IN THE AIR
Essay for Sol Kjøk & Peter Max-Jakobsen
in Galleri Oxholm, Copenhagen, may and june 2014
The same things can arise simultaneously in several different places independently of one another. There is no original one and the rest copycats. That certain phenomena occur in many places at once, separately, can be ascribed to the zeitgeist: these ideas are in the air − this is how it is right now. Simultaneous discovery. That's what's at work in this show, and hence its title: IN THE AIR.
These ideas are swirling about in the air to be captured by whoever can tune into their frequency.
The two exhibiting artists, Sol Kjøk and Peter Max-Jakobsen, both had the experience of encountering something of their own in the other person's work.
They share the central element of the human figure.
Each in their own way, both artists use the movements and positions of the outer body to convey human beings' inner states. Movements become intimations, indefinable and incomplete, and so their figures seem to be in perpetual motion.
Floating in empty space, gingerly and without earth connection, these airborne bodies are detached from all spaces other than those forming around them.
The human figure is a subject that is always ready at hand for the artist. The self-portrait has a central place in art history. In the human face/portrait, the artist can express the universal through the individual.
Kjøk and Max-Jakobsen, however, do not focus only on the face, but on the whole body, either depicted its entirety or as a flurry of limbs.
While Kjøk's images typically show "recognizable" bodies that are interlaced as complete human forms, each with expressive faces, Max-Jakobsen tends to render his figures in a sketch-like, jerky manner that allows the viewer to observe the movements as they unfold.
Generally, both artists' figures are nude. Thus removed from time and place, they become pure descriptions of the body and the human being.
Simultaneously contemporary and eternal, these bodies open up a space for transcendence and expansion of the mind where the human condition is altered.
Free of time and space, they speak directly of existence and the fundamental human lot.
With the language of the body, inner landscapes emerge through the figures' interactions.
Whether standing alone, as in most of Max-Jakobsen's works on view here, or linked with other bodies, as in Kjøk's pieces. The work speaks of that which cannot be said, the indefinable charge pulsing between movements and bodies. That which is in the air.
Kjøk's human figures are very expressive in their movements, allowing the viewer to perceive and partake in the entire interaction between them.
Max-Jakobsen's figures may seem closed off and inward-looking, and yet they serve as mirrors where the spectators see reflections of themselves and the surrounding world.
The air is "the void" where everything takes place, for both artists' figures.
The air is the medium where light is refracted and sound waves take shape. While invisible, the movements of light and sound in air impact humans, and interferences arise. The wave, whether of light or sound, changes direction, takes another form and moves on. The human bodies are left behind. Touched and affected. Stirred by that which is in the air.
Plants convert carbon dioxide in the air into oxygen, which land animals inhale and transform back into carbon dioxide, and so a perpetual circular movement occurs in the air.
Are we to paint what's on the face, what's inside the face, or what's behind it? - Pablo Picasso
The circle, which has a prominent place in both artists' pictorial universe, can be read as the ultimate symbol of air or as a sound wave reverberating like rings in water. The theme appears in many variations and forms in the imagery of both exhibitors.
Despite the close proximity of bodies, isolation and introversion are central in both oeuvres. The bodies constitute an ever-circling sphere − searching, without seeing each other, as the gaze flits here and there.
In Kjøk's work, the circle can read as a confining
chrysalis that must be broken and penetrated for the metamorphosis to occur. Or
the circle/chrysalis may represent the comfort zone where that which hovers in
the air can be expressed between the bodies and their souls.
The string that traces the circle or from which the chrysalis is suspended can be seen as the umbilical cord that gives nutrition and life or as the thread that holds a person together and connects one to the world.
The circle represents the individual in the community and human interactions in the back and forth between the two extremes: the perpetual circling between the outer and the inner realms. It’s about what occurs in the air.
For Max-Jakobsen, the circle has been present throughout most of his career as a fundamental symbol in his explorations and attempts at finding what is in the center. Max-Jakobsen does not depict people from the outside, but from the inside. From the very core of the human soul, where twisting and slithering forms sprout forth. And the viewer gets pulled into this eternal circle and becomes part of it. Like the rings that Max-Jakobsen places on and inside his human figures, the opposite poles end up in the same point.
While Max-Jakobsen's scenarios on view here consist of fewer figures than Kjøk’s, the movements of multiple limbs create a sensation similar to what occurs between full bodies, and so even the solitary figure appears to be in a context of others. And always in relation to something else: in relation to that what’s in the air.
Art does not reproduce what we see. It makes us see. Paul Klee
The air is an accumulation of gases, particles and fumes that constitute the atmosphere of the Earth. The space where humans live and breathe.
Art Critic and Writer