Originally trained as a geologist, Per Kirkeby uses natural phenomena, landscape, and biological forms as the bases of his visual lexicon. Although he has experimented with a variety of media, Kirkeby is best known for his oil paintings, drawings, and prints. The dense, layered textures of his images’ surfaces mimic the ecological forms that serve as his inspiration. Working with a scientifically educated eye, Kirkeby’s work might be seen, in its abstraction, to be a more accurate than naturalism for rendering of environmental processes. Kirkeby has regularly reinforced this connection with trips to Central America, Australia, the arctic, and uninhabited regions of Northern Europe. Kirkeby’s 1996 painting Flight into Egypt is emblematic of his work, referencing a theme common to history painting, the abstractions of Clyfford Still, as well as floral and geological structures.
Kirkeby has had several major retrospectives since 2008, including the Tate Museum, London, and the Kunstpalads, Düsseldorf.