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oil, acrylic and spray on canvas

Lose • 2009-2017

One sperm cell out of a million finds its way to the egg and thus begins the story. The human story – your story, my story, all human histories begin with the moment we are given life. We cannot reach for it, demand it or claim it. It is given to us, and what it will contain – happiness and pain, joy, sadness, love and hate, warmth and cold- no one can know. But we gradually come to learn that it is given to us, and can be taken from us in a split second; for no one knows what awaits us around the next corner. It can be given to us, but we can also give life and take it away from others. Not one of us is separate.  Not one of us lives separated from others, even though that’s what we pretend to do and want. Even the strong are weak. Even those who are celebrated and popular have to experience loss and feel lost in life. Even the most robust of us must confront our own powerlessness. Even the most vigorous among us have within them arid deserts that only turn tender and giving through the encounter with something different, something larger than ourselves. Even he, who seems to cope with it all and then some, contains facets that are dangerous to himself and others.

This time out, René Holm looks inward. The camera that he usually points at other people and groups in society, he has now turned on himself; but he has done much more than that, he has explored what it means to be human. And the title suggests the terms of our existence: to live is to be given everything, just as it is losing it all. And to lose something can leave you alone and abandoned. That’s why we spot the lonely human being in most of the artist’s paintings, the person carrying the pain of having lost or perhaps of being in the process of losing! It’s a hard and cruel lesson, a fitting commentary on the age we live in – where each of us becomes a project, in which we are left to our own devices, our own projects, even though our innermost desire might just be to encounter others. Human dignity is at stake, and so is human value. Humans essentially only have value and dignity by virtue of the value and dignity that others bestow on them, and that means that we are deeply dependent on each other, and that we live through the encounter with others. This is the fundamental experience in every life. The truth is, we experience the happiest moments when we forget ourselves and lose ourselves in the encounter.

The people in René Holm’s works have all lost or are about to lose – and their common experience seems to be that they have lost themselves, too. We might dissolve and see no escape in this life. We can become so utterly ingrown that it can be difficult to glimpse hope in life, and the result is that we end up turning our backs on the world, for we care only for our own pain and unhappiness. The candle that we burn at both ends seems to take power from us, and loss becomes a fact in earnest. Apparently, what remains is taking leave: the father’s farewell to his child in the grave, which he himself has filled with dirt. People who turn their backs on the world and life and disappear into the picture, becoming one with their surroundings – the naked trees…

When you have lost everything and feel completely shut off, imprisoned by life, you have but one wish; namely, to be greeted as what you are and where you are. To meet a person who, when all has been stripped away, can give you a foothold again. You pray that someone will open up the endless deep blue sky, so you can be reunited with the eternal whole. And thus be freed from the fundamental loneliness that always comes with loss. A longing to be united…

You can sense it in René Holm’s paintings, since the darkness does not rule, despite the separation, despite the loss. The light burns, creates warmth and brings back hope. Rays of light penetrate the forest’s gloom, chasing away the darkness. And although the paintings embody the worst (that is, loss), hope remains. Hope that an external force can make you discover that you are still alive, even though you had actually gone blank. Eventually we open our eyes again to life, the world and the people in it. And then it’s possible that we begin to live again, despite believing that we could not live without that which we lost!

These paintings and this exhibit give me a sense that René Holm had been knocked down and is now back on his feet. I have a sense that these images are a manifestation of the idea that life can wash over us and give us courage and happy days, after everything has collapsed and the loss is complete. Humans can intervene and renew our lives. Love greets us, giving us new life and courage. The paintings spring out of this, and thus we are not gripped by loneliness and hopelessness, although they are the first impression we get from the paintings. Through his paintings, René Holm expresses that we all live on the impression life makes upon us. We’re sustained by the impact of everything we encounter and everything we must let go of again.

Provst, Kræn Christensen



What happens when art refuses to be categorised, and instead generates combinations of formats and ideas?

How does art progress, both hypothetically and practically, and what additional opportunities emerge as a result? This is a question, which has been lurking around since early modernism. It was a particular feature of the experiments of the avant-gardists and led to the postmodern concept of art, in which everything was possible and therefore permitted.

In the exhibition, Transmutation at the West Jutland Art Pavilion, the painter René Holm joins this tradition. As the title suggests, the exhibition focuses on hybrids in art: amalgamating both artistic approaches and historical periods. Transmutation is rooted in two artistic approaches, presenting classic oil painting in an encounter with commercial, digitised aesthetics, of which contemporary fashion and lifestyle magazines are prime exponents.

Transmutation consists of 126 pages, ripped out of magazines and painted, and four classic oil paintings. Holm calls the exhibition his “artistic patience project”. This makes sense, given that it took him ten years to complete it. For ten years, he painstakingly collected all sorts of music publications, tattoo magazines, art periodicals, fashion magazines and graffiti books as the basis for Transmutation’s crazy, multifarious pictorial world. It ranges from portraits of Lucian Freud and Ai Weiwei, via Helle Thorning-Schmidt, to Snoop Dogg and fellow artist, Christian Lemmerz.

In 2012, with great determination, René Holm started work on painting those magazine pages, which he considered interesting enough for further processing. While the experiment soon turned out to be portrait-based, it was by no means a foregone conclusion when it came to which of these portraits would work. Many different factors played a role in his choice of subject. Yes, a major personality in the foreground often played a role, but equally a fascinating background or an unusual composition could decide the matter and galvanize the development of a work.

When painting the magazine photographs, René Holm adopted two approaches: a reinterpretation of the present and a modernisation of the past. René Holm literally rips out the modernisation, which fashion and lifestyle magazines thrive on, and inserts it into a non-temporal dimension. Suddenly the images stand alone and naked, a testimony to the time and context, of which they were once a part.  In the exhibition, the magazines’ glossy expression finds a new context in the thick oil paint, which flows out into the paper and becomes a part of the surroundings. What emerges is a mixture of materials and dimensions. At times, the paintings seem to be complete, consistent set-ups, while at other times they come across as distortions of perception in terms of dimension and space.

Holm’s approach is rooted in a highly digitised world, in which artistic expression seems more boundless than ever before. We have never had so many platforms, on which to discover commercial art, and we have never been so blasé in our encounter with it.

In Transmutation, René Holm creates a personal cross section of his sources of inspiration, located outside time and space, where commercial interest melts away and people, both famous and unknown, emerge as reinterpreted icons of our age.

Karen Ægidius

Art Historian