Untitled (Helen)

Per Kirkeby Danish

Not on view

The abstract forms of Danish Neo-Expressionist artist Per Kirkeby’s paintings are often interpreted in relation to his early interest and training in geology. He himself compared painting to geological processes—"Painting is laying layer upon layer ...It is like the geological strata with cracks and discordances. But each new layer, however furious, is always infected and colored by the underlying one". The surface of Untitled (Helen) emerges through an accretion of gestural effects from loose brushy strokes of thinly applied paint that trickles down onto the canvas to more crisply defined strokes, with brighter colors overlaying the earthy undertones. In his approach to abstraction, Kirkeby’s work is in dialogue with the work of postwar artists in both Europe and America, from Asger Jorn and Georg Baselitz, to Clyfford Still and Julian Schnabel. While the reference to Helen in the title of the painting cannot be securely determined—it may refer to the character Helen of Troy from the Greek myth the Judgement of Paris, which served as inspiration to generations of artists—what is known is that Kirkeby was an avid student of artists from an earlier era (including many who tackled this subject in their painting) such as Eugène Delacroix, J.W.M. Turner, Paul Cézanne, and Gustave Courbet, learning many coloristic and compositional lessons from these predecessors that are evident in this painting.

Untitled (Helen), Per Kirkeby (Danish, Copenhagen 1938–2018 Copenhagen), Oil on canvas

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