Mats Siversten @ Kaph

Mats Siversten @ Kaph


Demonic blue women with hoses attached to their nipples, a young man staring up at a malignant red sky, infectious fires, production lines, and tiny, insouciant images of crooked cocks . . . these strange and compelling stills have their genesis in Just King, a graphic novel by Mats Sivertsen.

Words: Sydney Weinberg


The concept is laudable: over the next twelve months, Kaph will mount an artist series highlighting the work of a half-dozen Scandinavian illustrators, with each artist’s work spicing up the walls for exactly eight weeks. Best of all? The featured prints are available to buy or win.


Hailing from Norway, Sivertsen’s work is bold and eye-catching, a good choice for the series’ launch. Gazing at the eight selected prints, the high-octane narrative that propels Just King in its original form pulses imperceptibly in the background; it’s not the story that’s on show here, but a kaleidoscopic assembly of its parts. Sivertsen himself sheds some light on the themes that inspire him, namely: sex, the deleterious effects of capitalism, transhumanism, masculinity, and especially xenophobia.


In Just King, ‘crooked cockism’, a disease that spreads from the Arab world and panics the West to such a degree that quarantine zones and dramatic curatives become de rigueur, turns out to be a lie—a tool by which the Norwegian government brainwashes its citizenry. “Xenophobia seems to be universal and is probably deeply ingrained in us as human beings,” Mats says. “We find ‘us’ and ‘they’ in almost every context . . . When I was in kindergarten, all us kids in the A-block were convinced that the guys in the B-block had horns . . . Where it came from is hard to say, but I think it was just because it was unknown.”



Sivertsen’s contempt for xenophobic attitudes is closely linked to his critique of Norway’s post-war embrace of American cultural imperialism: the protagonist of Just King, Richard King, is in love with a multiethnic vixen named Liberty Lee who plays a formidable role in administering the ‘cure’ for crooked cockism. Here, the American ideal in the form of King’s paramour and the ever-present drug Mephisto to which King is addicted serve to underscore the hollow nature of America’s propaganda machine, drugs and love both being powerful agents of delusion.


Taking in this exhibition is a bit like overhearing half of a secret: you won’t necessarily follow the narrative as it progresses, but that feels beside the point—Sivertsen’s artistic sensibility (bold, simple colors, decisive lines, collagist effects) gives the exhibition its unity. Throughout, there’s a tantalizing sense of high stakes, corruption, titillation, and dashed delusions.

Just King will be on show until the end of December at Kaph, 31 Drury Street, Dublin 2