Frederik “Kunngi” Kristensen: Nonfigurative Paintings, 2009

Amongst Nuuk Art Museum’s collection is a series of three continuous paintings from 2009 by Frederik “Kunngi” Kristensen (1952). As well as an artist Kunngi is a poet, a musician and a painter.

In 1975 he began at Grafisk Værksted, today the Art School in Nuuk. From the beginning on he worked with the nonfigurative painting, but according to Kunngi he first and foremost creates pictures. In the nonfigurative painting Kunngi works with motives, which does not resemble figures from the world around us.

In Kunngi’s works the square recur again and again. It is hard to alter a square, Kunngi says. He tries to break and reverse the square with the colours. The colours also create coherence in Kunngi’s nonfigurative paintings.

When painting Kunngi he chooses two out of the three primary colours – red, blue, yellow – which he uses in different mixtures in the painting. The third primary colour is hidden. In the painting hanging in Nuuk Art Museum he chooses blue and yellow – the red is hidden in the violet surfaces of colour.

Kunngi draws lots of small sketches with crayons before he paints. In his pictures he creates balance by drawing lines over the sketch and the canvas as a grid. He wants the pictures to be easy to look at.

The series of three continuous paintings in Nuuk Art Museum depicts geometric and bound surfaces of colour in yellow, violet and different shades of green and blue.

The paintings are tripartite and at the same time a whole. The painting was made from one oblong sketch, which he chose to give three paintings instead of one. A tripartite painting can also be called a triptych. Often a triptych is three continuous paintings, which has a meaning altogether. Altarpieces are often triptychs consisting of a painting of the earth in the middle with heaven and hell on each side. The tripartite in Kunngi’s paintings gives an impression of a horizontal flow and adds a spatial feeling to the paintings.

Each of the three paintings is signed and thereby not signed as a whole but as three individual paintings. That way the paintings can be seen as a duality: whole and separately. Following the bounds and lines of the surfaces of colour they are a bit displaced from painting to painting. Our eyes have to adjust and make lines and bounds fit together. Kunngi is teasing the viewer and playing with our eyes; he wants us to see. Not to see something determined, but to see a picture. A friend of his marked that Kunngi’s paintings never get old, they are always new to look at. We see something different in the paintings from time to time.

Several times have Kunngi been told that his nonfigurative paintings were not Greenlandic. Once a student came by the art school and thought that Kunngi rather should be painting icebergs and kayaks. Another time was during an exhibition in Canada. These comments points out the common expectations that Greenlandic art should depict Greenland in motive and meaning, which Kunngi breaks with his nonfigurative paintings. As Kunngi says, he does not paint, because he is Greenlandic, but he paints what he wants to.

It is up to the viewer in front of Kunngi’s nonfigurative paintings to recall figures. In other words it is the viewer who sees a Greenlandic motive or not. Kunngi painted geometrical surfaces of colour – a tripartite nonfigurative painting, but first and foremost he has painted a picture.