The Little Self and the Sealed Room
Jörgen Gassilewski: I experience the search for a conceivable integrity to be an important theme in your work. With constantly changing strategies imagery you have shown that there is no absolute interpretation. this way little by expose areawhere possible self despite all seem consider can operate. image. viewer. as artist. Its if underlyingdriving force work centered around question of integrity.
Something that you have really sunk your teeth into during your entire artistic career - something that may also be connected with productive escape strategies and integrity - is painting…
Leonard Forslund: Yes, I've always wanted to be a painter. You could say that I have approached painting from different directions to reach this destination. I've tried to find ways to make it possible to work with painting. Painting is probably an El Dorado for escape strategies. Art historically, it's such a loaded expression. Yes, maybe it is artistic integrity that I'm looking for here. At any rate, I think that painting helps me search for intimate facts that can only be found here, or that can only be described or exposed through painting. It isn't completely unimportant that painting, in itself, is very intimate. Painting has a sensuality that is deeply rooted in its form, a sensuality that, among other things, turns vision into a highly impressionable function.
JG: But, at the same time that painting has a very intimate side it is also one of the most aloof art forms. With its oppressive tradition it signals value, quality. It has an object or commodity character which I think is underlined in many of your pieces. Sometimes by the high gloss finish, pretty surface effects, and sophisticated materials. Sometimes by using illusionistic segments, trompe l'oeil and highlights.
The first exhibition I saw with your work was Fra det illustrerede (From the Illustrated) at Galleri Basilisk in1986. Already at this point there was a tension between distance and intimacy which seems to have a destabilizing effect on the viewer of your work. There is an unmistakable love for painting here. And at the same time a painterliness within quotations marks, or at any rate, problematic. Here we have something that look like tall altarpieces with the four elements as the subject. Dark, nocturnal painterly pieces dripping with lacquer...
LF: In this exhibition the dripping lacquer is a staging of time, of unfinished time...
JG: That was a bit like Painting with a big P…
LF: The whole exhibition was staged. By the accompanied text and by the title Fra det illustrerede, ambiguous as it is in Swedish. The text was a narrative compounded with prepared quotations from science fiction authors like Clarke and Bradury, among others. It was a pretty mystical room all about simulation, duplication, production. What French philosophy of the time called simulacra. Simply the fundamental elements of culture.
My exhibitions are completely theatrical, staged. There is an ambiguity here: A longing for straight forwardness, intimacy, but still wanting distance and control. In this exchange the elements of language - titles and texts - are very important, if not central. On one level they mark the boundaries for the room and the structures of meaning. A year later, in the exhibition Anamnes/Katamnes there was also a text segment. Anamnesis means the prehistory of a sickness and catamnesis the aftermath, as told by the patient. The work included the upper-case first letters of both conditions and could be called "A(Museum)K" or "A(Nature Morte)K" and the motif consisted of cut-outs of realistic details from pertinent environments: The interior of a museum and a classic fruit and flower still life. They stood there like silhouettes on a neutral monochrome background. The texts were fluent philosophical arguments, like a negation of the paintings.
JG: Maybe one could say that the texts and the titles have even framed the pictures time-wise? They were some sort of residue. They spoke in a negation or interspace about the prehistory of the paintings and aftermath or consequences of the paintings. The painting "A(Atom)K" was square with a royal. The served, middle. You give a name to the atomized symbol. The served, isolated myth without function or context, but with an aura.
The literal layering in the pictures that began with Anamnes/Katamnes is completely followed through in the exhibition Anonymus (Anonymous) that was shown at Galleri Sten Eriksson in 1989. I think that this was one of the most consistently conceptual exhibitions you've ever done. It had a rigid consistency. Every picture consisted of three separate parts, respectively: A title, a shadowy silhouette in gray tints, and an image in relief. These panting, shadow-like layers accentuate recognizable medial incidents during the 20th century. An image could consist of a silhouette of Mahatma Gandhi at his loom, a relief of propaganda posters from the German nazi party NSDAP, and the title "January 28, 1986" - The date the space shuttle Challenger exploded. Anonymus is about anonymity and about the loss of meaning. The three incidents in these pictures have no contact, no relationship, the viewer starts the play between them…
LF: …and it's about painting. Anonymus was the first exhibition where I consciously tried to expose painting for some kind of maximum pressure. Both through structures of meaning and technically. Its illusionism, its materiality. Later I tried to melt or fuse the perspectives together in the problematics of painting, where here - as you say - I worked in the concrete layer. I tried to analyze the situation, tried to see which weapons I had at my disposal in this battle. Each one of these layers in the painting was saturated with content and imagery - self-sufficient you could say. It was about general symbols of identification pertinent to the anonymous masses of the 20th century. An accelerated life pattern. What interested me was the abstractness that arose when I crossed several of these emblematic incidents - an anonymous space…
JG: Anonymus represents an extreme in this case. A literal isolation of the contents and the painterly segments. Logical and dry. As you say, you later tried to put these different ingredients together, create some kind of fissure in the images - modulated slipping, integrated displacement that can be more difficult to discover.
1990 you showed a painting of monumental format at Magasin 3 in Stockholm. It was commissioned by David Neuman, the head of the gallery. The painting was two-and-a-half meters tall and just under thirty meters long and was called Subjekt och Dedikation MCMXC (Subject and Dedication MCMXC). It was divided into sections by aluminum staffs, that were gauged after demographic statistics: One diagram depict-ing of the in-crease in population from the Birth of Christ and into the year 2100. The base of the canvas had a petroleum blue monochrome surface without a trace of brush-strokes.
On this surface a fixed game of sha-dows was staged. A trompe l'œil table service in the left-hand corner shadows were cast along the entire surface, as if it had been photographed at different times of the day. There were two human profiles drawn in lines of clear lacquer, one talking and one listening. Besides that, there were images in relief on the monochromatic surface - the plan drawings of a room: A house from Ancient Egypt, a Roman villa, a traditional Japanese house and a modernistic villa. But something was wrong - in the Egyptian house the kitchen was too big, the Roman villa was full of telephones, computers, and television sets, the Japanese house had many showers and the functionalistic house was full of toilets. Signs for human, intimate functions and situations: A cup of coffee and a chat, while the shadows on the walls are displaced. Communication, hygiene, nourishment. Traces of human activity, but no physical presence, which is exaggerated by the violent shift of scale on the enormous surface. Here I think it is very evident that you are trying to encircle the small self, the small subject, as Gilles Deleuze talks about it in his book "Kafka - för en mindre litteratur" (Kafka - Towards a Lesser Literature).
That of sensitivity and presence that actually remains. That which is beyond illusion, where there can be actual integrity - beyond the expressionistic. Bo Nilsson writes in the catalogue text, that you have used the sublime as a strategy when attempting to approach a reduced self and relates your work to artists like Barnett Newman and Walter de Maria: "The sublime, magnificent, is an expression of a romantic thougt which does not focus attention on the ego. This notion provided both Walter de Maria and Barnett Newman with a possibility to introduce romantic sentiments into contemporary art, though with a minimization of the self that corresponds much better whith our contemporary sensibility". There is something to it.
The surface of Subjekt och Dedikation MCMXC becomes a gigan-tic stage. The viewer mirrors his own image in it, gets up close and looks at details, backs up and tries to see the whole scenario, then tries to remember what he/she saw the minute before. The viewer's body becomes the human presence in the image. Measuring the image with her body, measuring the shifts in scale with her body, moving along-side the work. The large surface also becomes a stage where you can begin working with the integration of the painterly and conceptual layers that where separated from one another in Anonymus. Create an increasingly multi-layered and ramified, but also synthesized way of painting. I would like, for a moment, to go directly to the exhibition you showed at Galleri Axel Mörner in Stockholm this year called Snårdroppar (Thicket drops) to talk about what I see as a terminal point for just this particular type of painterly development. I'm thinking especially of the piece"Trompe l'œil". It is a screen printed photograph from Africa. It represents a group of poor Africans, children and adults, who are all staring at the photographer. But you have prepared the image so it looks like they all have their eyes closed. But what interests me here is the painterly surface of the sky above the, ever so course, black and white grain of the screen print. It makes me think that you have exposed this poor little surface to a real ordeal of fire. It's there to carry an enormous weight, an enormous load. It reflects and is in contrast to the heavy social motif. It can't be too light or lack respect and it can't be too heavy or too ceremonial. It can't be too illusionistic so that it loses the photographic surface and it can't be too flat so it cancels out the spatiality that exists in the photograph.
The brush strokes must be visible but not exaggerated, etc. An optimal pressure, and a question for painterliness: "What are you capable of?" It's a balancing act on a slack wire and I think you have managed it splendidly. It is a pinkish-orange, multi-layered sky, a fusion of atmospheric illusions and some kind of kitchy sunset aesthetics. But this also has something to do with pop; an affirmative aloofness if you will. In other words, a real hodgepodge of signals that are muffled so they will fit together. It's a borderland…
LF: I'd like to comment on that… Yes, I think that an image like "Trompe l'œil" in some way brings these painterly problems that we have been discussing to a head. And as I said, since Anonymus I have consciously worked with exposing painting to the greatest possible stress. At the same time, you have to remember that this kind of discussion belongs to the prehistory and to the consequences of the artistic act, its anamnesis and catamnesis. Now I'd like to talk about the artistic act, despite it being an impossibility, and say something about what happens there. It interests me, maybe because it is associated with the localization of an actual integrity. It's all about the conflict between creating and thinking structurally. Something I want to approach while simultaneously wanting to escape from it. In this act there is a haziness, an inability to observe oneself. Just right there, I don't feel I can consciously influence or manipulate the different ways I proceed into action. During the process I can't influence the structures or the layers. They are inapprehensible. This isn't immaterial. It can even be like this: When I'm working with a clearly layered exhibition like Anonymus I don't experience it that way at all. What do I know? Its too close and too far away. Nothing reaches this sealed room. Not memory…
JG: Even though this is so, you want to talk about it? Even though it is a sphere where things are separated and where other laws prevail. Maybe a condition without language? At least unmentionable, like the author's voice in Samuel Beckett's "The Unnameable". What does this attentiveness mean, the detached side of the working process. How does this influence the results? Do you have anything more to say about that?
LF: I don't know. Wanting to stage things can have something to do with that. Through enhancement, through the artificial, leave room for traces of the creative act. A production that leaves room for both the artificial and the authentic, that makes the gallery room into a vicarious sealed room - a working room. And the fact that I paint. That leaves real traces.
JG: Let's continue talking about painting… I think I may be treading into forbidden territory here, but could you also see the changes from the separate levels of imagery in Anonymus and the integrated layers in your new work as a development in the working process itself? How you gradually integrate the intellectual elements in the act of painting?
LF: Maybe I applied a structured or rational 'before and after perspective' while working with Anonymus. Some kind of aloofness or separation. In an image like "Trompe l'œil" the surface conflicts have fused and become even more untouchable but in another way. Perhaps even more dangerous…
JG: There seems to be a paradox in the artistic process, the creative act. Artists try to formulate or articulate their work for themselves. At the same time they try to formulate and articulate less and less outside the artistic act. They even try to integrate more intellectual and remote elements into the act. Even letting these be a part of the concentrated state that is "the sealed room". That is why these elements, without being less formulated and distanced, won't be experienced as such. Before they came from the outside and were possible to record. Now they come from within, and become a part of the artistic act - of the detached.
LF: I recognize that. Working to become more aware, and then to have the ability to become less aware. Yes, I think it could have some relevance to my work. I keep myself supplied systematically and then take what I need out of my backpack without even thinking about it. The creative act is a charged area. Painting is a charged area. I'm always looking for areas that are charged or loaded, they contain a concentration of conflicts. Painting today is a field full of conflicts. It's that way for me anyway. It's a conflict to see "Trompe l'œil". It's all about conflict.
JG: Painting and concepts are still the terminal points on the contemporary aesthetic scale. If one works with these strategies, it is made for conflicts, among other things, between a works material expression and the way in which it was made. We were talking about that a minute ago…
LF: Painting isn't just about painting and the painterly, it's also about what painting is exposed to from the outside. This exterior pressure doesn't exist anywhere else.
JG: But the tradition behind painting forces the viewer to tag along, follow along. It has a synthetic, comprehensive effect in itself. This creates a tolerance for diverging, layered elements. It has patina.
LF: The Africans in "Trompe l'œil" all have their eyes closed. I work that way, make myself blind for the layers of the image. Not out of stupidity, but to be present, to be in the simultaneousness that is there. When one works on a piece. There are separated layers, but I work as if they weren't.
JG: There is a silence, a lack of language in the painterly, in the artistic act altogether. Something that seems to swear against verbalization, against the structure of language. You have used texts and titles as a kind of residue and negation of your work. At the same time, they have operated as frameworks, boundaries, and as a resonance box for generating meaning. I am returning to Gilles Deleuze. The Danish literature historian Frederik Tygstrup has written a text in one of your catalogues that originates from the controversial essay "Über die Unverständlichkeit" (On the incomprehensible) by Friedrich Schlegel from the year 1800. Tygstrup writes that Schlegel's contribution about understanding will never be understandable and this is because the German doesn't make a distinction between the two terminal points between understandability/incomprehensibility. A content-oriented oppositon where understandability and incomprehensibility are pitted against one another on an axis of communication: The clearer the communication, the higher the level of understandability.
And with a formalistic opposition, whose axis is language's or expression's systematic purity. Concrete language is the ultimate, utopic understandability, that nonetheless, coincide with extreme incomprehensibility in terms of content. The way Tygstrup reads this romantic seminal text is that Schlegel insists that the question of the aesthetic text's understandability can never be answered. Communicative clarity occurs at the cost of formal consistency. "The art work is never totally in one of the two spheres; it is always both object and sign." In the light of this, Tygstrup means that it is not surprising that modernistic art is left standing there with a mutual temptation to overstep the boundary between word and image. Though this zone in itself is "embraced by the incomprehensible or enigmatic, because out of necessity it is completely indefinable; its aesthetics are neither that of speech nor sight". And this is where I finally get back to Deleuze. Deleuze describes this area as a dimension where you "never say what you see and never see what you say".
LF: Yes, blindness or imprecision in the field between language and image can't be overrated. There is an assurance of visuality and a characteristic of the sign whose inaccessability never ceases.
JG: In a romantic temper one could even see your obsession with the act of creation and with the indefinable that is related to image and signs of language as something metaphysical, though slightly camouflaged…
LF: I don't agree. It's more like finding oneself standing in the corner. And in this sealed corner of shame one is confused and disoriented all the time. You turn yourself inside out, scrutinizing every detail.
It's impossible to stay in one or the other truth. One is always aware of its opposite. It's like a blind spot.
JG: In 1990, the same year you showed Subjekt och Dedikation MCMXC, you had an exhibition at Galleri Wallner in Malmö. It was of both a theatrical and architectural character. Along the wall, up under the ceiling, there was a chalkcoated relief frieze made of segments from a wall based sundial. At eye level you hung paintings of meandering pavilions - with a slight futuristic touch. To decide each painting's size you divided and subtracted helter skelter the height, age, year of birth and body weight of relatives. Here again, the intimate sphere creeps in through the backdoor - like a present absence. The pavilions in the paintings wind there way away in an undefined room in a mixture of parallel perspectives and linear perspectives and sometimes it is experienced as being the opposite perspective.
I experience your escape routes, your ramification stratigies, lika a mycelium, almost becoming a physical part of them. You can't find your way out of them. There is not only one escape route but many. They continue out into the infinite. A ramification but no conclusion. Your work doesn't enclose itself in a synthesis that can be translated into languages and it doesn't allow itself to be layerd into small autonomous, and in that way, definable units. Sometimes I feel like your paintings are radically anti-language.
LF: For me, the "pavilions", as you call them, is architectures that disappears into itself. For me these imageshave a reversed linear perspective. Away from themselves…
JG: That sounds like a Byzantine perspective, were the objects get bigger and bigger the further away they are placed inside the picture-space because they are seen from God's perspective.
LF: Which is the observer's perspective. In the picture. I imagine the observer in the center. And the artist is, if not absent, at least on his way away from the sealed room.
JG: Your role as the director of this staged room is, I think, articulated in an exhibition you had at Galleri Mikael Andersen in Copenhagen in 1991: 3 domstolar & en atrofisk rosenkrans (3 Courts & one Paternoster of Atrophy). Atrophy means wasting away. Here the act is between the terminal points judgment and escape, while integrity hovers like a light fog somewhere in between. There were a few walls covered with canvases full or realistically painted electric appliances with cords wound around each other and other artificial extensions of the human body. Prosthesis to force the bodies natural boundaries and rows of sailing Botticelli roses binding the canvas together. Exhaustion's and destitution's choreography. And amidst this you put three pictures of empty courtrooms, photographs on canvas painted with a transparent layer of paint. This is atrophy, the muscles wasting away, a critical image of a social condition where we reduce our own functions with prosthesis. Our selves risk disappearing. But, fundamentally, I interpret this as something positive. A sober observation or maybe just a thankfulness towards the spirit of the times that may somehow reduce our subject to their proper size - and the paradox is that this paves the way for unbiased sensitivity and sincerity. A small self in contact with the physically accessible.
LF: Yes, what struck me in 3 domstolar & en atrofisk rosenkrans were the ideas of weakening, loss, expiration. It was a thematic exhibition, a tribute to the subject, and it brought up questions that reduce it. You could say it's a ballet about wasting away.
JG: You enlarged you painterly repertoir here as well. In these paintings the brushstrokes are expressive. Here you have worked exclusively with distinctly defined islands of thick paint - surrounded by an illusionistic finish - but anyway. Lately these expressive traces cover more and more of the painted surface in your work. At the same time, you have started to use photographic techniques. New loaded expressions: The expressive brushstrokes and the neutral and heavy contents of the photograph, respectively. The play between distance and authenticity becomes more intense and more contradictory. It becomes more difficult for the observer to decide where you, as the artist, are to be found. You don't compensate distance with expressiveness, content with style and vice versa, to the same degree. You serve them up. Side by side. Make yourself more vulnerable. The questions to the observer increase.
LF: Yes, there is a heightened intimacy. I wanted to infiltrate myself, my surroundings, and the observer. I didn't want to disassociate myself from my paintings, but be more aware, more impartially sensitive.
JG: Architectural elements completely dominate your exhibition …in the center of the edge… at Olle Olsson-huset in Hagalund outside Stockholm in 1992. Old Hagalund, where the artist Olle Olsson lived, now a remnant of what it once was, close neighbour to one of the areas subdivided during the housing shortage in the middle of the sixties (built with large-scale methods and in a uniform style) and commonly known as "Blåkulla buildings" in Solna.
The conflict between the old buildings and the new is reflected in the work you showed there. The pictures were "folded" in 90 degree angles and were mounted in the corners of the gallery rooms. They gave the impression of being more like wall sculptures than paintings. The format was derived from the plan drawings of the standardized apartments from the Blåkulla complex. Each room was represented by one MDF board that was joined together with other rooms to make two, three and four room apartments. Details from the gingerbread work in Hagalund and the standardized module system in Blåkulla were drawn in drilled relief. You used a fairy tale theme and a picture called "Sagohörn (Askungen)" (Story Corner (Cin-derella)) that showed Cinderella's glass slipper and bloody tracks after the step-sister's attempts to reshape their fat feet. In the center of the work there was a photographic double exposure of a child's and an old person's face. It was all about time. The fairy tale is a place you can return to and find new meaning. But you didn't take a stand for either the gingerbread work or the module system. You remained neutral. Perhaps you attempted to make a bridge between extremes by overlapping and layering. There arose a new spatiality and architectural separation in your work here - a strategy that is reminiscent of the one "literary" architects as Daniel Libeskind and Peter Eisenman has been using.
The climax for your textual orientation and your theatrical staging must be KÖK med målningar(KITCHEN with paintings), that you showed at TRE in 1995. In the middle of the gallery space, on a desk, you put something you called "drama form". It was a comprehensive piece with detailed scenic instructions without any lines. That is, there was punctuation, like exclamation and question marks, but the lines were replaced with rows of periods. The scenic instructions, partially graphic, not only specified the actors movements in the room, but also the placement and rearrangement of the furniture. Basically, it was about an ever increasing clutter, increasing numbers of actors and more and more kitchen furniture, washing machines, dishwashers, tables, chairs. The same kind of clutter one remembers from Subjekt och Dedikation MCMXC. The observer read the play. And the paintings in the exhibition served as actors and props and suggested a possible content. Though the paintings were autonomous, in this situation they were dependent on the "drama form".
LF: KÖK med målningar is a finished chapter for me. After that I moved away from the text and concentrated on the image.
JG: The paintings in KÖK med målningar were simple, object-oriented and related to the minimalistic tradition. You used screen printed photographs of everyday objects like shower cabin, sofa, radiator and rope-ladder. Several of the images were joined together by small mounted canvases. The object character was strengthened by the fact that some of the pieces were framed and had glass that was painted. The surface around the objects was monochromatic with small disparities in the whitish paint, an atmospheric hint, and a diffuse brush script.
LF: You said that the paintings where related to the minimalistic tradition. I don't know, possibly on a very superficial level. Take the picture with the shower cabin, for example: The shower cabin is perhaps the most visible object in this piece but it's still only a detail. The point of working with something so radically visible is that the more diffuse statement seems to demand further explanation. If minimalism was striving to connect their own structures with the existing structures of the outer world and society, I am trying to do the opposite. By showing you the shower cabins triviality I try to isolate it, make it alien to its own function, mute. Make its visibility a stigmatism and in this way shift its meaning. And then, if you read the title: "Kristall, syn?" (Crystal, Sight?) the painting becomes even less minimalistic. It's about what I was just talking about, a crystallized, frozen vision and perhaps also about the historical ballast of the shower. Cyklon-B that the Nazis used in the showers in the concentration camps had a crystalline form. That's an example of the escape routes the observer's thoughts can take when confronted with something so conspicuous, so blatant. They are latent connotations that load the motif, a pain of the object.
JG: The titles of your paintings in this exhibition are poetic, sometimes of your own making and sometimes a kind of altered quotations from among others Samuel Beckett: "Vakna, klanglös"(Wake up, clangless) or "Denna absoluta stillhet. Denna modfällda nåd." (This absolute stillness. This downhearted grace.) [p.64]. I experience them as being intimately connected to the paintings in a very personal way.
LF: Yes, I'm inviting the observer to relate to the work the same way I do, obstinate, self-indulgent, and create their own escape strategies away from the obvious.
JG: Speaking of obstinacy … hennes utställning (her exhibition) - which among other places was shown on Galleri 54 in 1996 - you could call a twin show of KÖK med målningar. Here a number of formless "microbe paintings" played a special role in the drama. These colorful, amorphous flowingly painted clumps that in their own way seem to expand almost infinitely. Canvas section added to canvas section until the microbe finds its boundaries.
LF: They are making fun of painting. But at the same time they are a tribute to the act of painting, its sensuality and its expansionism.
JG: Finally, the painting "HON, piknolepsi" (SHE, Piknolepsia) is a starting point for me in hennes utställning, were this painting was shown, as well as in the closely related KÖK med målningar. The motif is a small screen printed photography of a womans head surrounded by thick paint. The French philosopher Paul Virillio describes the creative process as a compensational phenomenon. To illustrate his theory he uses something he calls picnolepsia, a temporary loss of memory in children, which he describes in this way: A bouquet of flowers is placed in front of a child and the child is asked to draw it. The child doesn't remember where the bouquet is coming from, and in an attempt to make an impression of credibility and presence, for itself as well as others, it does not only draw the flowers, but also the person who must have put them there in the vase and the field where they must have been picked. Virillio maintains that this is how art is born. In some way we're back in the creative act's sealed room…
LF: …and the eventual metaphysics you talked about. I think the romantic subject which was supposed to be the prerequisite for this kind of metaphysics has been twisted inside out. The experience of deconstruction and the postmodern has made this kind of subject an impossibility. All that is just big holes and the subject is more naked than ever. Perhaps we find protection in the creative process because replaceability doesn't seem to count here. And possibly a true verbalization of it would end in a morass. The sealed room is a marsh, but it's still in some strange way a marsh of assurance.
JG: Don't you think that the romantic idea of the artist still exists?
LF: Perhaps one could say it like this: On one level the subject is not more fragmented today than it was earlier. We've just become more aware of the porous character it has always had. This porosity probably looked more or less the same all through history. It's self-awareness that is so abnormal today. The romantic subject also moved towards a re-evaluating of itself. In that sense we are still part of the romantic tradition.
JG: Isn't there a drop of classicism here too? One is tired of the great artistic ego and wants to go back to some kind of unsentimental craftsmanship. You want to focus on the work and not on the artist.
LF: When Deleuze reads Kafka he finds that Kafka doesn't make a big fuss over his own subject. It's a fox hole with plenty of escape routes. Many small stories.
JG: An impurity. The meta level in the work is about the fact that it is aware of its own impurity, encourages it.
LF: I have a hard time associating the sublime with Subjekt och Dedikation MCMXC. For me the possible grandeur in this work is more a question of measurement, and the demographic curve I use in this piece is just abstract fatalism.
For example, Andy Warhol's work. I see it as being abstract fatalism in another way. His work is dependent on the outer, judgmental or ethic frame. I'm searching for a greater independence, I add instead of taking away or exposing. In that way my work might be more closely related to an artist like Öyvind Fahlström. The way I see it, Fahlström relates more closely to the "inner" than the "outer". His universe is utopic and his viewpoint is from the boys room, but his priorities are always from an "internal" place in the sealed room were meaning is made, even when he enters the political field.
JG: Do you think one could say that you miss intimacy, a sealed room with Warhol, but find it with Fahlström?
LF: I'm the first to recognize Warhol's greatness, but if I'm going to see these two artists as examples for fruitful strategies, I mean something like that.
JG: With the piece HUS - en livsanvisning (House - a life manual)
you become, literally, constructive. You build a house. It's a public commission in Ronneby in Blekinge that was finished in 1997. The sections of canvas create the corners of a high-rise building that extends up through the skylit stairwell in the Soft Center University College in Ronneby. It's screen printed black and white photocollages. Most of the canvases show the same classic brick wall with a window in the middle. And it is in the windows that something happens, that's where life is. Many of the images are very dramatic, describe a dramatic course of events. But it feels like one always comes to late, people and things are always on there way somewhere else. A lamp hangs in the window. A curtain is drawn closed. A waiter looks at two men facing the other way. It reminds me of the feeling I got when I read a novel by Claude Simon. But the title is a paraphrase on Georges Perecs classic "Livet - en bruksanvisning" (Life, a user's manual) that in a meticulous way and with innumerable anecdotes and deviations describes life in an apartment house in Paris in the 1800's and 1900's. One of the anecdotes is important in this context; the one about Bartlebooth. The untalented Bartlebooth learns to paint with watercolors by the painter Valène, just to make puzzles of his paintings which he later spends endless hours putting together. In the end, Bartlebooth is found dead in front of his four-hundred-and-thirty-ninth puzzle. And on the novel's last page, Valène dies in front of a newly started painting in another of the building's apartments. And Perec ends the book with: "The canvas was practically untouched: A few lines of coal had been meticulously drawn-up and divided the surface in symmetrical squares, a drawing with the vertical pattern of a house that now no one would come to live in.". You have now taken up where Valène and Perec left off and populated this house.
LF: You could say that. Perec's novel fascinated me. All these stories. All this taking apart and putting together. When it came to my house the verticality was very important. The house rising up to the glass roof in the stairwell accentuates the stairs and the walking that goes on there. And behind the screen printed figures in the windows there is an atmospheric painting, not unlike the one in "Trompe l'œil" that we talked about - these shifts in color connect the floors with one another. The sky is in the house. The compositions in the windows are quite narrative, that's probably what makes you think of Claude Simon. You can imagine the intrigues and the dramatic sequence going on here, but they are only hinted at. Many of the motifs have social and political implications. Maybe it's just a figment of my imagination but I think the serious contents along with the scenic techniques create a feeling of the sixties or seventies.
JG: The exhibition Snårdroppar, that we mentioned earlier, has an even more accentuated feeling of the psychedelic and political atmosphere of that time. A raw and non-illusionistic realism. Illusionism is not there, but the narrative has taken a step forward. In closing, I would like to talk a little about a painting in Snårdroppar, "Gravitation under definiering" (Gravitation under definition). A big black canvas where you painted the word "GUD" (God) in another black nuance. "GUD" is painted in a vegetative "homemade" style that I personally would like to associate to the independent township Christiania in Copenhagen (known for its hippie culture and drug problems). Is this irony or not, is God put into quotation marks here or not?
LF: Both yes and no. My ambition now is to infiltrate myself and others, to be open and therefore loaded with conflict. I want to be more sincere. Take away the aloofness. Look at my work with affection.
JG: What gave you the idea for the title Snårdroppar?
LF: Its a poetic construction. It's personal. I picture thinking. It just came to me, and I thought it was pretty funny. "Snårdroppar" has also become the title of "the microbes" slightly runnier cousins that are in this exhibition too.
JG: You are heading towards more and more controversial subjects. This fall you had an exhibition at Art Forum in Berlin that was based on Leni Riefenstahls pictures of the Nuba tribe in southern Sudan. Photographs taken by Hitler's favorite filmmaker in the sixties. The pictures all have the same title: "Svart ikon" (Black Icon). On a black monochromatic ground you've made painterly replicas of Riefenstahls photos in stifled colors. You've scraped off the paint and the impact reminds me of both the minimalist Ad Reinhart and of an artist like Georges de la Tour's chiaroscuro. Another picture series in this exhibition is "Leni in the Cleft", where we see Leni herself between two cliffs in her motion picture "Der blaue Licht". Here one can find reminiscences of Caspar David Friedrich. Now you have returned to a more unambiguous painterly expression. Do You look back on art history in order to find new elements to charge and burden painting additionally?
LF: Possibly. But in that case without the slightes ambition to provoke anyone.
Translation by Melinda Bergman.