Συνέντευξη στο Musetouch Visual Arts Magazine no 9 με τον Κανούτο Κάλλαν απο τη Maia Sylba
Canuto Kallan was born in 1960 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Before studying at the Athens School of Fine Arts, he graduated in 1989 from the Technical College of Copenhagen as a cabinet-maker and was awarded the Silver Medal for Woodworking by the Queen of Denmark. At the same time he was studying at the Technical University of Denmark, from where he graduated in 1990 as a Mechanical Engineer (Master of Science ίn Engineering). In 2003 he graduated with distinction from the Athens School of Fine Arts, where he studied painting and later on printmaking.
During the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa he was invited to represent Denmark as one of the five Danish artists in the “2010 Fine Art” world art event and exhibition.
Canuto Kallan and the Danish musician Morten Carlsen (member of the famous jazz and world music orchestra, “The New Jungle Orchestra”) started an interdisciplinary cooperation transforming images to music and vice versa in November 2010.
Until today he has presented his work in 4 solo shows in Denmark and Greece and has participated in numerous group shows.He is a member of the Greek Chamber of Fine Arts and the Danish Association of Visual Artists. Since 1993 he lives and works in Athens.
The works of Canuto Kallan can be found in collections such as:
The Collection of Papadrielleiou Gallery in Komotini Greece, the Greek head office of Burmeister & Wain – ΜΑΝ, Piraeus, the Hotel Creta Maris, Crete, the Hotel Knossos Beach,
Crete, the head office of Postscriptum, Athens, and private collections.
When did you first realize you are an artist?
Art has always played a big role in my life. As a child I was into both music and painting. I was 10 when I won my first prize for one of my paintings. Regarding music I started with the recorder, I continued with violin and viola and ended up on the saxophone. At university, when I studied engineering, I could not practice so freely on my saxophone because I was living in a dormitory, so I turned into painting in order to be able to satisfy my inner need for self – expression. I started covering the walls of my room with drawings and colours. Later on,
during a trip to Tuscany, I met an icon painter who asked me to become his pupil. Unfortunately, he died a few months before I could complete my studies and then be taught by him. He kindly bequeathed me all of his icons so that I could study and be inspired by them. In
the meantime I received the First Prize for the piece of furniture that I had created for my cabinetry thesis in Denmark. The scholarship I received made it possible for me to come to Greece. There I resumed my study of icon painting which then led me to the Athens School of Fine Arts. So I guess it was more a process of my inner needs than a sudden realization that led me to become a painter.
Can you tell me more about yourself and your art?
The colours in my paintings are probably what characterize my work, and is for a big part the reason for me to paint. I presume this influence comes from my childhood in Denmark, where the nature is grey for 6 months of the year. In the winter it is very dark and often foggy. When it snows it is beautiful and bright, but then the only colour is the blue of the sky. That time of the year was a nightmare for me, while spring, when nature is bursting forth with flowers of all colours and green leaves on the trees, was my rebirth! I live in Athens, which is a crowded place. So my paintings are mainly about people and the relations among them. But when I occasionally paint outside Athens I use the nature as a source of inspiration. Actually my palette became much clearer and stronger following a trip to a Greek island in springtime. The colours in the Greek nature are usually very dull and dusty most of the year, except during the spring.
What inspires you to create art and how do you keep motivated yourself?
I usually start out from something I “see” that moves my sensations. It may be something I see during day to day life or a photo, a thought or simply a colour and then, based on my feelings, I then proceed. Before I start a painting, I may have a clear idea about what I would do, but usually only for a start and then I follow a path on the canvas. However, I am not in a position to define what leads me during this process. Often it feels like a struggle with myself and the colours. The canvas becomes my battlefield. Many think that an artist waits for the inspiration to come on him, but that is not the way it works, at least for me and most of my colleagues I know off. Inspiration comes by working. One idea gives room to more ideas to come in.
Is the subject important to you, or do you simply paint to express yourself?
It is a combination of both. The subject may be the reason to start out but the actual process of painting leads me to satisfaction. At a certain point I don’t think of the subject anymore but only what happens on the canvas in terms of forms, colours, harmonies etc.
Your paintings have a lot of strong emotions in them, are they yours or the subjects emotions?
I try to be honest with my emotions, so it is my emotions that guide me in the creation, and not so much emotions I try to put into my subjects. In the end I guess it’s a combination of mine and the spectator’s emotions that the spectator feels in front of the final picture. It is the same about what we see in a picture. What we understand and see is according to our personal experiences. We don’t always comprehend or interpreter images the same way.
What artists have influenced you, and how?
I could mention two experiences that influenced me intensively; the first was a retrospective exhibition of Emil Nolde’s works and, the second, my visit to the Edvard Munch Museum during a trip to Norway. I believe these two artists was an inspiration to me for wanting to paint much more.
I have also been influenced by Marc Chagall and not to forget the Co.Br.A movement to mention a few more. But actually the list is very long. The influence is not always very clear or conscious. Once something has moved us it stays inside us and may come out when we least expect it.
What’s the best and worst part of being an artist?
The best part is very obvious; you do something you love and cannot live without doing it. To create is a very basic human function that gives satisfaction and pleasure. So in this sense I am very fortunate. The worst part of being an artist are really many and of various substances. Beside the economic problems most artists are facing, I believe the worst part is that the artists’ role is being ignored and especially in times of crisis, like this we are going through now. Art is being regarded as luxury and not something that can bring new ideas and inspiration for creating new ways of facing life and its problems. Big sums are so easily spend on destruction, weapons and wars and so difficult so small amounts are spend on art, that can create much better environments, give new experiences, bring people together etc.
Could you talk about your latest series of paintings and what you are trying to achieve with them?
In March 2011 I had my latest show in Athens called “Greener on the Other Side”. It includes paintings that aim at the exploration of the inner and outer world and the projection of the emotional perception of human existence. The title of the exhibition, which is a Danish saying, implies the tendency we have to believe that the “opposite side of the shore”, the “other” reality which we do not experience, is a better, “greener” place – like another “Promised Land”, an unknown world that we idealize. During hard times, this illusion becomes often a conviction and an obsession that obstructs us from paying attention to, and living in, the “here and now”, and from finding our way out through the difficulties in a creative manner. It is a state of mind we all now and then is going through. For the time being it is very apropos in my Greek circles.
If you are about to paint your last painting ever…what and how it would be?
I know what you mean, but actually every painting is my last painting in the very moment I create them. The way I work, as I mentioned before, makes it absurd for me to talk about a planned final painting.
How do you see yourself in the future…do you like to make plans or just letting it be?
In life we need both dreams and plans. If we want to achieve something we have to work according to a plan, and not just fly with the wind. It is like sailing on the ocean, you don’t just leave the sails and the wind to decide, but trim the sails and set a course. Anything else will only just provoke disaster.
I hope I’ll be able to continue painting, and through my art be able to break down some of the walls that separate people. I come from a family with various origins: fishermen in North Scandinavia, farmers and shoe makers in Denmark, ballerinas in Berlin, pharmacists in Istanbul. As a child I met at home people from different parts of the world, from other continents, Africans, Asians, Latin Americans. That is why I distance myself from those who consider themselves superior due to their colour, nationality, religion, vocation or gender, since, from an early age, I discovered that all humans basically seek and feel the same things. My painted “Walls” for an example are for peace, unity, open discussions, mutual respect to mention a few things and not separation, suppression, fanaticism etc.