Sketchbook notes from the drifting spaces

Inspiring artist: Per Kirkeby

When I visited the Danish National Gallery (Statens Museum for Kunst) in Copenhagen in 2010 I enjoyed seeing the work of the great Danish painter and sculptor Per Kirkeby for the first time. He was in good company, with powerful examples of Baselitz and Munch nearby and powerful examples of Danish expressionism. The building and contemporary extension itself perfect for installation and large sculptural work is an excellent space…

National Gallery of Denmark, Tomás Saraceno

National Gallery of Denmark, artwork by Argentinian artist Tomás Saraceno

Relatively unknown by many in the UK, I think Kirkeby (born 1938) is absolutely deserving of a look-in! The large scale, complex painterly and abstract work is highly sophisticated, developed over a dedicated career, and is fascinatingly pleasurable to gaze at. For myself, trying to simplify the picture plane and reduce shapes and marks, it is nice to see painting that takes abstract the other way, into a constellation of flatnesses and semi-sculpted planes drifting and buzzing with a geographical mapping quality that makes their titles such as ‘The Siege of Constantinople’ all the more mysterious. The rich, dark palettes of colours are knifed and brushed with a variety of textures, with metamorphic transitions through low-key to higher key colours. Perfectly exemplifying the best of continental expressionism for me, his non-figurative work is gritty, unsentimental and uncontained by the boundaries of representational or pretty work. The brick pieces or bronze sculptures which are almost more intense in their darker simplicity, are also inspiring, and bounce off the 2D paintings and drawings. Check out his work and prepare to be transported on a free floating trip into abstract, intellectual painterly worlds…


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