Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Is it Art or is it Kitsch

“It can never be the quantity of a thing that is wrong – it can only be the quality”
Bjorn Wiinblad

From the hallowed halls of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and New York’s Museum of Modern Art to the domestic dressers of his native Denmark the gregarious and whimsical decorative artist Bjorn Wiinblad’s work stands confidently in both the fine art and the commercial world of the mass produced. For to whichever camp his work was destined Wiinblad applied the same rigor to its design and production.

As he has said “I put just as much thought, just as many deliberations and just as great zeal into doing the right thing in my work when I make wrapping paper as I do when I create a decoration for the Royal Ballet.”

Wiinblad initially followed in the family tradition of studying typography but at the age of 22 he abandoned it to study graphic art at the The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Influenced by the work of the English illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, Wiinblad started out illustrating children’s books. His illustrations for Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp around this time introduced Wiinblad to the art of the Middle East which was to influence his work for the rest of his life.

From illustration Wiinblad move into ceramics and whilst an indifferent potter his fairy tale inspired designs were such that in his late 30’s he became a master designer for the famed German porcelain company, Rosenthal. In his 50’s Wiinblad added textiles to his oeuvre working with a Portuguese factory to weave his designs.

Wiinblad also designed costumes, stage settings and advertising posters for theatrical productions.

About which he has said “When one is working for the theatre, the feeling that I believe is the driving force behind everything I do – the urge to please and surprise – is so crucial. All the concentrated efforts are directed towards that one moment when the curtain goes up on the first evening. Everyone in the hall is silent in anticipation.” 

The Arken Museum of Modern Art’s curator Julie Thaning Mikines says in her catalogue essay for his current exhibition at the museum that Wiinblad is the embodiment of the American art historian Susan Sontag’s 1968 description of the art style she labeled as ‘camp.’

As Mikines wrote “The essence of camp is the ability to covert the serious into the frivolous… It is in many ways far too much, exaggerated, unnatural, magical and fantastical – but for those very reasons it is something – for us. Because it creates space and exceeds the boundaries of what is good and what is bad taste, what is high and what is popular culture, what is cool and what is kitsch, what is art and what is design.”

Wiinblad’s Arken Museum exhibition is on show until the 17th of January next year.

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