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A Look at the Dark Paintings of René Holm

Darkness, 190 x 250 cm, 2017 

By NOAH BECKER, FEB. 2018

Enjoy this exclusive preview of René Holm's show Darkness, opening April 5th, 2018 at the TRAFO Museum in Szczecin, Poland, accompanied by an interview. René Holm is no stranger to darkness, having grown up in Denmark, where the winter season cuts the total amount of daylight to around eight hours.

Don´t ever loose your ropes, 160 x 170 cm, 2017

NOAH BECKER: Tell me about the body of work that's going to be on display.

RENÉ HOLM: As a painter, my aim is to constantly challenge my own painting in terms of surface, content and colour. For quite some time now, I have had the idea of painting a series of dark works for an exhibition. That idea has finally become a reality. As a painter who normally uses brighter colors, it's a challenge to work with dark colors. "Dark" painting has been around since the Renaissance. Throughout the history of art, "black" painting has made a huge impact in terms of both colour and theme, and artists have used it to depict tragic and historic events. 

 I see a darkness, 160 x 170 cm, 2017

The dark waters between us, 160 x 170 cm, 2017-2018

NB: So... what drew you to the concept of "darkness" as subject matter?

RH: My works have both a physical and psychological dimension. Natural physical darkness happens every day and, in the case of most people, it helps us calm down, preparing us to fall asleep and providing the body with tranquillity and rest. Night is the period between midnight and 5:00 AM, when, for various reasons, many people cannot sleep. For them, it is a psychological nightmare. Meanwhile, other people thrive in darkness. While nearly everyone else is in hibernation mode, they live a totally different life.

I wish i knew where it all ends, 160 x 170 cm, 2017 - 2018

NB: In several of the works in the show, the motif of the forest comes up quite often. What's the significance?

RH: For many people, the forest, which has played a major role in my works, is a beautiful, peaceful place to go for a walk in order to recharge their bodies and souls. But in the dead of night, that same forest is a place that most people would rather avoid, because we all know, or have heard about, alarming accounts of things that have happened in "the dark forest." The dark forest occurs frequently in children’s books, novels, and films as a sinister place. The forest has been, and continues to be, a place to which people flee in times of war. Why? It can provide a hiding place. People build shelters for themselves, there is generally food to be had, and they can make a bonfire to keep dangerous animals at bay or to provide heat for survival. 

I´m leaving now, 160 x 170 cm, 2017 

NB: Can you expand on what you mean by the "psychological dimension" of these paintings?

RH: The dark condition is something most of us to varying degrees have been affected by in our lives, such as when we suddenly lose someone close to us, or lose the courage to live. Darkness affects our minds, and the great challenge is to return to life and find the light again: the light that makes us enjoy life and to wake up ready for our everyday challenges. Depending on one's belief, that spiritual light may come from above or below. Then there is the physical light that guides us through the darkness and helps us survive the dark winter, or the light at the end of the tunnel.

Like someone took your breath away, 160 x 170 cm, 2017

There is only space for one, 160 x 170 cm, 2017 

NB: Paint for me a picture of the show at the TRAFO, for those of us who can't make it to Poland.

RH: The exhibition will feature one 190 x 250 cm work and ten 170 x 160 cm works, all of which depict people in a "forest space." There will be a source of light as a reference point in the form of a physical lamp to help them on their way: a sort of light in the darkness that they find in their soul, divine light, or something entirely different. To make as great an impact as possible on the viewers’ senses, the exhibition will be a total installation. The entire floor will have a physical forest floor. There will be trees with light installations in them, large piles of branches with lights under them, and a work consisting of a 3-metre-long rope ladder made of bent neon. 

The darkness will be a sensory experience and a challenge to visitors: their eyes will need to adjust to the darkness before the motifs of the works emerge. I hope my project will kindle people’s interest, and I really hope to present this exhibition in Denmark after this show in Poland.

You don´t need to be frightened, 160 x 170 cm, 2017

All images courtesy of the artist.

Noah Becker

Noah Becker shows his art internationally. A visual artist and the publisher and founding editor of Whitehot Magazine, Becker has also written freelance articles for The Guardian, VICE, Garage, Art in America, Interview Magazine, Canadian Art and the Huffington Post and contributed texts to major artist monographs published by Rizzoli and Hatje Cantz. Becker also directed the New York art documentary New York is Now (2010) viewable on Youtube. 

Follow Noah Becker on Instagram: @noahbeckerstudio

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