Scandinavian artists passed away on May 9, 2018. The exhibition in collaboration with the Michael Werner Gallery serves to honour his memory. 

The show concentrates on the works since the 1980s, which are recognised as the decisive radical change in Kirkeby’s works. His works in bronze, with which he started in 1981, were provided according space.

In addition to selected works in bronze and Masonite panels, primarily gouaches and large format sketches will be exhibited.

Per Kirkeby bequeaths us unprecedented diverse and complex works as a painter, sculptor, film maker and man of letters. He was also, as Paul Klee noted as a prerequisite for an artist’s calling, a “poet, nature researcher and philosopher”. The starting point for his complex artistic works is his scientific interest in nature. He studied Geology from 1957 to 1964 and concluded his studies with a doctorate on Arctic Geology. For this, Per Kirkeby participated in several expeditions to Greenland, which were formative for his art. 

Parallel to his scientific studies, Kirkeby started studying Painting and Graphics at the Copenhagen Eksperimenterende Kunstskole [Experimenting Art School] in 1962. At this point in time, the Danish artistic avant-garde worked there. His confrontation with nature thus continued in his painted, sculpted or also poetic treatments. The relationship with nature was essential to Kirkeby in all areas.

The landscape was not the “idyll genre”, but rather “a space, a structure” for Kirkeby.

Drawing fulfilled an important role here. For him, it denotes a central artistic and intellectual medium for reflection. Therefore, it has special significance in the exhibition. In addition to selected works in bronze and Masonite panels, primarily gouaches and large format sketches will be displayed which are equivalent to the paintings in their density. 

The central keynotes in Kirkeby’s drawings include landscape formations, even if he created no traditional landscape depictions. The landscape was not the “idyll genre”, but rather “a space, a structure” for him.

Working in numerous layers, primarily when painting but also in his drawings, is a special hallmark of Kirkeby’s creative process. Here, the layering process follows Kirkeby’s own criteria, developed from the creative process. His artistic interest in nature does not merely target illusionistic depiction, rather Kirkeby searches for an inner context between nature and his art.

Schleswig-Holstein State Museums
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