New limbs on an ever-growing body
by Helene Johanne Christensen
The process of painting is a particular state of mind and body.
A state of being very present. Central to the process is careful seeing and listening – reacting and expressing just as carefully. It is an orbit between sensing and thinking, surrendering and decision making. The painting is also an outlet, an exposure. The internal nature is expressed in the external, meaning that the energy and biology of the painter inevitably comes to view in the work. The artist and the artistic process show in the paintings.
With their 45 x 60 cm size, these works are smaller than usual. Seen all six together the areas between the paintings make up spaces for dialogue, where the paintings give and take meaning to and from each other. Similar somehow to the pause in the painting process when a work that is not quite finished is resting. The painter leaves it for a while to listen, to come to know the next move – and then he returns to the canvas, reacting, deciding, speaking through his choice of colors, shapes, strokes of the brush.
The new, smaller format gives way to a new kind of monumentality. The brush strokes’ relation to the size of the canvas make the signs, the writings of the artist seem larger. There seems to be a glimpse of hesitation in the otherwise secure and familiar language of the painter in these new works.
The selection of colors; the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple form a palette of tones, a sound that is both warm and cold, vibrant. The shapes and lines of the works are round, oblong, thin, and they seem to be moving, they are in motion, dancing before the depths that the backgrounds create. It feels like we are inside huge cavities, bodies, caves, wombs or in outer space. It feels safe, somehow familiar, and at the same time strange, abstract, open. In some of the works, like ‘Elements’, the calligraphy or the shapes that move in these spaces seem to be very close to us, it is as if we are surrounded by them, immersed in their world of movement, while in other works, like ‘Interlude’, they are further away from us, out of reach. In all of the works there seem to be more than what is seen within the frame; the paintings as windows into endless spaces.
In ‘Nocturne’, the background consists of a variety of colors; dark grey and red, blue, green, a bit of white. The calligraphy is burnt orange. As in the other works, the brush strokes and the encounters between the colors are visible. This highlights the concrete painting process, making the perception of the works orbit from pure tactile sensations focusing on the materiality of the paintings to associative readings of the works and back again.
The works are pieces of the ever-growing body of work that is in creating. They are not isolated. They are organic geometries growing from within the painter and out, forming a body with more and more limbs, increasing the organic geometry that is the artist’s entire oeuvre.
These works of 2020 are full of rhythm and we are – as always in Bjarne Werner’s work – not very far from music, because of the intimate relation between non-figurative painting and a non-verbal expression, that also exists in music.
The artist, who lives and works in Copenhagen, is on a journey that takes him (and us, the viewers) from the wordless, abstract state of mind, that involves a careful attentiveness to bodily sensations, to the concrete, physical reality of the materials of the paintings and back again. The materials; the paint, the canvas, the brushes, the texture, the colors, they are all central to the work. It is an ongoing exploration of and conversation about the potential of the painting as medium and of the possible languages of the painter.
We recognize our own corporeality in the paintings, but they still have some kind of unfamiliarity. Maybe it is because they cannot be grasped only with the use of logical sense. They speak to a bodily or tacit knowledge in us like most art and especially abstract art does. Somewhat like the artist in the painting process we must as viewers alternate between listening and reacting, sensing and thinking, in our meeting with the works in Orbit Motions.
Helene Johanne Christensen