Figurative artist Kai Hagberg invokes an untamed emotion in his work, portraits that channel rich stories in which each detail carries significance: a raised eyebrow, a slight frown, an ethereal elegance caught in the tilt of a head. Each work begs to be known: Who is she? What is her story? Can we ever really know...
With a career spanning over 40 years, Kai's work is held in private collections in Australia and internationally. A Finnish national, his love of art became apparent at an early age:
“I've been drawing pictures as long as I can remember. I would practice on the wallpaper and any surface flat enough to draw on. Eventually, either having spotted my talent or driven by desperation, my parents started buying me more conventional art supplies. By the time I was ten, I was painting oil on canvas.”
After working as an assistant to acclaimed sculptor Pentti Papinaho, Kai continues to develop his work into distinct practices, including sculpture, jewellery making, and the exquisite portraiture carried by Bison Art. Predominantly depicting women, these works have a nostalgic feel, as if seeking an earlier, simpler time.
Working in acrylics, the artist explains that his choice is driven by the opulent palette of colours available and the way the paint dries so quickly, while the reason he chooses not to use models or ‘sitters’ comes down to his style:
“My art is figurative, so I try to create an atmosphere, a story, using the facial expression of the character in my work…”
Perhaps it is this the viewer responds most directly to, an innate sense of the unknown, beautiful faces that ask more questions than they answer, teasing out raw emotion and rich layers of memory. Some include other elements – a pot plant, a paper aeroplane, or bird-like confetti, all of which intrigue as much as they delight.
2021: KAAF Art Prize, Finalist
2011: Stan+Mareen Duke Gold Coast Art Prize, Finalist
2011: Nora Heysen Centernary Art Prize for Still Life, Finalist
2002: Hamid Bros Coloured Gemstone Design Award
1997: South Sea Pearl Design Competition, Bronze Award