The story behind my artworks
The story starts with status qou 2019 and then goes backwards in time and through what I call: "My years of depth". Periods of theology, faith, philosophy, psychology, love, family, travel, crises, etc. Finally, the story ends at 1991, when I was just beginning my life as an artist and had just moved to Copenhagen.
From here is a link to: Roots: where the story grabs how I have been involved with art from the very beginning, where I worked in my fathers architect studio, making copies of the architects drawings. Thus it goes backwards to a the sketch of the caravan here below the from 1978 when I was 12 years old.
New contemporary expression 2019
After a serious accident in October 2017, with both my legs breaking 4 times, broken feet, broken back, broken ribs and a punctured lung, most of 2018 had been some very difficult months. Subsequently, I was finally separated from my wife for 26 years, so the painting relates to having to start a new life. The package represents what is to come but has not yet been unpacked.
The first thing that happened to this painting was that it became my winning painting at this year's Medusa Aurea competition at the International Academy of Modern Art in Rome on May 26, 2019. Here I won the title of this year's painter 2018 - 2019
a true work euphoria
Last painting of the sgraffito series
There is something about everything - Oil painting 100 X 80 cm.
There is something about everything - It's just not all that matters, you could rightly say about this over-detailed painting. Sometimes I get the feeling, that there really is something about everything, and start missing the old days where things didn't change much. Today there is no longer anything just there. Everything needs to be investigated and improved, everything is regulated by new laws and paragraphs. So everything gets too much attention in a completely over-organized way. This enormous amount of information we are surrounded by inspired me to create this painting of overvelving details.
impasto figurative series 2017
Paintings painted right after my trip to Zurich in 2017 - Inspired by an exhibition in Zürich Kunsthaus with German expressionism and the artist group: "Die Brücke", among them Kirchner and Munch, obviously the Grossmünster Kirche with the stained glass windows by Alberto Giacometti and Shagall in Fraumünster Kirche. Zürich certainly had a huge influence on me and changed my point of view on my art a lot.
Mobile phone, pastose paintings and spontaneity
2017 was an experimental year where I turned 50 years old and both traveled to Zurich, Turin, Berlin, Ohio and to Nuuk with my art. In my studio, I experimented with new forms of expression inspired by my visit to Kunsthaus Zürich, which exhibited the Die Brücke artists and expressionism by, among them fx. Kirchner. In addition, of course, Giovanni Giagometti's glass mosaic in Grossmunsterkirke and Marc Chagall's glass mosaics in the Fraumünster church. Well Zurich put my symbolically minded mind in total boil. The coloristic immediacy and gravity I found exciting, so I hurried home and made a series of paintings with the concept that each painting should be made at max. 2 days in order to maintain and express the fresshness of the artwork.
3 Marie Louise paintings 2017
The Marie Louise series
This series with Marie Louise is interesting to put together, in that the 3 paintings show 3 very different styles and expressions, all of which have been created in the same period. As soon as my paintings begin to resemble a repetition of themselves, a little rebellion happens inside me. I have to break the rhythm before I start boring. The worst case scenario for me is boredom. I have to challenge myself, then to return to the familiar, with the addition that I learned something new during my experiment. It's the way I learned to paint - By thinking about an action and then living it - A never ending story!
Jackson Pollock inspiration (2017)
black paint floating around in the air
The painting, "Life ain't no dance on roses" was actually meant as a portrait of our daughter Marie Louise, but I was not happy with the result, so it ended up being one of those paintings that I chose to hide away. After a year's time, I took it up again to use it as part of an experiment. I was, inspired by Jackson Pollock, when I started to experiment with liquid black paint, which I let flow from a brush held over the canvas. The effect frightened me when I suddenly saw my own daughter attacked by threatening black forms, which, just like being poured out of the roses around her. Subsequently, I was scolded as the rest of the family, and I just had to save the painting a little bit away again and not pill too much in the meaning beyond that, to the extent that it expresses the fear we all go around with: everything that is beautiful and innocent suddenly breaks.
The painting, "Changes" is yet another of these paintings that were put in "short hook" and were therefore perfect to use for another experiment with liquid black paint, inspired by Jackson Pollock. Again I held the brush over the canvas and let the black paint float around in the air like a free-floating pen. The finished expression scared me again, as the painting suddenly radiated a kind of crackle from nerve threads around one's head. This kind of abstract expressionism is certainly not my favorite. It comes too close every time. So this painting no longer appeared in the light than it was before, but nevertheless it is exciting once in a while to grasp these little deeper things that every serious artist should come around.
Sgraffito and circles 2014 - 2017
In 2014, I started composing paintings with circle windows, inspired by the window system we are used to seeing in front of us on a computer screen, now just in circles. These circles overlap exactly as we are used to having multiple layers of windows open at the same time on our computer screen, and in some of these paintings I add emoji symbols and other computer-based action buttons to express human interaction with the machine. In these oil paintings I have used the sgraffito technique which highlights the texture of the paint. This is done by partly building the subject on a thick white texture, and then applying transparent layers of pure primery or secondary color on top of each other, which is thus mixed by virtue of the transparency. In between, I scrape some parts free with a scalpel to achieve light. It is a very slow process as each layer must dry before applying the next layer.
These paintings have been exhibited or presented in following places:
New York Art Expo 2014 - Florence Biennale, 2015 - Michelangelo received the award in Rome 2015 - Artist of the Palace award in Rome 2015 - Da Vinci award in Florence 2016 - exhibited at Gallery Mentana in Florence - exhibited at the Museum of International Art in Turin 2016, Grosses meeting at the Danish Embassy in Berlin 2017 - Reviewed by the Artcollector group at the Museum in Turin 2017 - Artbox in New York 2017 - Art festival, Russian Art Museum New York 2017 - nominated by the jury for a Global Award in Dubai 2017 - several other exhibitions as well as represented in numerous art books.
The Halabja Chemical attack
Halabja - Oil on canvas 150 x 120 cm. 2008
The massacre In Halabja
"I painted Halabja in 2008 in orde to support victims of the Halabja massacre in Iraq, which was subjected to chemical bombing, while Sadam Husain was ruling Iraque.
I started the painting outdoors at Axeltorv in Copenhagen, while my good friend, the composer Amanj Zarafian, who is from kurdistan himself, played some of his music on the occasion of the ceremony remembering the victims 20 years earlier in the the masacre in Halabje.
My painting was supposed to be made as an outlay for a poster that had to be donated to the victims' families, so that's why I was there.
Now you don't make that kind of a painting in an afternoon, so I took the painting home with me in my studio. The colors in the painting troubled me a lot, but when I stood with the finished painting I was very secure, though the expression probably surprised the Kurds a lot. Where were all the colors? And how could they ever sell a colorless poster?
The issue was wether to express something in colors or not. It was difficult for me to express a masacre in colors, without becoming macabre. Thus I insisted trying for 3 months with colors, but when I was actually finished, I was attacked by despair. It all seemed to me to be superficial animation, with almost a kind of Walt Disney touch. So I painted it all over with black. When I came back the next day, I could still see tracks from the actual painting underneath the black destruction. Experienced from my abstract paintings I had the knowledge that out of a destructiuon you're able to reconstruct something much more interesting and unexpectedly. So that's why I started scraping with a scalpel in my own black disaster and ended up with this strange sgraffito result: The motif was scraped free again, as if I had scraped dust and dirt away in its quest for the victims of a massacre. (Try zoom in on the picture)
The upper part of the painting was without texture, as there was a blue sky before. So I decided to let the upper part be the contrary pole to the lower part in both figure and style by painting very simple , flat and naivistic to highen the symbolistically level
Finally I've painted myself into the picture. I'm kind of breaking into pieces, and so did I during the process, as it is a hardy theme to work with. Specially when you know people, who were directly involved in the masacre.
Nb. A click on the picture will lead you to a broadcast interview about the painting from Television Copenhagen (In Danish)
Mixing colors additively 2006 - 10
Additive mixing of colors
In 2006, I again had to challenge myself in my painting. It happens as soon as I get too used to do the same all the time. To feel bored is the last thing I accept in this life. So I meant, that I must be able to paint in another way! I wanted to work with the pure primary and secondary colors as a kind of alchemically process. First, I painted a motif from our living room in pure cadmium colors, but it wasn't quite what I seeked. I missed the tertiary colors, but as I only wanted to use pure primary and secondary colors this was a challenge. Therefore, I experimented with mixing the colors on behalf of their transparent properties. For instance by painting a blue layer, let it dry and then paint a yellow layer on the outside results in a shining green. By then letting it dry and painting a red layer on the outside, I achieve a brown. Perfect, but now came the dilemma: How do I achieve the grayscale and color tones when white as a starting point is not a transparent color? I solved this by building up a thick white bottom containing chalk in the paint before I applied colors. Thus, I could scrape color off with a scalpel where I wanted to brighten up lots of painting. Then I paint layers on layers of pure primary and secondary colors, and scrape off a bit with a scalpel in between. That's what you call sgraffito technique. The result is exciting, but it is a huge job. The pictures here are the first in the era where the interior image of our livingroom in cadmium colors shows how it looks when the paint is opaque, "The two old ladies" is the first painting, where I experimentally work with additive mixtures, while the other paintings are made in pure additive color mixtures.
I was internated at Filadelfia epilepsy hospital to see if we could find another type of medication that could prevent seizures. It became a longer hospitalization, so I installed a small studio in my room. Here I drew and painted every day, as I would have done at home.
I sat down to draw and paint whatever was around me. Everything was interesting no matter how lifeless it could look. It is solely a matter of attitude towards life: Do you think that everything around you is dead and boring, then it becomes dead and boring, and also the opposite, everything can be made alive and interesting.
During the same period, my wife, Liliana, was very pregnant with our coming son Markus, which also the painting "A letter from home to Filadelfia epilepsy hospital" expresses. Here I implemented a drawing, which our daughter, Marie Louise sent to me, in an interior with lamp and an open door. Inside the door, with a brush stroke, I have made the sliding movement of a piece of paper floating in through the door.
Above is the series drawings, which I made as sudies, and here below a series of paintings that came later. It's all made in my studio at Filadelfia epilepsy hospital.
Peru - Faith, hope and love 2005 - 06
We were often in Peru and around the turn of the millennium it culminated with longer stays until we decided to try to live in Peru to see how our lives would look like. We had a lovely house in Santa Rosa just north of Lima close to the beach. In addition, I rented a studio in the center of Lima right next to the Academy of Art. The idea was here to start giving private lessons. I had already taught at the Academy of Art and made a separate exhibition with 59 of my works at the Academy's museum (Centro Cultural de la Academia de Bellas Artes), so I had created some valuable contacts contacts. During our stay in Peru, we also went on a 300 km. pilgrimage in the mountains in the north of Peru, as I also participated in a chatolic retreate. I was part of an exorcistic treatment, and participated in lots of religious worships in different churches, so it is no wonder, that my two paintings from Peru have got these religious motifes. All in all our time in Peru was a very spiritual minded time.
Theological studies 2003 - 05
Since I was a teenager, theology has interested me, and I consider myself a seeking human being. Therefore, I also chose to study religion as one of my main studies at the teacher seminar and subsequently I started studies in theology at Aarhus University. In 1997 I converted to Catholicism and during our travels in Peru since the mid-90s I participated in many Catholic ceremonies, and I was married in 2001 in a Catholic church over there, That's what comes to expression when I make a series of paintings inspired by the Bible.
Abstract art and philosophy 1999 - 02
As a consequence of my teacher studies, where I specialized myself in existential aesthetics, becoming familiar with the Danish abstract artist, Per Kierkeby's universe and with a nearly present millennium change, dominated by nihilistic considerations during the postmodernism, I was strongly attracted to the abstract process painting. It appealed to me to construct a picturesque form only to destroy it, and then reconstruct it again in a new different and abstract form. During this process a dialogue arises between painting and artist - A dialogue which I still appreciate in my the work with my paintings today, though I prefer to paint figurative. It is during this dialogue between me and my painting that the painting manifests its own logic in telling me, what the next step should be in order to succeed, what I'm doing. It is a way of working with painting that is far from the tight planning of a painting. My figurative paintings have subsequently been fertilized by this idea, and have given me the necessary security to dare to destroy something that I have otherwise used many forces to construct, then perhaps reconstruct it in a new and different way. It gives the painting an autonomy or a very special life, where the painting detaches itself from me, and finishes with its own premise because of the consequences of my actions along the way. Therefore, the abstract painting has an important place in my picturesque universe. Here I learned to listen to my painting and became more secure of my art. A good example of how I make use of this experience in my figurative painting can be found in the painting "Halabje", which first found its final exit after total destruction. But as well the painting: "The gift" was almost completely destroyed, before finally finishing it with very fast brushstrokes.
Expressive painting 1997 - 98
From the very simple figure sketch to the expressive figure
After years of very accurately and tightly drawing and painting one day I suddenly was hit by a inner revolution, a lust to destroy every fine line in my work. I had bought some overly large plywood plates that I would use to experiment with. So the paintings above are actually the results of my experiments. The sketches I used for inspiration, were ridiculous simple and really not meant for anything serious. As a matter of fact I realized, that exactly the simple character of the sketches was the best starting for a painting of this kind. It provokes to the free almost violent style with painter knife, where I throw freely around with paint on the canvas or the plywood plate like here. It's a very fast proces, and by first layer it's also almost finished. It's a thick layer, and can't be changed, once it's made and it's dry. From this period of so liberated and spontaneously work with the paint the step toward into an abstract world isn't far, and as we were day by day coming closer to the end of a millennium, I felt the necessarity of working faster and faster, and that was why I began creating abstract paintings.
The Artist group UMBRA 1998
English version of the poem
Heavy things arise in sudden flashes around me,
dissolves, fades in and disappears in the bustle of a blurry world.
Floating incomprehensible voices circulate around me,
the unbearable noises of small sounds in the echo's continued resounding emptiness
Nothing passes me unnoticed and insignificantly, while everything stay hanging in the air around me, loaded with meaning and life.
An unspeakable eternity loaded with a mystery, that make the same eternity to disappeare at moment of its arisement.
And in the midst of the confusion stands Umbra,
a small group of 3 young artists,
seeking to capture some of all these glimpses,
seeks to hold on to eternity for a moment,
and therein find both themselves and the outside world.
UMBRA, was a small artgroup in Fredericia, which started as a friendship first between me and the composer Amanj Zarafian, with whom I shared a lot of philosifical ideas. We had a real brotherhood in point of view on art. We made performances together with my paintings, my poems accompagnied by his synthesizer music performed as concerts of classical music in a modern context. Here to the left from the Fredericia Theater in a show about clasical art for children I am posing as a shadow in a living painting accompagnied by the music of Amanj.
We were very inspired by the Danish existencialist Søren Kierkegaard and the depth of suffer and passion. The name UMBRA means: shadow and is as well the name of one of the colors, I used in some of my monocrome paintings at that time.
The third member was HC Hauge Rasmussen When we met him, he had just started making pastels and was inspired by a HR Giger. I introduced him to painting with brush and for the Norway painter Odd Nerdrum. This turned him completely around, and after a while with painting and studies of Odd Nerdrum, he had converted himself into a a very skillfull representant for Nordic mythologi, which he still is. Amazing, but far away from the ideas Amanj and I had our focus on, so the idea of a group sharing common ideas was dificult to realize. We tried, but ended up as friends, where we occasionally realized exhibitions together. With Amanj I made numerous events, for instance: "Halabja" here above and with HC Hauge the exhibition: "Out of time" in 2004 - An exhibition presenting paintings about Asa beliefs and Christianity, but really without relation to UMBRA.
My idea with the" UMBRA" concept is still part of me today 2019, though I would rather name a new direction: "ROSA" for the complete significanse of the red rose, like I explain it in my statement. Statement
Most important for me is it to be a contemporary reflective of the world around me and being myself in a simplifying, but relieable form that separates my artworks as autonome and unique SAAR - works
Henrik Saar - Amanj Zarafian show: Performing: MELANCHOLY
A videocover from a television podcast. A typical Saar / Zarafian performance from the early years, here from 2002. Usely Amanj played piano or synthesizer, while I read my poems, which went along with my exhibited paintings.
Here I'm performing my thematical poem: Melancholy. Afterwards Amanj plays his composition according to this theme.
With the plug in hand 1997
One self, the others and nothing - Oil on plywood 122 x 152 cm.
One self, the others and nothing (or everything) are my persistent theme, from which I also wrote my collection of poems: "The Ballad of One-Self", published by the publisher Algarve in 2004. The theme is based on the double love message from Christianity: "You must love your next as you love yourself and your God ". It is a theme that has worked me very much since my teacher studies both in 1988 - 89 and 1995 - 99, where I studied religion and art as special studies, and as self-student in theology at Aarhus University in 2004, where it was especially the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard interpreting me. A source of inspiration that still persists.
At the painting here I got one of our friends to sit model for me in my studio. He sits at the foot of what could be a cross, while there are 3 more editions of the same figure, which together revolve around the world's navel in the ground in the middle of the picture. This means, that the same person is shown in 4 stages or, that he turns his eyes in each direction: south, nort, east and west. In his hand he holds the plug to a lamp, but as long as he has no contact to plug in the plug, there will also be no light in the lamp. This expresses my idea of the divine as the luminous source that supplies us with energy. On the left side of the painting I painted the man who died in his effort to collect valuables. Behind him the earth opens up in a hole or a piece of heaven is laid down in the earth as a symbol of the limitation of mortal life, if God is supposed to be dead as we know it from Nihilism (which was again current with postmodernism in the 90s). In the front middle of the picture there is bread and wine as a symbol of Christ and at the bottom right side the snake in paradise turns away. It is thus a very visionary work, in which the whole palette of colors and symbolism is used at one and the same time.
becoming a wooden doll 1995-96
Back in 1995 when I had just returned home after my first trip to Peru, where I was enriched with spirituality, mysticism and love, I was heavily inspired by the windows principle, which gradually became the norm in the Western world. At that time I painted it as shown in the picture series here specifically windows in my painting, where the wooden doll was an icon you could click on to bring oneself into emotional security. Back in my early teens, I have been busy with the computer, as seen in my early drawings. However, it has never caught my interest in what the computer can do, but what it does to us. It is at the same time the spiritual influence of man starts to nterest me. There is often a combination of the two things in my pictures: The religious mystery and electronic communication between people. The wooden doll is, as said, a way of protecting oneself and keeping control of ones feelings. Maybe that's what happens to us when we fall in love with someone else with a computer screen in between us. We become: "comfortable numb", as Pink Floyd has expressed in their poetry on the album: "The wall". A way to protect yourself, which I only knew too well in my youth, when I had many wounds on the soul after my previous accident.
The golden series 1992 - 94
In 1991, I contacted the Danish - Swedish art painter Håkan Nyström, who's paintings had faschinated very much, when I saw them at an exhibition at Tønder Museum in 1990. until 1995 he taught me a lot about the painting techniques, in particular painting transparent layers as it was done classic Italian and Flemish oil painting. Here I only used the 3 colors: Indian yellow, crimson alizarin (red) and ultramarine blue + white. These are the same 3 colors that all my paintings have since been painted with. The paintings in the golden series all have a surreal character without being conceptual. During this series, I introduce some of the themes that will follow me: the spiritual, the suffering, the passion, the anxiety, the loneliness, the collapse, and the joy of showing.
My Peruvian wife Liliana Socorro
Love of my life
In 1992 I met Liliana Socorro from Peru and we got married shortly after.
Peru had a huge influence on my life and thus also on my pictures. I took all the culture, religion and people with the Spanish language to me, and we became a bicultural family, when we had children. From here comes both my religiousness and deep pure hue.
My marriage, the feelings of my life's love have been a great source of inspiration. Whatever I paint, every time, it becomes yet another parallel picture story of how my life looks right now or where I'm heading. These are the expressions of the sensations / the language of the subconscious, which even I do not understand, but the pictures always speak true, and Liliana is often part of the story.
Here is the driving force in my pictures. I am curious and need communication with my image to handle reality. Liliana Socorro is named after a saint, Virgen Perpetou Socorro, a Maria-like saint, whose deepest mission is to help and care. It fits well with my Liliana, so when I in some of my paintings pictures Perpetou Socorro it is every time with a deep thought of Liliana, who has always have been there for me and still is there, but now just as my best friend.
Family is the most valuable I have
Me and my parents
My parents are some amazing people with a big profit for others. They have always been my greatest supporters, and because of my fate in life we have always been very closely connected, so when I paint them, it is always with great love. Only the blue-painted painting that portrays my mother as a woman with staring eyes was less affectionate. It was closer to a showdown with her, where I thought she was almost overprotecting me. A classic mother - son stuff in enhanced version. But it's important to me, that they appear as part of my story, because they mean everything for me, and it has always been important for me to seek their recognition for whatever I have done.
The wave - Oi on canvas 46 x 55 cm. 1991
My father in his life's wave - A time of huge existential changes.
Copenhagen - Here I Come 1991
Now I had really come to Copenhagen, and my mission was to realize myself as an art painter. I so much wanted my mother's and my father's recognition for my bold life decision about living as an artist. They are represented here as the blue woman and the bald blue man, while the pressure of expectations hung over my head as a heavy purple fear of not being able to perform.
The story continues backwards to the roots - Click on the picture below: