Per Kirkeby



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Not on display

Per Kirkeby 1938–2018
Monoprint on paper
Support: 2203 × 1252 mm
Purchased 2003


Per Kirkeby’s artistic practice is diverse and experimental. In the 1960s, Kirkeby worked alongside Fluxus artists, renowned for their interdisciplinary practices. This early influence continues to be apparent in Kirkeby’s openness to working in a wide range of media. As well making paintings and various prints, he has an extensive sculptural practice encompassing maquettes, bronzes, and site-specific works constructed in brick. He has produced numerous artists’ books, published essays and poetry, and made documentary films.

Kirkeby’s print and painting practices are closely related. His works are mostly abstract with characteristically vigorous brushwork and dramatic gestural marks that are both organic and expressionistic. Influenced by Abstract Expressionism, his picture making is largely process based, with the works arising from rigorous experimentation and investigation rather than following an initial plan. As a result, his two-dimensional works are complex and ambiguous. Kirkeby originally trained as a geologist, and it was while recording his natural surroundings on scientific expeditions that his artistic drive was stimulated. The Danish landscape continues to influence Kirkeby, and his work is often suggestive of geological features, as well as floral forms and references to the female figure. Kirkeby’s work does not generally depict specific places or objects though. Rather, he sees his colour fields as connected to psychological states, intending the experience of his paintings to be a synthesis of sensory impressions.

This large-scale monoprint is characteristic of Kirkeby’s expressionist style. Using a limited palate, the large, gestural brushstrokes have hastily made with a relatively dry brush. Kirkeby has painted directly on a flat metal surface from which the print is taken, making the work unique. The inherent transience of the monoprint medium has metaphorical interest for Kirkeby. As he says: “There is nothing left on the plate: it is rubbed out, elided. But the paper now bears an unreal imprint. It is a reproduction. The original drawing has vanished, but there is one and only one reproduction.” (Per Kirkeby, Per Kirkeby: Tafeln Zeichnungen Monotypien, exhibition pamphlet, Galerie Michael Werner, New York, 2000, unpaginated).

As with many of Kirkeby’s prints and paintings, this work is untitled.

Further reading:

Mikael Wivel, Per Kirkeby: Lithographs, Forlaget Bjerggaard, 2000
Per Kirkeby: Per Kirkeby: Tafeln, Zeichnungen, Monotypien, exhibition catalogue, Michael Werner, Cologne, 2000
Per Kirkeby: Retrospektive, exhibition catalogue, Mus. Ludwig, Cologne, 1987

Maria Bilske
January 2005

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