Kenneth Blom: “Artist is possessed by the unknown…”

Kenneth Blom,Youth, Oil on canvas, 120 x150 cm

Interview to Liana Zoza

Norwegian artist Kenneth Blom is known for his paintings depicting human figures in natural or architectural environments. All alone or in groups, Blom’s figures move between artificial gaps and imaginary lines creating transcendental connections, always with the help of the intense color and the plain form. On the occasion of his new solo show that was recently opened, amid a global pandemic, at the Dropsfabrikken Gallery in Trondheim, a covid free city in Norway, we had the opportunity not only to talk about his work but also for contemporary art worldwide.

-Reading your curriculum vitae, one can see that you were born in Denmark and studied Fine Arts in Oslo and Düsseldorf. Although you chose to live and work in Oslo, this did not stop you from creating an international career, through your collaborations, with important galleries around the world. How easy was this for you and what difficulties did you encounter?

-You know… It all came like a thief in the night. Just like David Hockney explains what inspiration for an artist is ….

Norway is far away from art scenes like NY, Berlin, etc. and one never really thinks about getting abroad. I mean, it’s so weird to even dream about a gallery and when you are young even to dream about a gallery in Oslo/Norway is abstract.

I noticed early in the art academy that I really loved to paint and that I didn’t understand the trends, the shifting of materials, the growth of the conceptual art theory and so on.
I just worked focused on my small world. I didn’t get any grants and I wasn’t invited to any student group shows during my studies.
Of course not.!!! I was making lonely figures in landscapes when everybody made huge installations, performance, sound art, political art etc.

I always planned to start to work in other media but I just wanted to understand the painting first …
And I still not have so I have to wait a little bit longer…

When you don’t feel you were like a special, gifted child or a special person or have any expectations to the response of your work you just love to work and then critics, comments and “being left in a corner” doesn’t matter at all.

Kenneth Blom

My first gallerist was Haaken Christensen. He saw my work on a public show in Oslo town hall and gave me a show in his gallery.
He died some years ago at age 85. He was amazing. He met Picasso and Francis Bacon.
He taught me how to separate the two worlds: “Close the door to your studio and focus on your work. When the work is ready, go out in the world and sell”. Get to know collectors, travel, start marketing yourself but never, never, never mix the two worlds.

I made my web page 12 years ago and I keep it updated all the time. I post on instagram and facebook when I think it can be interesting.

When collectors, galleries around the world give my posts a like, I follow up careful the day after and offer them to see more by mail. I also travel a lot. When a gallerist in Beijing says she maybe would like to meet one day based on pictures she has seen on digital platforms I travel to China the day after.
Woody Allen says: 90 per cent of all success is showing up.

It’s hard work to get connected.
It took me three interviews included intense traveling to meet them when they had time to see works and talk, to get into Jason McCoy Gallery in New York.

It’s all about being polite, intense, self-ironic and very ambitious. No time for self-pity, namedropping and behave like an art idiot star.

Keneth Blom, deface, oil on canvas,190 x 220 cm

-Painting plays a key role in your work. In the majority of your works, you create fantastic environments, where the human presence, either individually or in groups of more than one person, is part of a transcendental artistic conversation. What are your stimuli?

-The films of Eisenstein, Bergman, Woody Allen, Fellini.

People around me in different cities, cafes, streets. I’m watching all the time. Looking for that moment when one or two persons are seen in a mood with a lack of contact with others or themselves. The nanosecond of a transcendental expression.

-Among those who inspired you, as I read, is the Norwegian theatrical writer and director Henrik Ibsen, a subversive character creator who works as a commentator on the social stereotypes of his day. Where would you place a modern Nora, if not in a Dollhouse?

-(A modern Nora is a white man age 45 + Ha Ha Ha)

The dollhouse has exploded a long time ago in my culture, in Scandinavia. I think that Nora belongs to other cultures, today.
The modern Nora in Scandinavia has no more Doors to kick in.

Kenneth Blom, Presurize, Oil on canvas, 120 x150 cm

No time for self-pity, namedropping and behave like an art idiot star

-I know that for you painting, art in general is a way of life and there are definitely artists whose work you love and who have probably influenced you! Would you like to tell me some of them?

-Diego Velazquez, Piero della Francesca, Giotto, Fra Angelico, Turner, Munch, Peter Doig, Anna Ancher, Louise Bourgeois.

-Sculptures came to complete your latest painting work. Is this the first time you decide to present 3D figures? What material did you use and why did you choose it?

-I wanted to make sculptures with a cold expression. I was looking for a distance to the material because the idea of the falling person is so loaded with feelings so I felt the material had to be plast, epoxy and 3d printed.

It’s made on basis of my sketches, models in clay, metal and others. It’s scanned in Norway. Printed in Guangdong, China. Sent to Hong Kong where I have a gallery. Then sent to Stuttgart and then to Oslo. Some of them were formed after with epoxy, paint etc.

Kenneth Blom, Green Hill, Oil on canvas, 80 x120 cm

-Seeing the sculpted figures, among your paintings, my first thought was that it is an intelligent project on your part, to transfer the “environments” of your works to the exhibition space and in this way the viewer can get integrated into them. How close is it to yours?

-Not close…. but maybe one day.

A real piece of art is a window into the transcendental

-The expression “Read The Room”, means: I want you to understand the feelings and thoughts of the people who are in the same room. Our room became our world during the lockdown period, when we left half our senses behind to communicate with “new” words and images, trying to break down the walls that separate us. How do you read your own room?

-The unknown shines throughout history from the great art I spend time with. Looking at the Renaissance paintings in the Metropolitan Museum in New York is stunning. Artist is possessed by the unknown. We are cursed with the necessity to put a foot out in the unknown. A real piece of art is a window into the transcendental.

That’s my room…

Kenneth Blom

-Having a great course so far in the field of world contemporary art, how much do you think it has been affected, a year now, since the beginning of the world pandemic and what will be the developments in both the immediate and distant future?

-I have told that after people started home office they have to look every day at art they have bought. A lot is trendy, cool and fashionable but now people are looking for more intimate experiences instead of talking loud about what they have. Maybe collectors are being more personal and brave and start to collect what really talks to them. That’s an interesting thought…

Kenneth Blom, Stumbling, Oil on canvas, 100 x120 cm

-Your work is distinguished by consistency and continuity and I am sure that you are preparing new things, even under these difficult conditions for art. Would you like to share them with us?

Upcoming:

Art fair Herning represented by my Copenhagen gallery, Gallery Birch.
Solo show at Luisa Catucci gallery in Berlin.
Solo show at Von Frauenberg gallery Düsseldorf.
Book release from Kühle/Mozer in Cologne with my paintings from the 10 last years.
Film release. Film producer Tommy Normann has followed me for ten years (poor guy!) around the world.
It will be released in Embassies in Berlin; Bern, Copenhagen etc. during 2021-22.

Covering a new book on Architectural critic in Berlin from 1945 till today. Peter Lang Publisher.
Commission work for New University in Norway with sculptures and paintings.

Kenneth Blom, Blue sky, Oil on canvas, 150 x120 cm