When I was young, art was a must in society. And it was also something you should promote. But it's not like that today. If you are an artist today, then you are a beggar, right? If not you can earn a billion, as a young man, right? And not everyone can do that.
Read the translation transcript below:
By Lars Christian Kraemmer, January, 2016
Welcome to Jeff Ibbo, who is an artist and painter who has made artmoney for a great many years.
View from one of the three rooms facing the street. Jeff Ibbo is well known for his clay sculptures made from live models. They are lined up in the window and around the rest of the apartment.
I came here to Jeff's and Grethe's apartment to ask some questions to who you are and what you're doing as an artist. So I will try with some formal questions first.
When were you born?
In February, 1941. I can soon celebrate my 75th birthday.
Where were you born?
In Copenhagen, Denmark. We lived on Kronprinsessegade when I was a boy. Until 1946, when we moved out to Ordrup. And I lived in a building on the 3rd floor and I went to The Green Vænge School. And then we moved to Holte in 1952, when my father could get a government loan to buy a townhouse. My road to school was along Dronninggårds All (street) where all the rich people lived. But these townhouses were in the modest end of Holte. It was not the poor, but it was not the rich either. But I hung out with the rich kids at Holte Gymnasium (High School).
So you were an educated person?
So I am an educated person. Yes.
When did you realize that you had to become an artist?
I did so when I was given the choice whether I wanted to attend high school or if I wanted to learn the craft of art. Because I always used to draw a lot in school. But it was more drawing than painting. But I was also good at painting. Because we had an Alexander Klingspor (Danish artist) who, himself was a painter. He taught us how we could paint on large sheets of paper with glue and pigment, and it was pretty exciting. And he thought that I was good when I was 13-14 years old. It seemed he did not think so, when I came back to him when I was 20 or 22 years old. "You'd probably wish you were as good as when you went to school," he said. But he helped me get into art school. He said, "You need to come with a lot of drawings."
Did you attend art school in Copenhagen?
Yes. I was accepted there in 1964. It was because I studied with him. He helped me with what I needed to submit.
Have you worked with art ever since?
Yes. Except for two months in a collective where I did not paint. It was a shock for me not to paint, so I never repeated that since. The idea of the collective was something like that we all had to work. It was a Maoist, Marxist, and Leninist collective on Langeland (Danish island). All had to work and contribute. And my children were also your children.
Were you politically engaged?
Yes, no, not really. I was left wing. I helped to demonstrate against the police and was arrested because I did not pay the fine. It was something called Zenit. It was something leftist. Father's boys wanting to rebel. There was a lot of that stuff when I was young. It was well-off children who had to find their identity. Try drugs and what ever it would evolved into. But it was a rebellion against those parents who were affected by the war and simple living, but who had given birth to the welfare state in Denmark. And then it suddenly became boring. So it was no longer a fight for welfare or to survive. It was a struggle to find your self. Finding an idea of life. And to change the world. It was political and everything else. And do drugs. And play music. The whites took over the blacks rhythm music. Can you express yourself like that? Black people had of course found an identity in jazz music, between the wars, and we could see it was damn good. We also wanted something like that. And then came the Rolling Stones, which was inspired from jazz. It was actually a kind of jazz, but as white people can make it. Spiced up with a little Rock N Roll and Boogie Woogie and things like that. It became Beat music. And it became quite big.
Many years have passed since you graduated from art school ...
Yes, but I didn’t spend much time there, because we were of course also in protest at the art school. Those professors belonged to another time. They let us do what ever we wanted to. And those who did not, they ran around as some ... they looked like some who were in a crazy house or something. But there were some of us, we were close to something. We wanted it to be more contemporary. And it all had to be something new. And there were movements that would engage socially as well. At art school, that is. The new form of art implied that you could not paint and draw much, as I wanted to. So there was a conflict there.
What kind of a style did you worked with at that time?
When I entered art school, I painted such an old-fashioned style, like my teacher, Klingspor had taught me. A kind of heavy and textural and figurative style, while trying to introduce some interpretation and character to the painting. And then it evolved into more pop style. Stronger colors and simple shapes. Actually, I came very far with eroticism also. Simple contour lines and erotic motifs and bold colors. Pop art inspired.
All over the apartment are samples of the various styles througout the Jeff Ibbo career
Has your style changed much over the course of your career?
It was quite radically, the way I suddenly painted. I was also accepted at the Autumn Art Exhibition in Copenhagen. But it was also opposite to the art school, where they still painted like Klingspor. So that was my first break-away. But there moved into something where it was, as Klingspor sometimes said, the problem is too small. Like those colored surfaces and simple lines. There is a limit to how long you can do only that. And so that was when I began to return to basics. In gradual blobs. And I started going outside to paint landscapes completely as if it were Eckersberg (Danish traditional painter) or something like that.
What has driven yours to make art? Can you feel, what has been your inspiration?
That's because I probably could not cope with life as it is. And then I have to do something to visualize it. In order to protect myself against all the news that we are bombarded with. And in order to create a world that you can stand to look at. I do not believe in art's revolutionary force. Politically. But I think of art as a necessity anyway. More for the artist's sake, but also for those who look at it, of course. They also need to get some something they can rest in or dream about or be comfortable with and enjoy. Of course you can say frightened of, but you will not be frightened of art anymore. It does not frighten people. Art is basically aesthetic.
What do you think basically is the message of a work of art? Is there a common message?
I suppose it should celebrate life. To tell something to make people happy with life or something. I believe so. One can also tell something gruesome, and then people would say, yes but it is not really that bad in reality, and then they become happy about it.
You have moved in with your wife, Grethe and live here in Frederiksberg/Denmark.
Yes. We met each other at a mature age. I was 53 and she was 46. Yes, I think it's a ripe age. You are not even 53 yet, are you, Lars?
No. Not yet. I still have that to look forward to. But the time I've known you, Grethe has figured in your life. I have seen you two often work together with art. I've seen you two as an artist couple. You often work side by side or travel together and things like that. How does it work? Is it good for a relationship to have that common interest?
Grethe is a person who is easy to deal with. So that works out well. I do not know how I am to live with. Well, I think by now I have become easier than in my old days. When I was young I scolded the people if I thought they were stupid, or said something wrong. I did not spare anyone. I made myself pretty unpopular with many people at that time. But I do not act like that any more. I hope not, anyway!
The home of Jeff and Grethe is like a mix of a library and an art museum with a twist of human kindness
If you should share something that you learned after all this time of living with art. And pass your advise to some younger people?
Yes. One should be happy to be allowed to make art, I would say. And you must stick to that feeling. It's the most important thing at the moment. For you can see the alternatives that are presented, how you should earn the right to have receive financial support and work for the state. And even if you are trained, you need to take another and worse education. And you have to do all kinds of things. There is a totally different morality on the way. When I was young, art was a must in society. And it was also something you should promote. But it's not like that today. If you are an artist today, then you are a beggar, right? If not you can earn a billion, as a young man, right? And not everyone can do that.
On February 13, 2pm a retrospective exhibition of Jeff Ibbo with works from 1970 until today is exhibited at Portalen in Denmark. Find out more here: EXHIBITION