Patience as a modern archetype

I initially thought I would write a general appreciation of Lars Strandh’s paintings. However, the questions his works raise are not suited to such wise words. Strandh works above and beyond previous experiences (and what is duller than an artist who depicts something that has been previously seen and experienced)? Strandh also deserves a longer, possibly more meticulous text. In the style of Strandh. All art is demanding. However, Strandh’s paintings are like a difficult child. The more parents can’t cope but remain present, the more the child gradually gives in return. Strandh calmly poses a type of fundamental question which we will now devote at least some patience to.

Experience does not make an artist wiser. However, experience can be harvested and it is precisely this that modern art is focussed on. Or the direct opposite relationship, that art is dangerously separated from society, norms, groups, art dealing etc. etc. The latter, which includes the majority of art production, has its start point in what we already know, primarily using materials drawn from the consolidating (through linguistic bastions) and authoritative society. Such wise art never becomes archetypal, other than with respect to society’s normative corporate, and everyone has idealistically the opportunity to identify this type of art, as it is perfectly pragmatic with an enormous number of well-known consumer fetishes.
In the former it is however the artist’s intention, his creation (and not production) and leap towards Die Umwelt which determines the choice between experience and the general wisdom of the ‘good buy’ philosophy (for example Shakespeare and Dostojevskij revile the folly while the descriptions in Dåren on the contrary are characterised by patience bordering on intuitive tenderness), which provides very little growth, the moralising field excepted.

Lars Strandh’s youthfully questioning paintings have over time increasingly been drawn from the Constructive* art tradition. But it is not certain that he represents the complete tradition within this modernistic direction. In the pictures outer mantle: certainly, squares are joined to squares to woven directions, geometrising picture solutions. And the pure colour spectrum is part of the standard formula of the young constructive painter and therefore the new generation’s activities at the beginning of a new century. But does Strandh include constructive art’s fundamentals? On the contrary – and Strandh no doubt nods in agreement when he reads this (at least will do in the future).
There is nothing like a ‘new generation’. You could possibly point to the young constructive Avant-garde in Paris at the same time as the American Georgia O`Keeffe was at art school in Chicago (what is the time? At the time of writing this text the press in Sweden has nominated the country’s oldest man, 113 years old, born almost at the same time as Paul Cézanne noted: “My opinion is that the old have nothing new, but provide a new link to (…) the chain”) at least represent a new pure historical style. But style theories are always congruent with respect to the consolidating cultural society’s linguistic norm structure, which always prevails, broadly and everywhere. Strandh’s paintings are about the contrast to linguistic self confirmation – about the contrast and the (pictorial) linguistic liberation in an industrialised mass language. But let us now provide this central theme and therefore also art in the form of its antiquarian history writing.

One can immediately consider Strandh’s paintings as a link between the first generation’s painting pioneers and a living ‘Now’, which is more than a repetition within convention’s confessional. This occurs in the form of a sensual interplay where Strandh allows the Paris constructivists to speak in a later stage in their artistic life and vice versa.
The earliest Constructive style was outgoing and broad-minded as all young art, and it is this type of art the world needs but which culture does not of course give birth to. During the post war period mutatis mutandis a different abstractism was created, and the style was named Concretism. A drastic quest for ‘pure’ abstraction but without the spiritual nourishment which characterises Paris-Russian art around 1910. Concretism lead to spiritual experimentation (Max Bill, Olle Bærtling), to more Occidental logic for the cultivation of the cool super-ego (primarily within the German culture area but also by Victor Vasarely in France), and a return to a romantic naivety, a regression to the start point where questioning once allowed birth and is used as a wedge between the artist’s lack of words, and the increasingly composite world: a negative counterweight seen against the Paris pioneers’ freshness and bold questioning around the visual innermost nature. And of course the counterweight or Fifties constructivism was immediately ‘defined’ as a new style.

How does Strandh work with these problems? Through resolutely starting from the painting pioneers visuality and experimentalism. Through an interplay with and linking to the 1910s NOW with today NOW. Around which the seemingly spontaneous working American Jackson Pollock around fifty years ago worked up to a Now now. Pollock is in several ways a problem for the always rhetorical retrospective art historian when, similar to Paul Gaugin, he was the missing link which shows that the Now now does not involve alienation. Consequently, the mystification of Pollock stamps the idolising pair with a van Gogh emboss. And isn’t Mondrian, who was a little crazy, included? Few understood their art during their lifetime. Few follow today their relevant NOW. Common for the above mentioned artists is that their art is open to chance. Yes, society certainly does not build on chance!

The art to share is also the art to receive. What has Lars Strandh ‘received’ from earlier art? There is no quotation, logical concept or theories in Strandh (even though he personally interests himself in intellectual contemporary questions) which supports or builds his picture solutions. His work is autonomous and rests on itself. But through experimentation and searching for break points, he typifies the constructive art’s foundation, which lies in (and in contrast to the more common artistic-aristocratic I-suffarage) experiment as a fixed start point, free of monumental goals. That said, Strandh does not build on previous experience but casts in front him a type of fundamental questioning within the framework of the visual. His intention (as I experience it) to cast himself out in the now, opens for an expression: works ‘sing out’ in a way which for a long time has been forbidden within the post war period bureaucratic constructive tradition where designed precision continues to be the ultimate goal. Strandh’s care of art’s handcraft can however be understood as the fixed framework or route, which builds up for his primary intuition. A path without end point, therefore.

Strandh to an exceptional degree also links to a core within the previous Constructivism: inner resistance. But he makes this into a difference from the precursors without program. His works searches for a possible archetype for our visuality, which is glimpsed in the play between the seen, in the moment it meets us, as unconditional as possible, and it the previously seen and conformity. Visuality in our time’s culture or ‘home’ either engages the tool of understanding or confirms the amount of dead mass content. What Strandh liberates is not so much the picture’s outer substance and/or rhetoric. Most problems of this type are solved with exquisite precision under Antiquity, for example by the Greek sculptor Polykleitos with his Canon from 400 BC. Strandh does not work with the outer picture, but the inner which ‘occurs’ in the Now, in other words the opposite to depiction. Pollock uncovered the surroundings camouflage, used his visual energy as a ritual crow bar on the hard consolidating machine culture. Which consisted for him of captivity in that one has already seen.

Strandh works more methodically, but places also the experience of what is known in focus. Allows uncertainty to precede certainty. Of course, we cannot put our finger on the meaning and content in his art. What we do not need to know is sunk in slumber. But the inner animal is fortunately a wakable guest. Lars Strandh’s art is welcoming and thought through in its basic mood. And I hope for his continued questioning around patience as a modern archetype.

Anders Engman Painter and art critic

* Constructivism; a modern non-figurative movement which arose in Russia and Paris around one hundred years ago.