Kaspar Oppen Samuelsen

Tea with Water from the Hot Tap


In the new works of Kaspar Oppen Samuelsen we encounter a world populated by birds, horses, imaginative beings, a sea goddess, houses with propellers, solitary feet, hooves, masks and human-like characters in various scenarios. With semi-transparent colors in yellow, blue, pink, red and green, the artist paints landscapes for his characters to inhabit. We have met several of them in earlier works, in other shapes, colors and situations, but they seem to have undergone a change. They have become more mature; they have grown up. They don’t pose as self-consciously and self-importantly as before. They don’t struggle with each other for the viewer’s attention. They are not busy promoting themselves. Instead, they turn inward and address each other. They seem more self-contained, adjusting to each other; sharing the space on the canvas. One informs the shape of another like one color informs the next in the working process of the artist. The characters make sincere attempts to collaborate. Each with their own personality, they address each other. The communication seems successful even though the figures are fragmented and the stories we are being told are incomplete and humorous.


The mountains, the richly patterned costumes, and the delicate cloud formations bring associations to Asian traditions, and the tea in the title emphasizes that reference. Kaspar Oppen Samuelsen draws inspiration from art history and various cultures: Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints, Italian frescoes and painters like Félix Vallotton, R. B. Kataj and Vittore Carpaccio are among the sources of inspiration for the pure, bright colors, groups of figures and stories in his works. Brushstrokes and pencil outlines reveal themselves through the semi-transparent layers of paint and tell about the process of the artist. It is an open process. Kaspar Oppen Samuelsen makes sure to continually keep something hidden to himself. He trusts the hand and the materials, he listens and follows the pencil, the colors, the figures.


There is something utopic about the world, that Kaspar Oppen Samuelsen creates. It is a world of dreams. But embedded in the utopic is always the dystopic, the foreign elements. The uncanny and incomprehensible creeps in. The horse has always had a lot to say in his works. Now its face is darkened, the teeth are crushed, or it is cut in half and overturned carrying a laughing, death-like figure on its back. There is a tinge of loneliness to some of the characters, and in the darkest painting, a fistfight is going on; distorted human figures are pulling and pushing and lashing out at each other on a background of black.


Something has been poured into the tea that does not belong in it, or the tea has been made the wrong way. The intention is good, but there has been a misunderstanding. In Danish, the word for tap, hane, means both tap and rooster. The title refers both to the water tap and the rooster; a bird that can crow but cannot fly. In some of the works the bird is being carried, or it appears to be the hands of the figures like the hand-puppets of ventriloquists.


Kaspar Oppen Samuelsen’s most recent exhibitions were at the 15th edition of TULCA Festival of Visual Arts, They Call Us the Screamers, The Liquid Sheep feat. Peninsula Extras, with Marie-Louise Vittrup, Connacht Tribune Print Works, Galway, curated by Matt Packer, 2017 (IE). Tale of the Ocean, Palacio de la Molina, Cartagena, curated by Aukje Lepoutre Ravn, 2018 (ES). While the Others got Composed; the Foot and the Dial went for a Stroll, Viborg Kunsthal, Viborg, 2018 (DK). Tea with Water from the Hot Tap is Kaspar Oppen Samuelsen’s second solo exhibition at Galleri Jacob Bjørn.


Written by Helene Johanne Christensen