Aarhus Universitetsforlag

The Artist as Polyhistor

"The intellectual superstructure in the work of Per Kirkeby"

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293 pages ill.
ISBN 87 7934 154 3


Translated by


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About the book

It has become a commonplace in Per Kirkeby exhibition catalogues to note that he earned a master's in geology and participated in five research expeditions to Greenland, and to declare that he therefore paints in layers - as obviously only a sedimentary geologist can. Not only do curators and critics rarely delve any deeper into the relation between the work of this prolific experimental artist and his background in Arctic Quaternary geology, but they also entirely ignore the many other academic interests that inform his art, both conceptually and visually.

Yet Kirkeby himself has proclaimed, "A picture without intellectual superstructure is nothing." In The Artist as Polyhistor, Lars Morell provides the superstructure missing from other critical accounts by examining intellectual content and allusions in the Kirkeby oeuvre from eleven disciplinary perspectives - everything from theology to genetics and eros to crystallog­raphy. In addition, he has drawn on personal conversations with the artist, whose comments on the manuscript have also been incorporated into the final text.

Morell maintains that art that is genuinely aboutsomething is necessarily full of conflict and unexpected juxtapositions. As a result, the works he has sought out here are rarely beautiful in formal terms, but instead tend to be dissonant and dynamic, featuring breaks and breaches and irreconcilable elements. With 150 handsome illustrations, chiefly in colour, and a wide-ranging but clearly written text, this volume will appeal equally to the general reader and the specialist in contemporary art.


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