03 Sep – 09 Oct 2010
In a range of new paintings with the common title Motives II, Kehnet Nielsen (b. 1947) unveils a space, which simultaneously is familiar and present, but also private, intimate and confidential. The paintings show the artist’s own studio depicted from numerous angles and with varying focal points. The studio painting is a familiar classical motif from the history of art, where famous painters have painted their studios as a sort of indirect self-portrait, spatial still life or memento mori, which through the carefully placed objects and elements, revert back to the artist subject, referencing earlier works and generating a range of existential questions. It is this tradition Kehnet Nielsen in his new works revisits while at the same time creating something entirely new and different.
The works in Motives II lie in conjunction with his previous exhibition at Galleri Susanne Ottesen, Lottenborg, 2007, which marks a new breakthrough in the artist’s production. As opposed to his purely abstract painting of the 90’ties, the works at Lottenborg tie figurative elements together with tactile layers of oil paint, through which we see a range of his intimate surroundings, such as his house, studio and garden. In Motives II, Kehnet Nielsen zooms in even further directing his focus purely toward his studio with its piles of half finished canvases and array of brushes, pots and paint tubes as well as the concentrated mood of a room of contemplation, focus and work, hereby revealing some of the painterly existential problems. The title Motives II points very concretely toward what the eye registers, our close surroundings. But of course it also hints at the fact that there are motives in the paintings; and that figurative- and abstract elements are mixed together, which at times makes the figurative barely visible and nearly dissolved, while conversely also reveals entirely concrete depictions of a chair, a painters table or a jar with brushes. In the works various painterly planes congregate and interlock whereby the canvasses appear flickering and quaking at the same time as they exude a sense of pastosity and calm. The motifs of the half finished canvasses diffuse out into the surrounding reality, whereby work and surroundings are joined together in these paintings of paintings. A number of the motifs or elements are repeated through the works and refer to older works, such as the empty chair. The chair simultaneously becomes an indirect self-portrait of the artist, a substitution for the body, which normally occupies the space but it also indicates an openness in the works which invites in the spectator to take part in the contemplative mood and in the reflection upon the work and the artist subject. The painter is hereby present in the work even when he is not directly depicted. As a shadow his silhouette appears in a couple of the works as if he in a self-reflection contemplates himself paint. In other works the painter seems more present in the objects and in the depicted canvasses; his shadow seems almost reminiscent in every stroke, every drop of oil and every splotch of paint.
A whole wall in the exhibition is made up of a row of small box-like works, which with their character as an object and humble dimensions (18 x 16 cm) create a leap in the perception of the exhibition. The boxes are packaging from paint tubes, which Kehnet Nielsen first time around has used as a sort of palette on which to mix his paints, and consequently has re-worked to become small works themselves, creating a sort of modified ready mades, which establishes a very direct and concrete link to his studio. The boxes are physical elements which reference the studio paintings, whereby the thick layers and splotches of paint in continuation of the meta-reflections of the studio paintings become, an indication that even a mere brush stroke of paint is a sign and a picture in its own right.
The studio paintings reference a romantic tradition where the studio and the artist subject have reached an almost iconic status in the history of art. But rather than celebrating the masculine artist subject, Kehnet Nielsen creates a range of reflections on the concept of the painting, and the role of the artist as well as overall existential contemplations. The works hereby do not close introspectively in on them self, but rather open up their presence and include the spectator.
Inger Marie Hahn Møller, MA in Art History