Trees, forests, landscapes play a pivotal role in Kirkeby’s oeuvre. Especially since his transition to painting on canvas in about 1975, one can discern impressions from nature as a starting point for a painterly practice that is often gestural and conscious of its material foundation. As the hothouse atmosphere of the 1980s waned, many artists were prompted to reconsider their practice, not least because of a crisis in the art market. While this hardly affected Kirkeby, he still began to reorganize his compositional structures by granting more space than before to potent color planes. With its restless brushstrokes and bright splotches of color, Skowhegan V announces this new direction to the viewer almost like a manifesto. In the top right, graphic elements are reminiscent of vegetation, but the horizontal and vertical color fields seem to indicate a resolute halt, without making the background completely disappear. Typical for Kirkeby is the ambiguity, whether foreground and background are to be understood in a spatial or temporal relation-most likely both. This remains true when the furor of painting gives way to a conceptual attitude.
Art historian, curator, and author
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