Michael Kvium

Michael Kvium

Circus Europe

“It’s a constant pleasure for me that I can get people so worked up.” Join us for a studio visit with painter Michael Kvium, particularly known for his characteristic figurative imagery. He here talks about addressing contemporary issues through his art.

“I cannot change the political opinion… but I can change people’s lack of observation of what’s happening.” Kvium feels that in our present times, the shared idea that we once had of Europe is beginning to fall apart. When the refugees began to come in, people were forced to look at what was happening and what it would be like to find themselves in a similar situation. The politicians in power, however, did not seem to do the same: “They tend to see everything as a threat. But there are some humanitarian issues that we Europeans or Westerners have tried to keep in mind in former times because our history is not very pretty. Some things cannot be allowed to happen. No matter how difficult it is we can’t make a mess of it because we know what the result may be.”

Painting allows Kvium to process his thoughts on the things that are happening in “circus Europe”, and the peculiar people in his paintings often “present a criticism below the surface.” As an example, when he wanted to confront the issues surrounding how we react to the flow of refugees, he took off in ‘tourism’ and made the painting ‘Beach of Plenty’ (2017). Here he wanted to distort the familiar theme and connect it to real-life incidents where tourists on beaches have suddenly been confronted with refugees: “It’s the border where the whole conflict is played out. Because we cannot think further than to the water’s edge.” In continuation of this, Kvium finds that avoiding discomfort or conflict is dangerous, and prefers to explore the honesty that discomfort holds, instead of simply ignoring it.

Michael Kvium (b. 1955) is Danish artist, who made his breakthrough on the art scene in the 1980s as part of the performance group Værst with which he made video narratives, cartoons and performances. In recent years, his signature media has been painting. Kvium has also done stage design for the theatre and has exhibited all over the world. In 2001 he was the recipient of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art’s prestigious Eckersberg Medal. For more see: http://www.michaelkvium.com/

Michael Kvium was interviewed by Christian Lund at Kvium’s studio in Asserbo, Denmark in March 2017. The interview was made in connection to Kvium’s total installation ‘Circus Europe’ (Cirkus Europa) at Arken Museum of Modern Art (September 2nd 2017 – 14th January 2018). The exhibition sheds light on our current situation and the on-going changes in Europe.

Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard & Jonathan Kvium
Installation shots: Sune Berg & Lars Beyer
Cover photo: Cropped version of ‘Small Talk Show’ (2016)
Edited by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærksen
Produced by: Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2017

Supported by Nordea-fonden

  • Nástio Mosquito

    'Mama Africa' is a Construct

    In this short interview Angolan artist Nástio Mosquito discusses his provocative video work, in which he through three blazing speeches addresses the legacy of the western logic of ownership and debt, not least regarding a construct like ‘Africa’.

  • Nástio Mosquito

    What are You Willing to Die for?

    Angolan artist Nástio Mosquito has been dubbed “the future star of the art world.” He here talks about his invigorating multidisciplinary practice, which investigates universally human characteristics in a teasing, polemic and humorous way.

  • Marina Abramović

    Electricity Passing Through

    For more than 50 years trailblazing performance artist Marina Abramović has used her own body and energy as her main artistic material. In this powerful interview, the artist looks back on her radical practice: “It was like the first woman walking on the moon.”

  • The Story of Marina Abramović & Ulay

    Legendary couple in performance art – Marina Abramović and Ulay – lived together for 12 years and made pioneering work as a duo. In this extraordinary double interview the artists look back on their relationship – from their first meeting in 1975 until now.

  • 11 Artists

    on Photography

    “We are so oversaturated with images, so it’s about one question: Can I hold you - can I get you to look at an image for longer than a second?” Watch Catherine Opie, Wim Wenders, Jeff Wall and 8 other artists on the power and potential of photography.

  • Julie Nord

    The Power of Drawing

    “It’s the closest you get to silence – or skin. There’s so little between me as an artist and my material.” Artist Julie Nord here shares her attraction to the "no bullshit" of drawing. Visit her studio and take a peek at how she makes her surreal, fairy tale-like drawings.

  • Nina Saunders

    A Cultural Warrior

    Meet artist Nina Saunders who plays with the familiar by twisting it in surprising ways. She here discusses her humorous yet disturbing work – made from discarded upholstered furniture and stuffed animals – which comments on our world.

  • Erica Jong

    Sexuality and Creativity

    “The urge to create and the urge to copulate are very close.” Watch the iconic feminist writer Erica Jong speak candidly of being fuelled creatively by desire, her experiences as a female writer and what she has come to realize about men.

  • Karl Ove Knausgård

    On 'Madame Bovary'

    “This controlled perfection, that I usually don’t like, elevates it.” Karl Ove Knausgård – author of ‘My Struggle’ – here shares his love of the classic novel ‘Madame Bovary’ by Gustave Flaubert, which he has read three times at different stages of his life.

  • Günther Uecker

    Advice to the Young

    German artist Günther Uecker (b. 1930) – one of the most prominent members of the ZERO Group – here stresses the importance of not adhering to the conventions of society, but to follow one’s own voice: “Don’t rush to the guillotine, assert yourself first.”

  • Günther Uecker

    Poetry Made with a Hammer

    “We need images to cross the boundary of the unutterable.” The moving story of Günther Uecker – a legendary German artist, who expresses his artistic belief by means of a hammer and nails, thus reflecting his dark experiences from World War II.

  • Sambuichi

    Sun, Water and Air

    Travel through an enchanting sea of light and darkness orchestrated by the praised Japanese architect Hiroshi Sambuichi. He here shares his thoughts behind the wondrous water and light installation set in an old underground water reservoir.