Ross Kolby

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The Painter

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Ross Kolby was born in 1970 in Baerum on the outskirts of Oslo in Norway. He began his artistic education at Asker Art School near Oslo, and continued at The National College of Art and Design in Oslo for five years, where he graduated in the summer of 1998. There he studied drawing, painting, sculpture and graphic arts. Kolby also frequented the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome and Viterbo in Italy for a year. He principally works with the oil painting, creating canvases receiving splendid response by the audience and the critics. Kolby held his first separate exhibition in Galerie Susanne Hojriis in Copenhagen in November 1998, and was named "The Norwegian Rembrandt" by a Danish newspaper."With a painting that communicates directly with its reporting and recognizing content, I want to give the spectator experiences in an organic expression. I view it as a strength when a person is seen, experienced and painted by another human, and that it gives the work a value in a society where the technology continuously spreads and interrupts Man from his origin – nature itself."

Ross Kolby

The post-modern art-field is characterized by the overwhelming variety of ways of expression. Despite this artistic liberty, Kolby has met indignation towards his artistic expression and values, and has been accused of being a reactionary. He bases his work on the European classical figurative tradition ending with the modernistic movement at the end of 19th century. Kolby seeks to create a painting combining the historical expression and technique with themes and relations to the 21st century.

The modernistic transformation of the European classical figurative tradition, and the post-modern abandoning of it, brought forward a development at a furious pace. As the artists worshipped the artistic freedom, the demand for artistic renewal grew continuously. This race for renewal diverted many artists from contemplative and lifelong absorption in an artistic project, which was considered as stagnation.

With his works, Kolby opposes what he calls the misanthropic art. He criticizes those works that are so greatly distanced from the human being, that unless knowing the codex and a variety of secret messages, one is unable to reach, or be reached by them. "The experience of my works is to be the opposite pole of the one many contemporary works of art give; the absence of the artist in the process and in the execution of the specific work. It is not indifferent whether I, after having the idea for the painting, myself carry out the work, or have another person fulfilling my intentions. The spectator must be able to see and feel the presence of me through the whole process.

It is a point that I have painted the coloured Pope’s face, and that my insight in the human nature has given him that specific facial expression. I want the spectator to participate in- and see the emotional struggle between my canvases and myself, as a contrast to the mechanically produced reality in our industrialised society."

Ross Kolby

Inspired by artists such as Titian (1488-1576), Caravaggio (1571-1610), Rembrandt (1606-1669), Velázquez (1599-1660) and Turner (1775-1851), via the French impressionists to Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Francis Bacon (1909-1992), and Lucian Freud (1922-2011), Kolby creates canvases which combine the monumental classical painting with the 20th century’s simplified and minimalistic aesthetics.

In his literary painting Kolby deals with the human interrelations that are common to and concern us all. These moments and subjects were by Edvard Munch called "the golden moments". The artist estimates the personal aspect of his works in the sense that his appearance in them is to be seen.

Kolby wants to reach his fellow beings through themes being icons and symbols to the spectator. The American psychoanalyst Rollo May concludes in his book "The Cry for Myth", that the modern human being is fumbling; "Our western society has stagnated in its rationalism. We have expelled the need for myths, and opened to mysticism, drug-addiction and psychotherapeutic life models. Myths are eternity breaking into the present."

In a world where confusion and haste surround us, the loss of the myth, the dissolution of the family together with religion’s decreasing grip on mankind, have made us search out connection and recognition. Technology’s victory over myth and "unscientific superstition" is costly; "The price of abandoning the myth is loss of human intimacy, atmosphere, confidentiality and values – these things that are of significance to the individual". The myths represent the continuity of civilisation, and carries everlasting values.

According to Thomas Mann, the myth remains an eternal truth, as opposed to the empirical truth. The latter one may be altered by a look at the morning paper - where the latest discoveries in the laboratories are presented.

Kolby regards his painting "The murder of Pope John Paul I" as a classical drama, having an eternal validity in its struggle between the individual and the masses - the vision’s meeting with reality. His search for the "golden moments" and the combining of them with an artistic expression of both classical heritage and the modern time’s characteristics make Ross Kolby a timeless - but nevertheless modern painter.

The painter Ross Kolby

Kolby in front of the painting "The murder of Pope John Paul I".

Photo by Tore Berntsen.