Painting with Pixels

Peter Bonde

By Dorthe Rugaard Jørgensen

One of Denmark’s leading contemporary visual artists, Peter Bonde, exhibits super-size paintings in the sky-bridging central gallery of ARKEN Museum of Modern Art.

One of Denmark’s most influential artists, Peter Bonde (born 1958), has created no less than 30 gigantic artworks for the central gallery that traverses the city’s spectacular modern art museum, ARKEN Museum of Modern Art. And they are no mantelpiece ornaments. The 30 digitally rendered, super-size images with applied sweeps of brushwork cover a total of 300 m2 of canvas, showcased on the towering concrete walls of this seafront art museum south of Copenhagen.


The autumn exhibitions at ARKEN are always unique events, and this year’s autumn spectacle with the internationally acclaimed Peter Bonde is no exception.


Art, throttle and rock’n’roll

Despite their daunting dimensions, Bonde’s paintings offer a mere keyhole view into his idiosyncratic world. They feature as digitally rendered collages of private snapshots and scans of Bonde’s own artworks as well as those of others. ‘Sampling’ is the term used by the artist to characterise his appropriation of imagery from the contemporary streaming of popular culture.


The mega collages are as much demarcations of artistic territory as the subtext of his art. The obscured visages, barely visible below the abstract swaths of colour, often portray the artist’s personal friends on the international art scene, especially those of the Los Angeles inner-circle where Peter Bonde is a prized personality. Other of his renditions include subculture motifs, reflecting his own personal interests – everything from death metal to surfing, porn and motor racing.


One example is when Peter Bonde represented Denmark at the prestigious *Venice Biennale* in 1999 where he featured documentary artwork on a project called *The Snowball*, co-created with American installation artist Jason Rhoades, who shares the Danish artist’s interest in motor racing. The project involved a stock car challenge between art scene kingpins.

Raw double-talk

The raw energy exposed in the photographs is reverberated in his graphic choice of colours, either spray painted on the canvas or rendered with wide brushes. Or, as has been the case earlier, applied with his tongue! This amalgamation of fragmented photographs and spontaneous abstract brushwork is manifestly physical yet carries little, if any, reference to the expressionist tradition of drawing on the fathomless depth of the artist’s soul.


There is an element of double-talk in Peter Bonde’s paintings. They are ostensibly expressionist artworks, yet they resist the core notion of this tradition. Bonde’s digitally rendered images, drawing on the visual vernacular of contemporary art and mass media imagery, underpin his irreverent toying with the media. His artworks are subsequently strategically alienating under their evocative expressionist guise.


Pictorial art reborn

Peter Bonde held a position as professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art from 1996 to 2005. He has taken part in a great many Danish and international exhibitions and has undertaken a number of commissions, including the embellishment of the chapel at Denmark’s largest prison, Vestre Fængsel. The commission was completed in 2003 and features stained glass windows, church bench adornments, a monumental triptych behind the pulpit and a plasma screen that acts as a dynamic altarpiece.


Peter Bonde’s fresh take on pictorial art has secured his position as one of the nation’s leading visual artists. In the 1980s, he along with fellow Danish artist such as Claus Carstensen stood at the forefront of a new generation that brought new life to what at the time was deemed a dying art form. Now, following more than a decade in the shadow of conceptual art, pictorial art has re-emerged with new-found narrative and verve.


Free admission to the exhibition.