Red Tiger. 2002.
100 x 81 cms. Oil on canvas

100 x 81 cm.





81 x 100 cm.




81 x 100 cm. Oil on canvas



116 x 89 cm Oil on canvas




 116 x 89 cm.





146 x 114 cm.




146 x 114 cm Oil on canvas


130 x 130 cm Oil on canvas




130 x 130 cm.





100 x 100cm.



100 x 100cm Oil on canvas


"The Grinning Tiger"

Uffe Christoffersen, 2002

The paintings in this one-man exhibition in Galerie Birch’s beautiful new premises in no 6 Bredgade were painted in a period when I had some experiences which had a great influence on my pictures and my career as a painter in France. It started with a meeting with the 91-year old painter Echauren Matta, who lives in a villa in the middle of Paris. Talking to a painter who exhibited with the Surrealists in 1938 in the Galerie Beaux Artes about his now deceased friends Max Ernst, André Breton, Tanguy, Ciacometti and Duchamp was a fantastic experience.
Matta was born in 1911 in the French part of the Basque country, but moved to Chile as a child. He came to Paris as a young architect and worked with Le Corbusier, where he met among others Asger Jorn. I spent a whole afternoon alone with Matta. He knew my paintings from books and catalogues which he had got in roundabout ways. Matta thought it was interesting that a Danish painter was living just north of Nîmes. He knew the town well, had some good friends and connections there. During our long conversation he came back time and again to Asger Jorn. That was because Jorn was Danish and my expressive tigers reminded him of his Scandinavian way of painting.
Matta told me that he and Jorn had collaborated at an Italian ceramics workshop where one day they had made a big dog out of clay. This they had placed on the railway tracks where the Paris train was due to pass on its way to Rome. When the train arrived, it had to stop, the police were called, the press arrived and the next day it was on the front pages of all the Italian papers.
I went up to see Matta’s studio where he was painting some large paintings. He had to use a ladder to reach to top parts. He was mad that age had made him shrink by about 25 cm. Matta had discovered this when he had been photographed with President Chirac in the studio. The photos showed a tiny man standing beside the tall president. The latest things Matta had made were some coloured drawings made on the computer – we laughed at that a lot, but the drawings were fantastic.
The meeting with Matta was such a great inspiration for me that I painted deeply concentrated in the following period, as I had a one-man exhibition with Galerie Birch at the Art Fair ARTêNIM 2001 in Nîmes. The exhibition was a success and a French gallery, Galerie Arts Masters, threw themselves at my paintings and carried a load of them off to work on. The first thing my new gallery did was to make a large exhibition of my paintings at st’ART 2002 in Strasbourg, with a well-known French painter, Di Concetto. On top of this we have contracted for two one-man exhibitions in the autumn of 2002. One at their gallery and one at a large wine chateau in Saint Emilion. In September 2001 the architect Mads Møller rang me and asked if I would make a decoration for the new Café Hack in Aarhus Theatre’s building. I travelled to Denmark to meet him and the theatre’s director Palle Jul Jørgensen to see the place. In the old theatre café there had been a very large animal frieze consisting of lions and tigers. It dated from 1910, painted by Karl Hansen-Reistrup, but the use of ages had left their mark on the room and only a small part of the frieze remains intact. Hansen-Reistrup made a very clear sketch for the original frieze. It shows tigers and lions enjoying life in harmonious unity, eating grapes. It is a paradise meant to give the café a distinguished style and create an idyllic mood.
From a zoological point of view traces have never been found of wild lions in Asia or on the other hand of wild tigers in Africa. It is absolutely impossible for two equally strong kings to tolerate each other – and by the way neither of them eats grapes. However the combination of tigers and grapes in the frieze of the theatre café’s room made me think of the Greek legend told by Plutarch about Dionysius (or Bacchus, the god of nature and wine who changed into a tiger). Taking this as my starting point I was able to make a new interpretation of the frieze, where the old part was retained and I was to continue with the 15 metres with my own interpretation.
The frieze was finished in May 2002. In March 2002 I took part in an exhibition called DYREBAR “The Zoo and the Artists” at the Johannes Larsen Museum in Kerteminde. It treated Danish and Scandinavian artists’ fascination with animal themes and the result of this. The exhibition moves on to Sophienholm in Lyngby in the summer. At the end of March 2002 Annette Birch held a one-man exhibition for me in Max Galerie d’Art in Nice on the Promenade des Anglais not far from the famous Hotel Négresco. It went very well.
All this activity has meant that the paintings that were started on about a year ago have been completed in a very positive period. The inspiration from these meetings and new exhibition places have made it so exciting to paint that the pigments in the paintings have taken on a new fullness, energy and glow. They have become tiger heads which shine with yellow, red and blue colours – and many of the faces are grinning because painting is a serious business.

Fontarèches, april 2002.