Variations in Scandinavian Abstraction

Ragna Bley (SE), Marianne Hurum (NO), Lars Morell (NO), Kirstine Roepstorff (DN) and Robin Seir (SE)

February 11 – March 6, 2016

Press Release

Galleri Brandstrup proudly presents the exhibition ‘Variations in Scandinavian Abstraction’, showing work by Ragna Bley (SE), Marianne Hurum (NO), Lars Morell (NO), Kirstine Roepstorff (DN) and Robin Seir (SE).

In recent years, one can witness the field of abstraction emerging as one of the leading trends on both the international and the Scandinavian contemporary art scene. ‘Variations in Scandinavian Abstraction’ focuses on how a century long history of abstract art is now being expanded and further developed by contemporary artists. In the exhibition five artists with different takes on contemporary abstraction, illustrates the developments that are taking place. The artists all have different intentions and are separated between both material use and applied techniques, but also on conceptual terms, with symbols and references.

Conceptual Abstraction

The internationally renowned artist Kirstine Roepstorff is a Berlin- and Denmark-based artist known for her collages, sculptures and object art. In the more recent years however, Roepstorff has shifted to making abstract sculpture. In ‘Variations in Scandinavian Abstraction’, the artist will show a series of hanging kinetic sound-sculptures in brass, titled Klangmenschen. Alexander Calder revolutionized modern sculpture in 20th century, and redefined kinetic sculpture by introducing the element of movement. Each one has a name that gives them a character, such as The Farmer, The Gardener and The Alchemist, which is distinct in composition, style and the mood of the sculpture. The identities are defined and then perceived, which brings forth a conceptual take on the abstract tradition of kinetic sculptures. Roepstorff will represent Denmark in the 2017 Venice Biennale.

Conceptual abstraction is an umbrella term, and covers a vast cluster of varied expressions. Artist Lars Morell stands strong in this re-invention of abstract art, with its bases in recogniceable silhouettes and outlines. This relationship between reality and the nonconcrete shows the artists wide-ranging curiosity, and his analytic approach to abstraction tinged with dreamlike, mystical touches. Morell has had a solo exhibition at Palais de Tokyo, titled Porta’s description, referring to an essay by Italian physicist Giambattista della Porta entitled ‘How to see, in a room, things that aren’t there’.

Color Field- and Hard-Edge Painting; the Post-Painterly Tradition

The works of Bley, Hurum and Seir stands in great contrast to these new tendencies, working with variations of the traditional proceeding practice of abstract expressionism, and the vestiges of Greenbergian formalism and the post-painterly tradition. Post-painterly abstraction is a broad term that encompasses a variety of styles that evolved in reaction to the painterly, gestural approaches in the growing tradition of the abstract painting of the 1960’s. The three artist’s focuses on compositional and formal elements such as color, line, shape, texture, and other perceptual aspects rejecting idea-based relations. However, they stay clearly separated within two different visual expressions. Even as Bley, Hurum and Seir works with several of the same materials their expressions are strictly different, Bley and Hurum’s works raises from a standing point of Color Field Painting, while Seir works with the expansion of hard-edge painting.

Bley lives and works in Oslo and has participated in a number of exhibitions including Conflicting Evidence at 1857 in Oslo in 2015, and will have a solo exhibition at Hester in New York in the spring of 2016. Hurum lives and works in Oslo, and has exhibited at Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo and at the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo, and is exhibiting at Space 4235 in Genova in Italy later this year. Bley and Hurum’s productions are unrelated; however, they both have an interest in painterly experimentation and the possibilities of the canvas, as their works share compositions dominated by large areas of color that seems to have emerged onto the canvas naturally and organically.

Seir's new paintings stands in relation to the otherwise strict language of Modernist hardedge. Perhaps a flirtation with the smudgy lines of Mondrian, or the uneven surfaces of Malevich. Similar to the interrelationship of colorful forms that we find in Color Field Painting, this abstract movement also emphasizes the flatness of the surface. Seir’s works are built up of clean-edged, monochromatic areas of color, however still containing a spiritual level. His works becomes a unit where forms extend the length of the painting, where the hard edges are heightened, between tones of dark black and washed out pastels.