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I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...

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The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...

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The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...

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Ocula Insight

Kenneth Blom at Pékin Fine Arts, Hong Kong

Katie Fallen 4 December 2015
Kenneth Blom. Courtesy Pékin Fine Arts. 

Having already shown extensively in Europe, the Danish artist, Kenneth Blom (b. 1967), has brought his paintings to Asia for the first time with a solo-exhibition at Pékin Fine Arts, Hong Kong.  With a clear signature style, Blom’s melancholic architectural, figurative and landscape paintings cast a cool blue light across the gallery space. On the eve of the opening, Ocula sat down with the artist to discuss his practice and continued dedication to his medium.

Walking into the gallery space, your personal aesthetic is particularly strong. Please could you explain your process of creation?

The process always begins with a strong composition, making up the circles and lines, and then at the end I put in the people … it all depends on the composition. So in a way I work abstractly when I do these things; I’m not a figurative painter when I do the process but it ends up being that. 

So does the imagery come from your imagination rather than reality?

No, it’s a mix. I mean you walk around, you see people as you do now [points to the exhibition], but it’s a mix between fantasy and reality. I need [people] to be alive. I need them to start to walk, to fight, to kiss, to scream. In a way it’s a real life story I’ve tried to talk about, but it’s not from [the] real. Mostly I don’t use models; I just use the idea. 

Exhibition view: Kenneth Blom, Theater of Operations, 2015. Image courtesy Pékin Fine Arts, Hong Kong. 

Your earlier works are very traditional, figurative images. Did you start by drawing and painting from life models initially?

Yes. I had a straight academic education, but since I was fifteen I have always loved Danish farmer paintings … the lonely boy standing on the road—it went to me directly. And when I was studying art in Düsseldorf, it was quite another stage of art: conceptual, rough work, reduced installations. We went to this big show in Copenhagen, and I remember I just couldn’t get it, so I went back to [painting] private small rooms. So I’m a rather old fashioned painter, but I see now that painting changes all the time, and that’s why I love the medium.

You say your paintings are old-fashioned; they also appear quite distant, almost dystopian.

You can use painting—and this is why I think it’s so important—to give [the viewer] a little break; it stops time for just a little while. You can walk into a gallery and be quiet in front of a painting. It gives a little break from the rushing time. I love that this medium [does that].

Kenneth Blom, Once, 2015. Painting, 80 cm x 100 cm. Image courtesy Pékin Fine Arts, Hong Kong. 

While many other artists jump between video and installation, painting and sculpture you religiously remain a painter. What is it about the medium that appeals so much?

I think it’s just like going into a friendship for a long time—it creates a special kind of friendship. You can also have friends that maybe last for two weeks, which are also interesting, but there’s something about working for a period and going really into the stuff.  Now we have to be careful because you can choose to do both dancing and making art, or sound and installation, or theatre, whatever, which is right. I love to paint so I thought, well I think I’m going to paint for some years now and see what that is, and I couldn’t stop. So you lose something by doing that, but you also gain something; you’re in focus your whole life.  I am trying to make the best painting and then I will quit; it won’t happen (laughs). —[O]

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