Every Dane knows Hans Scherfig’s elephants, tapirs and hippos. In daycare centers, kindergartens, schools and hospitals - everywhere you look in Danish institutions, Scherfig’s paintings leap out with their exuberance, color, spontaneity. There is a familiarity to Scherfig’s images that is comforting to children and adults alike.
ARKEN’s exhibition will add new, surprising aspects to Hans Scherfig, a writer known to most present and former adolescents for his biting satirical novel Stolen Spring, a perennially assigned school classic. In a mid-1960s essay describing Danish society in the year 2061, Scherfig predicted that children in the future would be learning Chinese in schools, while people for a period up to 2061 had been trying to live an unnatural hothouse life. Life expectancy has increased: in 2061, the average lifespan is 200 years. Scherfig’s social criticism went hand-in-hand with his dreams of a different future and longing for a tropical, untouched paradise.
Featuring 65 paintings, 44 drawings and a wealth of documentary material - newspaper clippings, letters, photos, literary quotes, films and selections of his writing - the exhibition offers a fresh and timely look at Scherfig. Complementing his popular paintings of tropical jungles, where wild animals live in peaceful co-existence, are his less-well-known critical paintings of urban capitalist society, where the law of the jungle reigns supreme.
Director of ARKEN Christian Gether: “Scherfig was a passionate communist in an age when ideologies helped to shape human thought. Ideologies offered grand, gold-plated solutions for the good life. Today, the so-called grand narratives were officially pronounced dead several decades ago. In turn, young artists today have to proceed without a recipe for the good life, since there is not one solution model but an infinite number of them. Dream images and utopias today are constructed on an entirely different foundation than in Scherfig’s day.’
This exhibition of Scherfig’s work thus ties in to ARKEN’s UTOPIA project, adding perspective to contemporary artists’ investigations of utopia. It raises pertinent questions about Scherfig’s utopia. Was it collective’ Was it individual’ What’s the difference between the two and wherein lies their critical potential’
Young and old will be thrilled to explore Scherfig’s lush imagery, which exudes a joy of life and painting. The exhibition will be up at ARKEN from September 18, 2010, to January 9, 2011.
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Arken Museum of Modern Art, Skovvej 100, 2635 Ishøj Municipality, 4354 0222 Denmark