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Ink, people and posters Finn Nygaard


Finn Nygaard Ink, people and posters

Ink · people · posters · typography · calligraphy · illustration

Conversation with Suh Se-Ok, Korea and Finn Nygaard

I just want to be a painter. That is all I ask for. I am not especially good at verbal communication, though I know that it is part of the business of art. According to one maxim, though, ‘words’, which we all use to express thoughts, are nothing but ‘figments of thought’ and ‘pieces of writing’. As the maxim instructs, there is no way I can avoid communicating the wrong message if I attempt to express myself and my paintings in words. I would deviate from the essence of my paintings if I tried. I only hope that the audience will read everything that is in my paintings for themselves, and not the writings or stories told about them. From the moment a painter completes a piece of work, the work is entrusted to the viewers as a blank check. It is no longer in the possession of the painter, and it is the viewers who determine the value of the work. 4

Please tell us why you decided to go into ink painting. What is it about ink that fascinates you? – Painters should not have to choose the materials for their paintings. I think it would be inappropriate for someone to ask Picasso, for example, ‘Why do you do oil paintings?’ I think it is a subjective question, but because I am being pressed to answer this question, I will reluctantly answer as follows. Firstly, I think, the origin of ‘geurim,’ a Korean word meaning painting, came from ‘geurim-ja’ meaning shadow. Yes. A painting is a shadow. Is everything nothing but shadows? Yes, it is (if we think transcendently). Seeing that our lives and everything surrounding us are nothing but shadows, the stage on which the play of shadows is performed is backlit in monotone. So, I paint the stage with ink. Secondly, ink is made of powdered charcoal, so it never decays. Of course, there is virtually no change in color because of its semi-permanent chemical components. When dissolved in water, ink soaks deeply into the paper, and I have complete control over the shading. Ink is not considered to be only one color, black. Rather, ink has since long ago been used to feel and express more than five color senses. Possessed of transcendence or eternity without any limitation as color, the color of ink has been regarded as much more refined than any other colors of other materials. Thirdly, there are the properties of material and painting techniques inherent to ink painting. I am fascinated by monochromatic painting and lines made in one fast stroke of brush, which spread on and soak into paper. Oriental painting and calligraphy techniques have been used in contemporary painting in the U.S. and Europe since the twentieth century. Many Western painters who understood the properties and techniques of ink painting have emerged on the global art scene. When and how did you start painting with ink? I have been experimenting with various materials. I was exposed to ink painting when I was little. It was natural for me to practice painting and calligraphy in ink. Tell us who has influenced you most in your life. If you are asking about a person whom I have looked up to as my mentor, I have none. I think it would be a tremendous tragedy for a painter to have a mentor. A painter should never be a follower. I am what I am today because of extensive meditation and reading, travel, and experimentation, seeing things with my eyes, touching with my hands, and listening with my ears. And trying to find something in the space I am in that is far beyond what it seems to be.

What is your philosophy in your work? Analyzing the object sharply with keen insight, a painter repeatedly decomposes and recomposes it. The painter recreates the object as another thing of unique beauty. There is no typical form of beauty. Beauty is nothing that you can catch with your hands. Beauty seems to be right in front of you, but next moment it is far behind you. You cannot catch beauty like you catch a fly with a flyswatter, and no one has a monopoly on it. Therefore, beauty is timeless, and the same is true of a painter. Beauty is everlasting. Isn’t it a fundamental truth of beauty that there is neither beginning nor end in the first place? I hear a thunderstorm and see a flash of lightning when the tip of the brush touches the canvas as I start painting. The energy of the universe should melt and flow down to the tip of the brush, like melted ore flows in the furnace. A painter continues exploration to grasp the true nature of objects with endless love, while deeply analyzing the objects from every respect. After understanding the objects, the painter breaks the boundary and repeats the decomposition and recomposition in the boundless space to get to the so-called ‘creation’. Here, creation means arriving at something from nothing. It is desirable for a painter to go the middle way between the polarities of existence and nothingness, void and fullness, give and take, movement and stillness, and yin and yang; the spirit that transcends reality well beyond its boundary. When a painter is strong enough to transcend reality, the canvas becomes the limitless space of the universe, and he can freely move forward or backward, upward and downward, in any direction he wants. The whole universe flows down to his canvas like a river flowing into the sea. The sun and the moon are the eyes of my fully open heart. The twinkling stars in the sky are where my soul resides. The surging waves of the sea and towering mountains represent my inspirations. And isn’t the constantly blowing wind my breath? The painter sublimates into the beauty of art the vivid scenes of our lives, the scenes of me and my brothers and sisters joining hands to share joy, and all mankind getting together singing and dancing about the pains and joys of our times. Doesn’t the artist’s life bloom like a fire as he expresses such joys and pains through their works? The life of a painter is to climb up a path of endless stairs to the sky, or trod along the thorny path of life all alone.

Suh Se-Ok

When a painter stands in front of a canvas with brush in hand, he should be pugnacious as if wanting to fight a tiger. If he fails to cope with the fierce tiger with the brush in hand, he can never make the space called the canvas his own. When the painter wins over the fierce animal and makes the space his own, he throws away the brush and looks with a smile at the canvas space, which was in a vortex as if an earthquake or a seismic wave had just occurred. This may be seen as excretion relieved of fighting and expression of a painter.

Where do you get inspiration for your works? I get inspiration from all things, and space beyond all those things.

All things start from one single ‘dot’, which extends to develop into one ‘line’. The start and end of this one line are not defined as straight or horizontal. For this reason, one line forms a big circle of infinite size, because, as the circle moves right and left, it generates and annihilates all things, movement and stillness and yin and yang. I understand this circle to be the infinite energy that dominates the universe. This is the start of all things, and the basics of painting. If you explore such thought, you will get an idea as to where a painting began and where it is going.

How are calligraphy and ink painting related to each other? Calligraphy in the East started from seeing all things and expressing them in drawing. With the passage of time, both ‘characters’ and ‘calligraphy’ came into being side-by-side. In other words, ‘calligraphy’ is characters that developed into an artistic expressive technique. To develop simple characters into an artistic expressive technique, the basic techniques and logic used for painting were applied. The techniques and logic of calligraphy were also eventually applied to ink painting, and the two have influenced each other ever since. It should be clearly understood that calligraphy and ink painting are done with the same materials and tools, that is, ink and brush. Calligraphy and ink painting share expressive techniques and spirit. However, as calligraphy is by definition impossible without ‘characters’, it has always been limited in a way, unlike painting.

What is your greatest accomplishment as an artist? Let’s assume that we each live for one hundred years. This is hardly the blink of an eye in the context of space and time. We throw all our efforts into our lives, but we only live as long as our physical body, which is as small as an insect, remains viable. We all show a small part of our lives. Therefore, there is no such thing like perfection in life or in art. If there were, people in the next generation would lose all interest in life, or life would lose meaning. No painter will, and has ever been, complete about all things. Thus, life remains incomplete forever.

How would you characterize the relationship between Korean calligraphy and European calligraphy? For example, the calligraphy and arts of Korea and Japan in the 1960s exerted great influence on Dotremont and Alechinsky in Europe. I know nothing about calligraphy in Europe. I have not yet seen any European works of calligraphy that evince the expressive techniques or logic of characters of any European language, as in Korea, China, and Japan where characters have developed and become elaborate over an extraordinarily long period of time and eventually became incorporated in calligraphy.

For me, ‘nothingness premises something’ and ‘being new premises being old’. All things are work of abundant energy that spins round and round. I strive to be free from and transcend the sense of ‘losing’ and ‘gaining’.

How will the future influence your work? What do you think about the future of ink painting and calligraphy? Since I don’t even know what will happen today, how can I speculate about tomorrow or the future? Water and air cannot be cut into pieces like wood. Like air unbounded, the past, present, and future will go on together forever. The same thing looks very different depending on the direction from which you look at it. We may think that all things change constantly, and vice versa; we may think that nothing changes all the time. The only difference is between seeing near and narrowly and seeing far and widely.


Finn Nygaard



Finn Nygaard Finn Nygaard

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Finn Nygaard

Finn Nygaard 路 Jury and lecture Shantou University, Shantou, China


Finn Nygaard 路 lecture at Emzin Institute of Creative production, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Finn Nygaard “Unplugged Facees”, Istanbul


Finn Nygaard 路 Jazzposters




Finn Nygaard 路 Poster exhibition at The Concert Hall Aarhus 路 Denmark




“Theatre that’s me” International Triennial of stage poster Sofia. Sofia, Bulgaria, 2009


Poster celebrating May 1968 路 USA

Poster Voice of Freedom 路 Mexico

Poster for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Celebrating Frida Kahlo’s birth and 50 years since Diego Rivera’s death · Mexico 2008


Bong-Sun Moon FNŠKahlo_70x100M-kant.indd 1

04/11/09 17.34



Poster and FunFan Invitational contribution to the FunFan Project: The Wind of Love to The World 路 Japan


Hommage a Shigeo Fukuda 路 Japan 1932 - 2009


Viggo Rivad, Karin Andersen · Denmark

Chip Kid, JD McClatchy · USA

Peter Knapp · France

Melchior Imboden · Switzerland

Shigeo Fukuda · Japan

Arnt Uhre · Denmark

Kit Hinrichs · USA

Pekka Loiri · Finland

Flemming Bo Hansen · Denmark

Katsumi Asaba · Japan

Dan Reisinger · Israel

Fang Chen · China/USA

Garson Yu · USA

Lech Majewski · Poland, Karel Mísek · Czech Republic

Pierre Bernard · France

Yarom Vardimon · Israel

UG Sato · Japan

Takashi Akiyama · Japan


Uwe Loesch · Germany

István Orosz · Hungary, Kari Piippo · Finland

Vladimir Chaika · Russia

Erik Magnussen · Denmark

Jeffrey Fisher · UK/France

Paul Prejza · USA, Arnold Schwartzman · USA

Ahn Sang-Soo · Korea

George Hardie · UK

Marcha Bernard · France, Keith Godard · USA

Kari Piippo · Finland

Henry Steiner · China

David Tartakover · Israel

Niklaus Troxler · Switzerland

Tommy Li · China

Torben Skov · Denmark

Tony Brook · UK, Juliet Man · UK

Paolo Tassinari · Italy

Javier Mariscal · Spain, Christoph Niemann · USA

David Lancashire · Australia

Kan Tai-Keung · China

Alexander Gelman · USA

Maciej Buszewicz · Poland

Dusan Junek · Slovakia

Kyösti Varis · Finland

Taku Satoh · Japan

Reza Abedini · Iran

Edo Smitshuijzen · The Netherlands

Anke Feuchtenberger · Germany

Peter Pocs · Hungary

Michel Bouvet · France

Aoba Masuteru · Japan

Subrata Bhowmik · India

Mieszyslav Wasilewski · Poland

Tapani Aartomaa · Finland

Finn Sködt · Denmark, Mervyn Kurlansky · Denmark/UK

Ben Bos · The Netherlands

Finn Nygaard · Born in Denmark 1955

Finn Nygaard has created posters, illustrations, graphic design and industrial design, paintings, sculptures, decoration, ceramics, colour compositions for Danish and international companies. He has created more than 300 posters, many of which he has received awards for. He has had several oneman shows. Throughout his career, Finn Nygaard has been a prolific creator of posters and prints. The results have been featured in exhibitions worldwide, his posters and design projects have been shown in major galleries and museums, and he has taken part in the most important international poster exhibitions since the 80’s and has been member of many international juryes. Most important one-man shows: Modern Art Gallery, St. Petersburg, Russia; The Danish Postermuseum, Aarhus, Denmark; IdcN in Nagoya Japan “Visual Voice”; Galleri Fine-Art Nagoya, Japan; National Museum in Poznan, Poland; Pallfy Palais in Bratislava, Slovakia; The Danish Museum of Art & Design, Denmark, “Finn Nygaard with Friends”; The Museum of Printing History, Houston, Texas, USA. Several of his posters have found their way into permanent collections. Lectures and workshops at a.o. NID, National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India University of Houston, Houston Texas, USA Hongik University, Seoul, Korea Central Academy of Fine Art and Design Beijing, China Shantou University, Shantou, China Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, Guangzhou, China Emzin Institute of Creative production, Ljubljana, Slovenia The University JE Purkyè, Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic Books: Finn Nygaard Posters 1, ISBN 87-982724-1-1 Finn Nygaard Posters 2, ISBN 87-982724-3-8 Finn Nygaard Plakatów, ISBN 83-913234-5-5 Finn Nygaard AGI,China, ISBN 7-5386-1679-9/J·1368 Visual Voice Finn Nygaard IdcN Japan, ISBN 87-988916-1-8 Finn Nygaard Denmark, ISBN 87-990704-1-3 Finn Nygaard with Friends, ISBN 87-990704-0-5 Finn Nygaard Visual Voice, ISBN 978-87-990704-2-8 Finn Nygaard is member of MDD, Danish Designers and AGI, Alliance Graphique Internationale



posters, ink, graphic, design, calligraphy

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