Ross Kolby

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The Norwegian Rembrandt

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The young Norwegian artist Ross Kolby exhibits paintings in the grand old style at Galerie Susanne Hojriis, Bredgade 63.

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"I am interested in what is universally human. I want to show the evil, love, power and corruption, innocence, fear and sorrow. The 20th century’s modernistic movement has distanced itself from the ordinary human being, and turned into an elitist circling around oneself. That is why I permit myself to call a large part of contemporary art reactionary."

The young Norwegian artist Ross Kolby is not afraid of speaking his mind, and caused strong reactions when he presented his monumental "The Murder of Pope John Paul I", to a Norwegian audience earlier this year.

The Pope who was the predecessor of today’s John Paul II, died suddenly in 1978 after only 33 days in office. Many believed that the Pope, who was nursing liberal sympathies, and for instance intended to allow contraception, was murdered, sacrificed, by his strongly conservative opponents.

This is the situation that Kolby has visualised in his painting, and which generated strong emotional reactions among the audience.

Black Pope

As the painting shows, Kolby works in a direct prolongation of the Old Masters; Rembrandt, Caravaggio and Velàzquez. His technique is careful, his compositions well considered, and the canvases are filled with symbolic references.

When asked if his works are not anachronistic, it is precisely the symbolism in his works, Kolby points out.

"The symbols I am using in my works, could never have occurred in the Baroque. They are symbols, which involve the spectator of our time. I have, for example, painted a portrait of the first coloured Pope, as I have painted a cardinal without eyes and hands. This would have been impossible in earlier periods of art. I have in addition incorporated almost abstract elements in my canvases, for example in a geometrical description of chairs or tables, so I strongly insist that I am not an imitator".

To a neutral viewer Ross Kolby, who reminds one of the Danish painter Thomas Kluge, is a refreshing new acquaintance.

Some may perhaps find his paintings unnecessary theatrical, and I myself think that some of the canvases are balancing on the edge between the dramatically high-tensioned and the almost pathetic.

That his art appeals to a large audience, is unquestionable, and this should not, even to the "Munkeavantgardists" at The Royal Academy of Art be seen as negative. Or should it?

By Tom Jorgensen,

Ekstra Bladet - Copenhagen.

Literary paintings

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