The Danish artist Ole Aakjær only discovered his passion for watercolor art seven years ago and now he has been invited to exhibit his art in China – something he almost did not think was possible for an artist without an academic background. To Danish media Jydske Vestkysten, Ole Aakjær talks about how his art was discovered by a small Chinese woman in New York.
Before becoming an artist, the 58-year-old Danish native had a long career in the advertising industry but by pure coincidence, he discovered during his summer vacation in 2014 that he found peace by making watercolor art. A few months later, he settled his company to dedicate himself to art.
In late 2018, Ole Aakjær had his first solo exhibition in New York at the Chase Contemporary Gallery where he was approached by a small, elegant, Chinese woman. “I have always been fascinated by China, but only had a very fleeting knowledge of the huge, very foreign country, Ole Aakjær says.
He explains that the woman told him that she was very fascinated by his paintings of strong and beautiful female faces. She was from the city of Chongqing in China, and the city is known for the women there being highly respected and historically has played a crucial role in how the city has fared. The woman expressed that she therefore had a great desire to have Ole Aakjær’s art exhibited in her hometown. “I have a filter for bullshit,” Ole Aakjær admits and adds that he therefore initially did not expect that the Chinese woman’s proposal would lead to more than just loose talk.
But it did and now the Danish artist has two upcoming exhibitions in China. Ole Aakjær’s first exhibition will be at Chongqing’s well-visited Museum of Modern Art in September, and when this exhibition is completed, he will subsequently be invited to Beijing, where he will exhibit at the Danish Cultural Institute.
The artist says that many things could have gone wrong since 2018 and now and he has sometimes wondered if the Chinese exhibitions would in fact happen or if he should spend his time on something else. Ole Aakjær emphasizes that there is a lot of work – both practical and diplomatic – associated with having his art transported to China and exhibiting here. The extensive correspondence and the hour-long zoom meetings in Chinese with an interpreter have been a great challenge and the pandemic has certainly not made the project easier either. But the hard work is paying off. “I’m really proud of that, and I can really feel that they want me in China”, Ole Aakjær says.
Ole Aakjær has had a connection to China through his art in one way or another since the beginning and one of the paintings he showcased during his first exhibition back in 2014 was of a Chinese woman’s face. The woman’s face was painted without much thought, the artist explains but since then, Asian women have been a big part of his work. “I also use them as an exercise: If I get lost in an art project, I always go back and paint a Chinese woman. It’s almost a basic exercise for me to try to paint the soul out in a Chinese face – perhaps because the facial features are so foreign.” There is also a Chinese connection in Ole Aakjær’s choice of material and methods with watercolor, paper, colors, and symbolism. He explains his art of the Asian women and women, with other ethnicities, as faces where the women’s primordial power shines through the many layers they also possess. “I get many inquiries from women all over the world who feel seen in my paintings. It makes me really happy that it’s apparently an international feeling,” Ole Aakjær says.