Kirsten Christensen. The dream is riding by - no time to lose
Kirsten Christensen turned 80 on 7 February 2023, and Holstebro Kunstmuseum is celebrating this occasion with a retrospective exhibition that includes a selection of the artist’s most significant works from public and private collections, as well as a number of new productions showing her current artistic standpoint. Kirsten Christensen has received renewed attention in recent years, and is now recognised as one of Denmark’s most prominent artists. In other words, there are several good reasons to celebrate her right now.
The exhibition The dream is riding by – no time to lose presents a broad selection of Kirsten Christensen’s versatile artistic work, at which it will be possible to see the well known works in stoneware – her favourite material at the outset of her career – transformed into ceramic images. Subsequently, watercolours and oil crayon drawings also found their way into her work, resulting in a colour palette that is more glowing and explosive than that permitted by the limited slip scale of the clay.
The exhibition also includes the early geometric-abstract compositions and the imaginative depictions of life and the mind, as well as scenes full of longing, which speak of the basic conditions of life in an intimate and candid manner: childhood, gender, sexuality, old age and death. Works of this type are often based on old family photographs in which reality, memory, dreams and imagination are combined in sometimes secretive ways. Later in her artistic production, topics such as the predation of nature by human beings and the infinity of space are introduced. Fabulous beasts, innocent dogs floating in an almost surreal manner in a universe of weightlessness, leaping deer and other lusty animals abound in the works. With an ironic distance to the brutal depictions of reality, they also function as symbols of unspoken aspects of human nature.
Kirsten Christensen’s critical-realistic art is based on her personal life story, in which her
relationship with her mother, her mother’s stay in a residential home and her death, as well as Kirsten Christensen’s own serious illness later on, shape the production of the paintings. Also central to her production are a series of ceramic images of graves, in which the dead come to light as though in archaeological excavations. The renderings of vertebrae and lifeless bodies are sober yet everyday narratives of death.
The exhibition also includes works that describe a number of the artist’s biographical life circumstances in a form of confession that is not self-reflection, but is rather about describing general human conditions in an honest and rebellious manner. In addition, there are landscape descriptions from the area around the San Cataldo artists’ refuge on the Amalfi Coast in Italy, painted photographic self-portraits, diaries and personal letters. Finally, the new productions address current geopolitical issues, including the war in Ukraine, and also deal with the enigmatic Swedish painter Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) and her fate.
Overall, Kirsten Christensen’s art is borne by equal parts social indignation and embodied protest, but it is redeemed in a beauty-seeking and poetry-filled space.