The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
In this painting the Danish artist Per Kirkeby generously applied large and smaller fields of colour onto the canvas. In some places the paint has been applied transparently so that it drips; in other places the paint is thicker and applied with a brush or a palette knife. On the right of the canvas a man holding a sword in his hand has been drawn with charcoal lines over the fields of colour. His face and right leg have been partly filled in with white paint. In the bottom-left corner, there are other characters, also drawn in charcoal, probably a woman with a child or two women.
Apart from the figures that are drawn, this appears to be an abstract painting. However, because of the alternating light and dark sections there is an illusion of space. The painting could be associated with the landscape without being precisely defined. The heavier areas of colour, mostly painted in a downwards movement, are reminiscent of dark forests, while the light and more transparent fields can be seen as air or like peepholes. The figures are shown in the foreground, but because they are only represented with a few lines they are not very striking. You only discover them at a second glance. They are more like shadows than people who are really present.
Per Kirkeby is a geologist as well as an artist, and went on several expeditions to remote areas. As an artist, he made paintings, graphic work and sculptures using brick and bronze. In addition he works with film and photography and writes essays and poems. Because of these very varied forms of expression Kirkeby’s work is difficult to categorise. However, all his work is permeated with a broad interest in culture and natural history and his paintings reflect an intense experience of nature. He does not portray nature, but presents a painted equivalent. The work is the result of the process of painting in which the starting point is often vague and metaphorical. His brushstroke style is similar to the Neo-Expressionist style of German contemporaries such as Baselitz and Immendorf.
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