Peter Doig & Karl Ove Knausgård On Edvard Munch


Enjoy this engaging and far-reaching conversation between two giants of art and literature, Scottish artist Peter Doig and Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård about the legendary Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944). About how they mirror themselves in Munch’s struggle to stay alert as an artist and keep discovering new territories instead of giving in to the expectations of others.

“I’m still shaking after walking around in the exhibition,” Doig says of Knausgård’s ‘Edvard Munch’ exhibition in connection to which the writer and painter talk about their fascination with the Norwegian painter. Knausgård feels that Doig’s paintings are similar to Munch’s, and Doig describes the ways in which there are references to Munch in his paintings – e.g. how both painters hide things in their work.

Knausgård talks about Munch’s personal life and the many losses he experienced at an early age: “He couldn’t trust the world.” Painting, Knausgård feels, was a way for Munch to connect to the world. As an example, he painted his sister’s deathbed over and over again. Later, Knausgård continues, Munch had some kind of mental breakdown, and also became an alcoholic: “He’s really almost dissolved as a person.” After this, Munch seemed to stop painting his inner landscapes. Moreover, Knausgård finds it interesting that Munch repeated his paintings throughout his life – doing paintings that he had done at age 22 at the age of 74.

“I always go in with emotions – I have no other way to approach paintings. And then it kind of opens up if you keep looking at it,” Knausgård says. He feels that in literature as well as in art, there is a struggle to break down and build up to make things new for yourself. Doig agrees with this, and talks about how painting can be a struggle to know what’s going to keep you excited, and why it is essential to approach a painting with a kind of innocence and openness: “Things come about by surprise.”

Peter Doig (b. 1959) is a Scottish artist, who is celebrated as one of the most important representational painters working today. He has held several solo exhibitions including at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, Faurschou Foundation in Beijing, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montreal, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and Tate Britain in London. His works are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, among others. Doig has received several prestigious awards such as the Prix Eliette von Karajan (1994) and the Wolfgang Hahn Prize of the Society for Modern Art (2008).

Karl Ove Knausgård (b. 1968) is a Norwegian author, internationally recognized for his prizewinning novel ‘My Struggle’. The novel, in which the author describes his own life, is in six volumes spanning over 3,000 pages. He is also the author of a four-volume series following the seasons – ‘On Spring’, ‘On Summer’, ‘On Fall’ and ‘On Winter’ (2015-16), ‘Inadvertent (Why I Write) (2018), and ‘So Much Longing in So Little Space: The Art of Edvard Munch’ (2019). Knausgård is the recipient of several prestigious prizes including the Austrian State Prize for European Literature.

Edvard Munch (1863-1944) is a Norwegian painter and one of the most important artists of the early 20th century. Munch was part of the Symbolist movement in the 1890s, and a pioneer of Expressionism. Among his most iconic paintings are ‘The Scream’ and ‘The Sick Child’.

Peter Doig and Karl Ove Knausgård were on stage with Christian Lund at Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf in connection with the exhibition ‘Edvard Munch’, curated by Karl Ove Knausgård, in November 2019.

Camera: Jakob Solbakken
Edited by Klaus Elmer

Produced by Christian Lund

Cover photo: Cropped version of ‘Ashes’ (1894) by Edvard Munch

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2019

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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