There is flow in Knud Odde’s
paintings. A lightness, something immediately captivating,
attracting. In its own way a parallel to the Pop Art look
of surface, its alluring exterior. A suggestive membrane
without real flesh and blood, but with the inherent sensual
character of seduction. If you have sensed the tone once,
you will love it: the Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918)
and his beautiful female figures, usually drawn in black
contour lines, carried into this century by J.F. Willumsen,
the freebooter with the expressive coloring; J.A. Jericau
(1890-1916) and his crazy, surreal tableaus.
A mixture of style and anti-style, taste and tastelessness.
Continually in a cross-field between adaptation and confrontation.
Knud Odde’s paintings are organic, fertile. Line follows
line, ornamentally. Which is in sharp contrast to the fact
that his art is often characterized as decadent. Offhand,
this is exclusively due to his often sexual world of motifs
that takes over with its magical power. Naked bodies, the
gender, the way of showing things, the exhibitionism, if
you will. We have girls’ and boys’ bodies, nylon
stockings and shoes. Based on photographs so that the fetishism
appears even clearer.
The choice of personalities often plays on the gender-related
ambiguity (feminine men and masculine women). The portraits
range from anonymous human beings to many of the great artists
of the 19th and 20th centuries. The authors Hans Christian
Andersen, William Burroughs, Bret Easton Ellis, Arthur Rimbaud,
the rock poets Henry Rollins, Patti Smith and the country
musician Hank Williams. The portraits are – like Knud
Odde’s paintings in general – like “a
Souvenir From a Dream”, thanks to Tom Verlaine. On
this background, you might have been surprised when Knud
Odde presented a completely new series of paintings in 1998
where apparently nothing was left of his special style.
Canvas after canvas with relatively homogeneous lines. All
but gone was the figurative painting; these horizontal layers
of color made up a new object: landscapes. Seen from the
outside, strangely monotone, toned down earth colors, and
without the usual suggestive style, without sex, without
all the loveable qualities about his tone.
One of the main series is “At Klarskov, Korsoer, Denmark,
I-VI”, landscapes with dominating skies. The land,
the thin layer of earth, almost non-existent in comparison
with the water. This is where Knud Odde presumably finds
the opportunities of the nuances. These paintings certainly
had their own qualities, but compared to the previous appealingly
beautiful paintings, they appeared meager. From having studied
all others, from having perfected a style – and ensured
its success – he was suddenly faced with a reversed
world of images. Almost like a cleansing process for all
the media images that had appeared.
A more “Danish” painting. The straight lines
of the flat landscape; the sky, the ocean, the beach and
the field. An almost meta-like landscape. A meditative room
that could hardly be further away from his actual figurative
paintings. Knud Odde’s landscapes are not romantic,
there is no mystique, no sensuality or no dream visions.
In contrast to the anathematized and stylized classicism
and the modern rationalism, his landscapes appear completely
clear. It is not even necessary to create any kind of credibility;
the paintings have been defined as landscape paintings.
No difference is made between cultivated nature and the
landscape marked by “un-nature” such as wind
turbine farms, bunkers, railroad tracks, etc.
The paintings seem to be full of contrast, but the quality
of – and the love of – Odde’s landscape
paintings do not really arise until the project is an immediately
finished chapter. Suddenly, the lines were no longer alone,
suddenly something took place amongst them, so to speak,
contours of something else appeared; houses, small buildings,
etc. Knud Odde was on the way to rediscovering his figurative
direction. The “empty” landscape paintings suddenly
seemed to be the result of a conscious cleansing process,
a carthasis. The slate was to be wiped clean.
Strangely enough, Knud Odde’s starting point is the
punk scene which was followed by the international, “wild
painting” in the beginning of the 1980s, and then
subsequently to learn from Danish traditions to a larger
and larger extent. You currently sense not only an eccentric
J.F. Willumsen, but also a far more quiet Palle Nielsen.
Buildings appear and begin to obtain character. First and
foremost in relation to the room. Knud Odde is just as absorbed
by spaces and surfaces as by the sky and ocean. On the other
hand, the buildings, in particular, get the characteristic
black contour lines back. Knud Odde has always been upfront
about finding his basic motifs among other artists’
works or illustrative materials in general. He processes
these “objet trouvès”, adopts the paintings
and makes them his own. He brings a soul to the motifs,
gives them their own life.
In 1999, the buildings started to appear in the landscape,
but without a real pictorial distance or closeness. It seems
as if all starting points, all sources are equally good.
Distance and closeness have equal values. The buildings
are thoroughly constructed too. True, there are photographs
and other inspirational sources, but individual elements
are emphasized, silhouettes are outlined, etc. Incidentally,
the buildings most of all get to resemble theatrical back
drops as they obtain a more and more central part of the
landscape which in turn becomes less and less important.
Almost a decorative work-around. Certain houses are simple,
others far more complex. And the land-scape is transferred
to peripheral elements as spaces, clean surfaces or patterns.
Buildings are of course represented as houses, but often
have the nature of individual works such as silos, light
houses and churches. Knud Odde has this preference for the
absurd, the abnormal. The latter as part of a more and more
religious iconography. Not necessarily because he is religious,
but the iconography is seen from an emblematic point of
view. The mythology of the church as well as its architecture
own this immediate fascination: the buildings are both raw,
yet refined, foreign yet straightforward. They appear to
be erect in the clean drawing style of the landscape. As
an indentation of the cleansing process.
While all of this has taken place the human beings have
also disappeared and reappeared. The two authors Rainer
Maria Rilke and Marguerite Duras have been revived by a
gentle hand. Rilke with a moustache, introverted with a
lowered head. Knud Odde chooses from a wide spectrum, the
Pop Art’s right to bring diverse objects into one
big hotchpotch still applies. And the number of portraits
seems to be never-ending, just as the number of icons cannot
be exhausted. So far from the still life of the landscapes.
So far from the occasional cathedral-like expression of
“Gothlight” was the name of one of his most
recent exhibitions, “gothic light”, with a self-chosen
anachronistic dream vision. Knud Odde continually challenges
the portrait as well as the person in the paintings. In
spite of the glamour, the sleekness, the superficial and
the lightness. In spite of the artistic flow, he succeeds
in creating sensi-bility. He is with his persons. Dated
but still with a refreshing, modern power.
Lars Schwander, May, 2000.