Sunday the 20th of October marked the closing of the fourth and last KYST exhibition at Allerød Kunstforening, and as such the official end of the KYST project, which has – to a greater or lesser extent – been a full-time obsession of mine over the last two years.
To mark the project’s cessation I thought I’d just blog a quick summary of what the project has meant to me and include some observations and some of my favorite images and, in doing this, finally and truly put the project to bed.
Broadly speaking the project has had three phases, all of which were very different in character but had in common a certain amount of communication with the public/my audience – something I’ve not really done much of before.
Firstly, preparation – whilst the first inkling of the idea may well have been born well over 10 years ago, it was during 2017 that the idea really began to take hold and become a reality. I researched the idea, looked into practicalities and bought lots of new equipment and gear in preparation for the trip. I also went online and announced the project, asking for feedback as to what the project should be called, where I should start, whether I should walk clockwise or counterclockwise, and so on. Right from the start it was apparent that the project engendered much interest.
The second part of the project – actually DOING it – was 2018 and was really the ‘easy’ part. Once I had the structure and rules in place, once I had the blog set up, all the gear and software sorted, it was just a question of walking around the island every Friday and painting. Of course, there were challenges in terms of the weather and the long days, photography and writing and doing the blog – and I was also really busy with other freelance work throughout the year – but very quickly the Fridays became incredibly rewarding and the most looked forward to day of the week. As I reached the end of the year and the project’s conclusion I began to really worry about what I would be doing post-KYST.
During the walk I received so much support – from people on Bornholm following the blog, from the local TV station and newspaper, from people following my updates on Instagram and Facebook and so on. This was something I’d not really experienced before – this close connection with people enjoying my work – and it was overwhelming to say the least.
The third part of the project – the book and the exhibitions – has in many ways been the hardest, but no less rewarding. The book was a team effort, and it was amazing to work WITH people again (reminding me of my time as a curator and project manager working in museums and galleries). It was a tremendous amount of work, but I was committed, enthusiastic and passionate about delivering a quality book, and luckily so were the other people working on the project. I am proud of the KYST book and thank God for that – because I’ll be living with it for the rest of my life.
The first KYST exhibition was at Svanekegaarden on Bornholm. Once again I was lucky to be supported by an enthusiastic team at the gallery. Hours before the private view I was still unsure as to whether anyone would actually show up. My brothers and sister had made the trip over and I was feeling giddy with nervousness. The opening was a huge success with hordes of people and sales. The exhibition seemed to strike a chord with local Bornholmers and I was overwhelmed by the positive feedback and depth of the connection visitors made to my work. It was a strange and very special experience.
The exhibition was toured to Aberlady in Scotland and then Holt in Norfolk. In both venues, I completely rehung the exhibition, showing new works each time, and creating new narratives. This has been one of the pleasures of having so much ‘raw material’ (over 520 paintings) to work with – but it has also meant an INSANE amount of planning and organization – which has, at times, resulted in a fair amount of tension and drama. In Scotland, I had, for example, a week to make over 40 new frames. ‘Never again’, I said to myself. Just a few months later I found myself in exactly the same situation as I struggled to make 40 new frames for the exhibition in Norfolk – and then once again, making 60 new frames for the exhibition in Allerød. All through the year, I had been working pretty close to the wire, driving back and forth between Denmark and England, with little time to spare. Thankfully I enlisted the help of family and friends along the way, without which it all would have been impossible.
In Aberlady, I was once again blessed by the support of an enthusiastic exhibition staff – something that makes such a huge difference. The private view was well attended and I was so happy to be able to ‘show off’ Bornholm to a new audience. In Norfolk, at the Birdscapes gallery, the exhibition was equally well received and I was thankful for the professionalism and experience of their exhibition team.
The last exhibition in Allerød was the largest and most ‘complete’ KYST exhibition. I invited nine Bornholmian artists, all of whom were heavily inspired by Bornholm’s nature, to exhibit with me -creating a whole new layer to the exhibition and the project. Again, the opening was incredibly well attended and again I was overwhelmed with all the positive feedback. I had to leave the opening a bit early and take a train to southern Jutland where I was attending an artists’ residency. On the three-hour train journey I had ample time to reflect on the exhibition, the book and the project, and digest all the supportive and affirmative feedback I’d received. Collecting the exhibition just two weeks later I was so thankful for the efforts of the gallery staff – volunteers all – who had managed the installation, manned the gallery and -not least – administered the exhibition sales.
Most of the time I work alone – either in the field or at home in the studio. Sometimes I teach, or have meetings, but generally speaking I am in my own world. When I paint, I’m doing it for me, because I want to, because I NEED to – I try not to think too much about what people might think about what I’m doing. The KYST project has been a completely different experience for me, where I have truly been made aware of the effect my work can have on other people. It is a very strange feeling, and truly, one that I’m not completely at ease with – not at all in fact. But I AM thankful. KYST has been a success – in terms of impact, sales, people reached and so on it has exceeded my wildest dreams. It is a strange feeling. I think back to those incredible mornings, those sunsets, that connection with my environment. I am glad it is all there – my paintings, my book, the blog etc. Now I look forward, with more than a little trepidation, to the next project, the next chapter…
And what will I do now, how will I follow KYST? I have a few ideas for a few projects or ‘structures’, but I’m not really sure yet – other than just getting out there and painting. I’ve still got a few KYST talks to give, and I’m still selling KYST paintings from home (let me know if you’d like a list of unsold KYST works) and the book is still selling – but really, it’s time to move on…