Marthe Karen Kampen
Marthe Karen Kampen has painted a round, chubby cat with warm colours and red cheeks. It peers straight at you with its pinpoint eyes. A small, sullen one-line mouth beneath long, dainty whiskers lends a wistful air to the cat’s face. Kampen paints portraits that thwart our expectations, especially given the title, which is named after a former Norwegian politician. All of us have doppelgangers and animal lookalikes, and perhaps Kampen regards Per Sandberg as a roly-poly, red-cheeked cat.
Using humour in art is also an art. Contemporary art is often viewed as serious and humourless, and there isn’t always that much to laugh about. But laughter is a vital part of life, and Kampen’s animal portrait of a well-known personage follows a long tradition of caricatures and painting where the high and mighty are subversively skewered. Satirical depictions are a way of kicking upwards in the hierarchy of power; it is an artistic mode that gives dual meaning to a seemingly innocuous comment. RG