Jannis Kounellis

Jannis Kounellis

Gray is the Color of Our Time

Take a look behind Greek artist Jannis Kounellis’ raw and powerful work: “There’s no distance between me and the dialogue established years ago, which sees man as the centre. That’s what compels me to create art all the time, every day.”

Known for using raw and untraditional materials, such as wool, stone and metal, Kounellis nonetheless considers his artwork to be similar to painting. The canvas has simply been replaced with material which – unlike canvas – polarizes the space: “It determines the space. It determines it and then polarizes it.”

The fragmentation and alienation of contemporary society is something which Kounellis is concerned with and confronts in his artwork by introducing elements of traditional culture: “I don’t think we are in a Belle Époque now. It’s another time of construction, a dramatic time of hope.” There’s a distance between globalism and internationalism, and while he sees the first as leading to “creative nonsense,” he considers the latter to spring from “cultures deeply rooted in men’s minds.”

A great admirer of Picasso, Kounellis sees himself as a child of the transformation from Impressionism to Cubism: “For me, atmosphere is something static. Cubism removes the atmosphere and as a result embraces classicism because it removes the atmosphere. Everything returns to the interior and the greys, the ochres, are interior colours and the Impressionist colours are gone.”

Jannis Kounellis (b. 1936) is a Greek painter, performance artist and sculptor. He studied art in Athens until 1956 and then moved to Italy, where he still resides. From 1967 Kounellis became associated with Arte Povera (literally poor art), and his work was characterised by the juxtaposition of objects, materials and actions that were both physically and culturally opposed to one another. These included raw materials such as stone, cotton, wool and coal, as well as objets trouvés like bed-frames, doors and shelves. He has participated in many international exhibitions, including the Biennale of Paris, documenta, the Venice Biennale and the Biennale of Sydney. His work has also been exhibited in venues such as the Kunstmuseum in Bern, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la ville de Paris, the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid and The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.

Jannis Kounellis was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at Galleri Bo Bjerggaard, Copenhagen in February 2015.

Camera: Jakob Solbakken
Edited by: Kamilla Bruus
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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