Thursday, July 23, 2009

Odd Nerdrum

Odd Nerdrum (born April 8, 1944), in Sweden, is a Norwegian figurative painter.
Odd paints 6 artworks per year, always large in scale

Odd is one of the most important artists in keeping in with the tradition of realistic art, a tradition many consider dead in the 21st century. His artwork and philosophy call into question our customary narratives about art history, and especially the modernist dogma that the artist can be creative only by turning his back on the past.
The central theme that runs through out Nerdrum’s art is kitsch, the principle being the subject in his “on kitsch” manifesto which describes the distinction he makes between “art” and “kitsch”. Odd’s primary influences are Caravaggio and Rembrandt, whose technical achievements impressed Odd from an early age.

Nerdrum began study at the Art Academy of Oslo, but he became dissatisfied with the direction of modern art, and began to teach himself how to paint in a Neo Baroque style after the influence of Rembrandt. This method of working set him apart from the teaching methods taught at the school, He, in his own words was chased from the academy after a two year period like a "scroungy mutt".

Nerdrum was a reader of visionary literature that included his early encounters with Rudolf Steiner, William Blake and Dostoyevsky.

Strange naked, or oddly clothed figures, inhabit the picture plane against dark apocalyptic landscapes, sometimes disfigured with gnashing teeth. His paintings appear as creations of the mind’s eye, hallucinatory worlds inhabited by estranged humans, freaks and diseased clones. His paintings, both bizarre and sublime, enter the viewer into an alternate universe, an intense trip into the painter’s internal universe.

Nerdrum's approach to painting is based on traditional methods: mixing and grinding his own pigments, working on canvas stretched by himself rather than on pre-stretched canvas, and working from live models often himself, and in many cases members of his family. Merdrum’s painting style is rich with textures, colours rich browns and reds , rarely cold colors are used.

"There are more men than women here, but sexual pairing seems to occur only in death (or a sleep resembling death). Which is not to say desire is nowhere present. It is everywhere. If anything makes these pictures compelling, it's their consistent fascination with the human body. The images--of paired corpses, madmen, men in pain, a man without eyes--may be frightful and abhorrent, but every limb and torso is lovingly rendered. Pale, muscular, sexual, the figures are painted so that one must take them seriously--in much the same way that it is music that grounds the otherwise bizarre stage spectacles of Wagnerian opera."

Odd Nerdrum by Justin Spring, part of a review first published in Artforum International, April 1, 1993

"Art exists for art itself and addresses the public. Kitsch serves life and addresses the human being." Odd Nerdrum

Central to Odd’s kitsch philosophy is his belief in technical proficiency. His argument against art is the effects that modern art has created with it’s belief in “moral authority over ability”. Odd rejects the modernist notion that art serves to outline deep moral questions at the expense of artistic talent. With the new dogmatic totalitatianism that developed with modernism at the start of the new century, the term kitsch was applied to simple, down to earth aestheticism, as seen in artworks such as the Pre-Raphealites and Llya Repin. The term Kitsch comes from the word kitch, the german word for “bad taste”. –“ enoting art that is considered an inferior, tasteless copy of an extant style of art or a worthless imitation of art of recognized value”- Excessive sentimentality often is associated with the term.

“However, there are still some individuals who will not relinquish the work of the hand in their attempts to imitate nature. Despite ardent efforts to marginalize and trivialize them, talents still emerge. And they speak to us, or, at least to most of us, because in the recognizable pattern which is formed by the work of the hand, there is a permanent attraction, which stretches existing bounderies far beyond that which technical aids can assist us in. Today one can find these qualities in kitsch.

“One must wonder about the insecurity of modernists who feel it necessary to insist that their art and only their art is "the art of our century" or "the art of the future." Do the modernists fear the challenge traditional art still represents to the triumph of their own aesthetic? Under the circumstances, we are lucky to have heretics like Nerdrum to remind us of what modernism tries to exclude from the art world today.”

“A kitsch creator seeks to
develop his skill
rather than give priority to the new. “
Odd nerdrum

“In the beginning of the 1900’s, the sensual was dismissed as a brown error, a symbol of an ignorant, centralized power of the past.
Odd Nerdrum sums up modernism in one line in his book kitsch-

Odd Nerdrum stands as a pillar between the movements of the past and the movements of the future. A beacon of painting fertility in the soil of rejecting modernists. His artwork presents the figure in a new context, not nude, naked or posed, not simply a prop in a background, but something else. His work often evades meaning, it’s responsibility to put the viewer on edge. Odd’s contribution to the contemporary art world is unique and special, and his legacy will on through the years.

Lucien Frued

reflection-self portrait 1985
Lucien Freud
Much like Jenny Saville, Lucien Freud is not afraid to portray the realities of flesh, the flaccid stretching bodies of close friends and family that are his subjects.
Spanning decades, Lucien Freud’s career has seen the German born, British living artist rise to prominence in the international art world. Grandson of Sigmund Freud (founder of psychoanalysis) Lucien Freud has risen to fame as the seminal British figure painter of the twentieth century.

Girl with a white dog 1951-52
Freud’s early working style used sparse thin paint, the canvas showing through underneath the layers of paint. The eyes of his subjects are stylized, often large and detailed, unnerving the viewer with their frank intensity. His painting style advanced with the use of impasto paint with muted colours. His figures are usually sprawled out in pose, lying on a rug or coach and occasionally with an animal, to quote the artist: "The subject matter is autobiographical, it's all to do with hope and memory and sensuality and involvement, really. Portraiture and figurative artwork have been the central subjects for his work, although occasionally he paints still lifes. Freud's grandest artistic achievement is to refashion the figurative genre, which is traditionally devoted to the sensual and beautiful, into an exploration of anxiety, discomfort and stress, his subjects not nude but startlingly naked and exposed to the painter eye.

large interior
Freud’s ability to paint people meets somewhere at the crossroads of painting the appearance of things and painting the identity of things. Freuds capturing brushstrokes hold stretches of time, rather than snapshots ( such as the way paintings done from photographs appear) often from multiple angles and views- such as the image below
The room and subjects don’t seem aligned in normal perspective, but somehow exist in the parameter of the room.
The sexual organs have prominence in the canvases of Freud’s work, but exist to confront the viewer in the strongest possible way, painted coarse and powerful. Through his painting style his subjects are presented raw and vulnerable, fleshy objects and knowing subjects, allowing the painter to present a mirror to their appearance without idealization or sympathy.Large interior 1973

naked man with rat 1978

Freud’s legacy seems somehow entwined with his grandfather Sigmund, both men whose observations and “readings” of people have resulted in powerful historical achievements. Despite a century of modernist domination of the art market, Freud’s success both commercially and historically is unparalleled. Despite the attraction of modernist styles, Frued’s work has remained consistent with the artist’s own voice and direction, his output consistent but not predictable.