On the way to Acadia National Park recently, for another wonderful Artist in Residency, roommate tired of my line of BS and honestly actually told me to go to hell. Taken somewhat aback, my little black angel Nellie and I went for a walk in search of exercise and relief while my mind drifted (for the umpteenth time) to thoughts of redemption. And if you follow this space at all you will know that when I saw the sign above thoughts arose related to synchronicity and hope.
Expecting an assortment of other untethered souls, I soon found that all throughout Maine “Redemption” indicates a venue at which empty bottles can be exchanged for dirty coins. Oh well, we headed back to the artist supply store where our truck was being laden, working up our best sorrowful eye routine. Our artist rolled hers. Best case scenario.
Making our way north we stopped at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art to see a remarkable show of pictures and sculptures by “Scandinavia’s most famous living artist” Per Kirkeby. The Dane’s words greatly informed the experience. “The point at which art is found is the point where what is intriguing is dangerous.” I totally buy that. In every regard. Art, on an easel or in a life, will not be found – or made – very far from the edge.
“Where is the border between one and the other way to organize matter? For a brief moment I saw geology as a worldview… A huge stream of energy and materials, which now and then converge in crystalline structures, a mountain, a church, a brief moment, a breath, a morning mist over the ever-flowing river. The mountain-building energies were no less cultural than the energies of the church-builders”.
Brilliant. Consciousness as a force of nature. Tectonic even. Those scientists in search of a grand unified theory should start with him. New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldahl wrote of Kirkeby’s work: it’s like being: “hit by an abrupt , mildly disorienting spell of self-consciousness, a kind of mental stumble: the Kirkeby effect”. See? Just like the slap upside the head with which I was graced by my artist as described above.
Below you see his “Fram”. It is at once “a poetic rendition of nature with a great force of color” and a demonstration of Kirkeby’s philosophy that: “A picture without intellectual superstructure is nothing”. He has said that Fram draws from Caspar David Friedrich’s Das Eismeer (The sea of ice) which you see at bottom. If you’re not familiar with the latter, make sure to notice the shards of a wrecked ship being crushed by the ice. Fram means forward and was the name of the vessel used by polar explorer Fridtjof Nansens between 1893 and 1912.
*Quotes, photos, and information from the exhibition catalogue: Per Kirkeby Paintings and Sculpture, Kosinski and Ottmann, Yale, 2012. The show originated at the Phillips Collection and the only other venue was Bowdoin. There through Bastille Day