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Contemporary Art, Nature-inspired

John Olsen (b. 1938), Inge Lise Westman (b. 1945), Kirsten Klein (b. 1945), Lene Bødker (1958),  Pipaluk Lake (f. 1962), Tobias Møhl (f. 1970) and Emil Westman Hertz (1978-2016) form a separate group of artists in the collections of Holstebro Kunstmuseum. The common feature shared by these artists is their working methods and range of motifs which stem from a profound familiarity and sense of kinship with nature serving to express external as well as ’inner’ landscapes – inspiration from nature and manifestations of mind in equal measures.

This group of artists also share a degree of melancholy in their expressive mode, nurtured by the change of seasons from the birth of spring, the growth of summer, autumn harvest, and, finally, the death of winter: a discernible cycle and a constant reminder of the inevitable transitoriness of life. Melancholy is often considered part of a northern European tradition which, in the case of Danish art, goes back to the 1850s where romantic feelings for nature were given visual expression.

Continuing from here the artists attempt to mirror a kind of spirituality in their works where nature is animated by forces going beyond commonplace human perception. Through their works, the artists attempt to come close to the mystery of nature and, eventually, to the mystery of life.

With her landscape pictures so pregnant with poetry, Kirsten Klein continues along the lines of the Romantic currents of earlier times. Thematically, she often explores the relationship between closeness and distance, home and away. With immense photographic technique and by means of tremendous contrasting effects, she manages to catch the light and the seasonal changes.

Some of Klein’s sceneries exude longing and sadness. This is not true in the case of Inge Lise Westman, who tends to concentrate on specific details of nature and its dramatic monumentality. Westman’s condensed paintings are both micro and macrocosmic in character, enabling them to allude to sea swells and remote nebulae at one and the same time.

Similarly, ’the finder of things’, John Olsen’s unsentimental aesthetics of mortality serves to emphasise the general diversity of nature. It is crucial, however, that Olsen’s piles of dried-out carcasses, bones, and fossils are placed in close proximity to the litter of civilisation in the shape of man-made things like metal and plastic.

None of the artists works contains staffage. Nature per se manages to combine the atmospheric setting with the means to achieve it. Their art contains no raised fingers, but Man’s lack of respect in relation to nature easily comes to mind. – What does the future hold for the Earth seen in the light of scarce resources and the explosive population growth?