"Tail to Tail"
MICHAEL KVIUM TAIL TO TAIL
17.03 – 05.05.2012
Tail to Tail is Michael Kvium’s first solo exhibition at Nils Stærk. The exhibition consists of new oil paintings and works on paper.
Since the paintings and performances of the 1980’s Michael Kvium’s works have focused on uncompromising descriptions of the aspects of life that we rather hide than expose to observation. In recent years Kvium’s grotesque and perverted depictions of the human body are companied by beautiful landscapes and animal motives. The general theme still remains life and the double character of horror and redemption that death represents in comparison. Death acts as a constant presence in Kvium’s works, reminding us of the paradoxical consequence of conception.
Michael Kvium’s painterly stagings contain associations to a theatre stage. As a theater plays a story that unfolds in the interval between the curtain rise and fall, human life unfolds between life and death. It is this interval Michael Kvium holds focus on.
In the large-scale two-piece work Tail to Tail on display at Nils Stærk, the viewer is confronted with two figures on a monochrome background. One is dressed in a cardinal’s red dress and headpiece and points towards the sky. The other wears a judge’s black gown and wig and points horizontally out of the painting. Out of each figure’s back grows a tail. The two tails meet in the centre point between the two canvases, thus combining them. Tail to Tail is at once a merciless, disturbing, grotesque and ironic comment on the power structures and stories we submit ourselves to. The cardinal, the judge, and also the nun are characters that Kvium investigates in his new works. It is a common trait of these characters that they traditionally refer to a meaning that transcends the Western ideals. Instead, Kvium’s works reveal them as grotesque symbols, stressing staging as a fundamental condition of human existence. The painting’s transmission of mistrust towards the authorities we are surrounded by, takes on the character of a political statement. The judge and the cardinal’s clothes, and the meaning they bear reference to, become undermined when they are reduced to props or costumes. Even the cardinal laughs scornfully at those who think to find meaning in the direction his finger points. In Michael Kvium’s works meaning rather seems to have its source in the body itself when bodies are connected and act in closed circuits and systems.
In the works Interrupted Sky Piece I and Interrupted Sky Piece II the same issue is at stake, but in a different context. These are virtuoso paintings whose visual language is placed far from the aesthetics of ugliness Michael Kvium is often associated with. Beautiful cloud formations are penetrated by leafless treetops inhabited by black birds that watch toward the horizon. The infinite and enigmatic sky seems challenged by the trees’ dead branches that appear as reminders of all life’s ending.
The worldview confronting the spectator in Michael Kvium’s works evokes a paradoxical feeling of horror and fascination of the hideous and of nothingness. But the fear of emptiness and the lack of meaning or being create the foundation of a sublime redemption in the experience of his works.