Kent Iwemyr

The Painting Genius

16.2–27.2 2015, Galerie Jochen Hempel, Berlin, Germany

The Swedish painter Kent Iwemyr (born in 1944) primarily works in small and medium-sized formats, depicting daily life around him. In numerous scenes of everyday life, he draws on an unusual aesthetic coupled with a fine sense of irony and allusive titles.

With his figurative painting, Iwemyr consciously positions himself beyond an academic professionalism as dictated by art history in the representation of people and landscapes. The arrangement of perspective and the anatomy of figures step into the background in favour of an ‘unschooled’ pictorial language. This anti-academic approach intensifies and becomes an ironic topos in the eponymous work The Painting Genius, in which Iwemyr shows an artist at his easel painting the portrait of two elks in the great outdoors.

In this figurative style of painting, Iwemyr narrates the daily occurrences taking place around him: a girl cycles home from a party at night (A Thousand Voices). A protest march of angry citizens crosses a red bridge, the demonstrators voicing their anger on signs (Shit Society!). From a dark house buried in snow, the last untiring representatives of the Salvation Army set out on their mission (We Are The Army).

Iwemyr’s idiosyncratic, almost naive aesthetic creates a narrative freedom that fills every scene with ambivalent oscillations between anger, darkness, love, joy and happiness. Predominantly matt winter hues are dotted with luminous colour accents. The figures resemble cut-out dolls on a stage, in movement albeit with stiff joints as if they were performing rehearsed gestures.

Two lovers in a forest indulge in vaguely identifiable sexual pleasures (The Dark Game). In the parlour of the house, under an idyllic picture bearing the inscription ‘Home Sweet Home’, a boy is given a hiding on his naked bottom with twigs (Naughty Boy). The portrait of a female accordion player has a fascinating appeal, her long eyelashes as if glued on, and fingers moving across the keys like little sticks (Tango Saantana perkele).

The viewer sees every situation from a slightly elevated vantage point – the perspective is shortened, slanted the background. Iwemyr presents his paintings like a cabinet of curiosities comprising character types and recurrent stories of rural everyday life. The spectator has an overview of everything yet is left in the dark about the details.

Iwemyr consciously keeps his compositions in a state of uncertainty: ‘I like it when the public doesn’t know exactly what they see. Sometimes I also don’t know what the story is – the scenes just evolve while I paint.’

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