Painting Camus is a literary and artistic/iconographic project based on Danish artist Vibeke Tøjner’s paintings of Albert Camus’s face (2013—). The collaborative effort of artists and writers in Copenhagen, New York, and Paris, it is the exploration of a man, a life, and a face.
“At the exhibition Les visages de Kierkegaard from May 17 to June 5 in Danmarkshuset on the Champs Elysées in Paris a journalist from the Nouvel Observateur comes up to me and whispers in my ear. “Have you thought about painting someone other than Kierkegaard?” At first I didn’t understand the question, but afterwards she looks at me and says, “Camus” — you are a Nordic painter with an interest in light, it could be combined with Camus and the Southern light.” This stirred some- thing inside me, first of all the memory of the first book I read in French, L’Etranger, and the fact that it was im- possible to comprehend.
In true Paul Auster-fashion I allow myself to be moved by this suggestion; later that evening I return to Cité des Arts and google Camus’s face, I recognize it, but I had never looked at it with the intent to paint it. As I look at him something occurs. I sense that I can and that I must paint him.
In the summer of 2013 a private matter summons me to Malaga, and there on the beach, facing the coast of Algeria where Camus was born, I gather inspiration for the upcoming paintings of his face that I begin to complete in the fall of 2013.
As a completion of the Kierkegaard year and the cele- bration of the 100 years since Camus’s birth the Danish Embassy in Paris arranges a Salon Littéraire on December 17, 2013. Here the still-wet paintings are displayed for a private viewing before being returned to my studio in Copenhagen. They are here right now, and what once was four paintings wrenched from a given exhibition is now the focal point of a larger museum exhibition. Work is being done to ensure that it travels onwards to New York and Paris.”
– Vibeke Tøjner