Born in 1980 in Copenhagen, Denmark to a Greenlandic Inuit mother and a Danish father, Maria Kjærulff moved to Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, when she was six years old. Her son was born there, and Nuuk remains her hometown today.
Kjærulff’s education is as eclectic as her art practice. Through a Rotary exchange program in high school, Kjærulff studied in Minnesota. After studying at the Nuuk Art School, Maria earned her BFA in 2005, from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University in Halifax, Canada. In 2004, she attended the prestigious Cooper Union School of Art in New York. Kjærulff returned to New York in 2010 to participate in the International Studio and Curatorial Program.
“Painting, drawing, photography, film, video, jewellery, snow sculptures, illustration, fashion and scenography” are the media Kjærulff lists on her online portfolio. Particularly she is known for her large-scale painterly works on paper and canvas. Inspired by nature and the human form, these mixed media pieces are often highly abstracted. Kjærulff combines charcoal drawing with acrylic paints—juxtaposing greys with brilliant hues: hot pink, cherry red, ultramarine, citron. The strokes are bold and gestural, and the images crackle with energy.
|Tame Turkey Running Wild, acrylic and charcoal|
|Big White, charcoal and acrylic, 140 x 140 cm|
Taking a stylistic 180-degree turn is a newer series also focused on the Inuit women. Petite watercolors feature whimsical, highly-stylized dancing women with bee-strung lips and coquettish eyelashes. Kjærulff emphasizes their uniquely Greenlandic top-knots and boots. This light-hearted style carried over to the artist’s two 2012 Post Greenland stamp designs, in which the women’s beadwork collars transformed into Christmas trees and ornaments.
Despite the lightness of these works, Maria Kjærulff is not afraid to tackle political issues. The mural
|Be Cool! Be Green!, mural on frozen shipping container,|
approximately 640 cm
Igloo Ruin could also be seen as referencing climate change. After all, Greenland is a global hotspot for accelerating ice melt. But this work is more evocative than didactic. Kjærulff created this installation for the Art Ii Biennale of Northern Environmental and Sculpture Art. Located in the small town of Ii in northern Finland, this art fair pairs international artists with local residents to create environmentally sustainable artworks. Igloo Ruin is a “fossilized igloo with white flowers embedded in the stones, surrounded by a patch of moss and land,” writes Kjærulff (email). The wild, jagged stone outline represents “a fake land full of created memories and perceptions of what might have been in the past …. A kind of sacred memorial of something that might have been. Stories and cultures hidden in the space. Ungraspable and fragile, yet momentous and permanent.”
Maria Kjærulff’s art is evolving—growing in nuance and scope. Currently she is represented by Galleri Kalak, a gallery in Copenhagen for Greenlandic Inuit artists. Where does this artist want to take her work next? To Berlin, Germany. “I hope to go there, perhaps go on an artist residency to get the most out of the stay there,” she writes (email). “Meet artists. Be inspired.” And continue to make works that in turn inspire others.
- “Climatologist Helps Predict Polar Bear Population.” Bulletin Of The American Meteorological Society 89, no. 6 (June 2008): 784-785. Environment Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed January 16, 2013).
- Kjærulff, Maria. “Big White.” Maria Greenland.