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Michael Kvium - A Vulgar Reality

Words:

Edd Norval
November 21, 2020

There will be a time in your life that nature pauses time for you. Something so breathtaking stops you in your tracks. People can provoke a similar magnitude of feeling - for good and bad. There may also be a time where you stop and feel the opposite of this. That the world around you is absurd, that people are vulgar caricatures of stereotypes. This is where Michael Kvium steps in - capturing this feeling.

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Articulating a reality that may be foreign to some, Kvium’s images are popular, hanging up in the homes of many in his native Denmark, betraying the relatable nature that underpins their unique aesthetics. In many ways, you could say that the depictions are ugly. They’re certainly meant to be that way. This is the intention of the artist.


“The real monsters are us,” the artist says, “And it is important that we recognise ourselves.” So, these paintings hanging on the walls of homes and galleries aren’t necessarily artistic depictions as much as they’re mirrors, showing us the ugliness of our own nature, of our own physicality. In an age of ego, obsessed with looks and how we portray them - this is a welcome message.


Kvium is interested in what doesn’t make us beautiful, highlighting that these traits, behaviours and defects exist in all of us. In a way, he normalises it, making it okay, but he isn’t here to preach that ‘the imperfections make us perfect’, he just wants you to look at it, or even be slightly repulsed by it. Anything, really - as long as you don’t ignore it. 

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Although the nature of the images may jar with many, it's his popularity that's a source of contention on the Danish art scene. For many of the critical élite, he is too popular, too widely known. But for Kvium, he is interested in communicating his inaccessible ideas in an accessible way. 


The message behind the paintings is one that deserves a wider audience too - with the artist stating his goals, “I do not stand and try to paint a picture as ugly as possible - but instead with as little deception as possible. And there is a human obligation that we do not cause too much pain to either the planet or each other. Therefore, it is important that we do not just recognize others and show their shortcomings. We must first and foremost recognize ourselves.”


It’s not only the flaws and faults in oneself, but the idea of oneself in a collective context. With a small amount of disgust, the artist talks of the obesity and consumption of the West - a theme embodied by many of his characters. More importantly than that, it's this attitude, of speaking the truth, telling an uncomfortable story, that keeps his name on so many's lips.

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