press release

I have called the figure "idea" precisely in order to avoid alluding to a content or anything like it. Kirkeby, 1988

With this exhibition, the Henie Onstad Art Centre will give the Norwegian public another opportunity to experience the art of Per Kirkeby; one year before his 70th birthday and 32 years since the centre last held an exhibition of his works in 1975, we will welcome him back to one of his original venues.

Per Kirkeby is now regarded as one of the most significant artists of the postwar period, both in Scandinavia and in Europe. In Norway, his works are to be found in museums and collections in all parts of the country. Høvikodden is no exception: one of his brick sculptures from 1989 is to be found in our sculpture park. The last large-scale exhibition of his works in Norway was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in 1991. However, we have short memories and it is also important that the younger generation is given the chance to become acquainted with art of Kirkeby's format.

The exhibition consists of 40 paintings and 11 bronze sculptures and focuses on the figure as a recurring visual element in Per Kirkeby's oeuvre. In spite of the apparent abstract nature of his paintings and sculptures, there is one recognisable element common to all of them and that we have chosen to call the figure. This is a retrospective exhibition with a definite emphasis on the 1980s, but it also includes works going back to the 1960s and 70s. From the early stages of his career, it is obvious that visual criteria have both stimulated and acted as a springboard for Kirkeby's artistic process. The exhibition draws a line of development that clarifies the significance of the figure in relation to Kirkeby's process of abstraction, shows how Kirkeby reconciles the two and examines the possibilities he found in "figurativeness".

The Norwegian artist Sverre Wyller points to Per Kirkeby as his major source of inspiration. Wyller has written an article entitled "The self-image – about Per Kirkeby” (printed in Prisma no. 1, 2007) as a tribute to the artist on the occasion of this exhibition.

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Per Kirkeby