"Per Kirkeby painted the best picture of this documenta" (J.-C. Ammann on the occasion of documenta 1992). It is interesting to try and understand his long career as film-maker, essayist, and sculptor. Since 1988, he is professor at the Städelschule. The large exhibition at the Städelmuseum in 1990 showed the wide range of his artistic work in Frankfurt.

For the exhibition at Portikus, Per Kirkeby has in the past two, three years been working on paintings and drawings on 230 cm high sheets of paper in view of the dimension of Portikus: "I wanted a 'genre' which was not painting in grey tones or a blown-up drawing, without the reproductive representation of monotypes. Instead, pictures like 'manifests', reflections on principle, but indeed without 'linguistic' unambiguity". "It was a process taking several years, a long warm-up phase, starting from a pre-set basic concept, to intensify the drawings that were being created and make them increasingly 'unambiguous'." (Per Kirkeby on the Portikus exhibition)

A chapel is created: along the centre of the Portikus container a very long brick sculpture will be built, reminiscent of a bench and inviting one to rest. In the front part, divided by a wall, are display-cases containing artist's books by Per Kirkeby. The exhibition takes place during the time of the Frankfurt book fair.

The Danish artist (born 1938 in Copenhagen) works on motifs which he has in some cases collected years ago and uses time and again as the starting-point for his paintings. Per Kirkeby, a qualified geologist and someone who has travelled extensively, commences with memories of landscapes, still-lifes, architectures, and figures. "Limitation pre-determines everything" and "one can paint oneself beyond all limitations". This means that in breaking up the motifs, ultimately, the present, 'real' version of the motif proves itself. (Per Kirkeby, 1986)

Materiality and figuration form transitions that appear more transparent in his works on paper than in the pastose paintings on canvas. The technique of sketching reveals the working-method. Here one can see that graphically-inspired structures expand the multi-layered character of his painting. Organic handwriting sets free compositions and associations.

The figurative echoes are based on "synthetic memories as instructions for the process of painting". (Per Kirkeby)

His bronze and brick sculptures are spatial projections of these reappraised memories. The bench sculpture in Portikus, as with Per Kirkeby's brick works in general, embodies architecture and atmospheric space.

Photo: Katrin Schilling