Wild, sweeping, immensity, sensitivity, and violence are a few words that floated into my mind while viewing the current exhibition of Danish artist Per Kirkeby at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art last week. The exhibition on view until July 14 aims to introduce American audiences to one of Europe’s most celebrated contemporary artists. Not only an artist, but a filmmaker, architect, writer, and geologist Kirkeby’s paintings and sculptures reflect these multifarious interests. Though the brushy abstraction of Kirkeby’s paintings are reminiscent of the abstract expressionists, his works are underscored by a profound interest in the natural world. His depictions of the landscape appear as both beautiful and violent, reflecting the fluctuating temperament of nature itself. Each painting rooted in representational landscape now look like windswept victims of a natural disaster with fierce brushstrokes building to a tangled abstract density. Reminiscent of ancient, crumbling mountains Kirkeby’s stoic bronze sculptures are both docile and aggressive. This duality reflects opposite themes such as sensitivity and violence as well as representation and abstraction that can be seen in every inch of Kirkeby’s paintings and sculptures. A recent review of the exhibition stated that Kirkeby’s works, “hold the same poignant fascination as an abandoned construction site or fire-swept forest,” a comparison that perfectly expresses the dramatic and unpredictable nature of Per Kirkeby’s artwork.
If you find yourself in Brunswick, Maine I recommend stopping by this exhibition and enjoying not only some wonderful artwork in a quaint setting, but the dramatic, beautiful Maine landscape as well. Just like Kirkeby’s paintings, the Maine landscape exhibits a dual nature; unmatched beauty alongside momentous power.
Here is a preview of selected works from the exhibition. Enjoy!
A Picture of the Yucatan, 1965, Synthetic paint on masonite
Untitled, 2009. Tempera on canvas
New Shadows V, 1996, Oil on canvas
Dark Cave, 1967, Oil and mixed media on masonite
Retrospect I, 1986, Oil on canvas
Untitled, 1982, Chalk and blackboard paint on masonite
No. 14, 1989, Bronze