Art and Culture on Samsø


“The cosmos has always fascinated me! Particles, the nucleus of an atom, black holes, natural science and science fiction. And now I sit here in a small observatory on Samsø, with the art in my hands and outer space above me.”

The acclaimed artist Jonas Pihl is on Samsø to attend KUNSTØ (ISLAND OF ART). In his hand he holds a small spray gun, which he releases in fairly small bursts over the canvas. The hundreds of white elements already there are joined by several more.

If you step back and look at the canvas in its entirety, you will see that the white swirls and dots on the deep purple background form a motif which could well be described as something belonging to space. And that’s exactly what it does. Both literally and figuratively speaking.

Many of KUNSTØ’s workshops and exhibitions are held in places that otherwise have nothing to do with art. It creates a very special atmosphere, Jonas explains: Art works differently when taken out of the typical institutional setting. The observatory building, as an example, is more than just a different kind of space. The story, the effects, the surroundings, yes, even the bullet hole in the window pane create a context that, of its own accord, creeps into the work process and the final expression.

A cultural melting pot
KUNSTØ is, in the words of the art critic Tom Jørgensen, “an art project that illustrates Samsø as a cultural melting pot, where the interest in art and culture and food and literature is huge and unique to Denmark.”

Over a whole week performers, art students and art enthusiasts meet for symposia, artists’ talks, exhibitions, community dinners and not least, a variety of workshops with everything from photography through croquis to textile dyeing and moulding.

The workshops are an opportunity to get truly close to art and the artist’s work, explains Tom: “You see the artistic process with your own eyes. You witness the artist make some choices. How should the etching be made? When to place the next brush stroke? How to make the notches with the axe so that the wood sculpture turns out as desired. It offers something other than that which regular art exhibitions can offer.

The background in the foreground
With Jonas in the observatory, work continues on the large communal project. “Over the three days my workshop takes we work on a large painting on which all participants can leave their mark. There are virtually no rules; yes, one can even paint over something others have made if they want. There are brushes, airbrushes, paint marker pens, prefabricated templates and much more available,” says Jonas.

The participants in KUNSTØ come from very different backgrounds and starting points. This applies to the artists who exhibit and teach and also to the visitors who attend the various workshops. “Yesterday two young Spanish artists came by, who back home work on completely different things to me. But they just got stuck in and gave it their all based on the terms that were set. “

Jonas takes great pains to relinquish control when teaching. “I’m not here to weigh down the participants, but to encourage them in the direction in which they might already be heading. It gives both the participants and me a more liberated approach to the material.

Broader horizon
It is not only the unusual setting and the free form of the workshop that inspires Jonas. “KUNSTØ also gives us as practising artists an opportunity to explore new methods and techniques. We meet colleagues who have a completely different approach and work with completely different materials than we do ourselves. Here we can talk with poets, photographers, architects and other artists in a pleasant and informal way. We can also join a symposium if we have something to offer up. On the whole, the organisers of KUNSTØ have certainly made sure that we can all acquire new input, both socially and professionally,” states Jonas.


  • ISLAND ART 2020 will take place 27 June -5 July
  • The programme is continuously updated on
  • Behind the event is a group of local firebrands – both artists and art lovers
  • Jonas Pihl (b. 1978) graduated from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 2008
  • His works are included in collections both in Denmark and abroad.
  • He has exhibited at, among other places, the Black & White Gallery in Chelsea, New York, at Scope Miami and Liverpool Biennial
  • In 2018, Jonas decorated Aalborg’s new landmark, “The Twins”, with two huge paintings on the 34 metres high silos.
  • Again in 2020, Jonas will hold a workshop at KUNSTØ

    Last updated: 09/02/2021 10:05