Per Kirkeby (born 1 September 1938, in Copenhagen) is a Danish painter, poet, film maker and sculptor. By the time he completed a masters education in arctic geology at the University of Copenhagen in 1964, he was already part of the important experimental art school “eks-skolen” and worked primarily as a painter, sculptor, writer and a lithographic artist which he has pursued ever since. Influenced by his scientific roots as well as the gestural works of the Abstract Expressionists, Kirkeby creates expressive, heavily layered paintings, which can resemble geological strata, the Danish landscape, and even the female form.
“The role of art is to accept that things break down,” he says, “That’s the only way to get something new to emerge.” Known for being uncategorizable, Kirkeby works across media—including architecture, poetry, film, and sculpture—as well as traverses art historical movements, having begun his career as a member of the Fluxus group.
Kirkeby’s interest in geology and nature in general still plays a crucial role in his artistic expressions, these themes being therefore very characteristic in the works of the artist. Kirkeby’s works have been shown at many art exhibitions worldwide and are represented in many public collections such as Tate Gallery, London; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York, Centre Pompidou, Paris. Kirkeby has been teaching as a professor at the Art Academy in Karlsruhe (1978–89) and Frankfurter Städelschule (1989–2000).