Lars Strandh – the Colour, the Line, the "Framing", the Picture

“I reduced painting to its logical conclusion and exhibited three canvases: red, blue and yellow. I affirmed: this is the end of painting. These are the primary colours. Every plane is a discrete plane and there will be no more representation.”[1]

When Alexander Rodschenko created and commented on his monochrome canvases in 1918, the art of modernism had just been born. Windows were pushed wide open, and artists were just beginning to test new possibilities, venturing to the zero points of art. Entirely in the awareness of the avant-garde, which regarded itself as the logical endpoint of the history of painting that could no longer be revised, Rodschenko, too, believed to have reached an endpoint – a “logical conclusion” – from which no further development could possibly take place. Thank god, the avant-garde was badly mistaken in this respect, and what it deemed the endpoint was merely the beginning of a multifaceted development of twentieth-century art.

It must be credited to modernism to have raised the question as to the essence of a picture in an elementary new way – but the answer that the artist generation of Rodschenko gave was just a first and preliminary one. As can be seen in the works of the Swedish painter Lars Strandh living in Oslo, the question pertaining to the essence of the painting is still relevant, and interesting artistic answers are still being offered. What is striking is the subtlety of Strandh’s pictorial language. It does not convey the total self-certainty with which Rodschenko declared to have painted the absolute picture. Strandh develops a quite cautious and careful monochromy. He composes the picture surface, which is always dedicated to one colour, with numerous fine horizontal lines. Yet at the same time, he relativizes this colour, since upon approaching the canvas it dissolves into a multitude of different nuances of this colour. What appears to be the essence of Lars Strandh’s painting, in general, is to make an assertion and simultaneously relativize it. Yes, it is a monochrome surface, but strictly speaking it dissolves into a polychromatic diversity. Yes, it is a colour surface, but strictly speaking it dissolves into innumerable fine lines. And yes, it is a monochrome all-over painting, but what role does the more or less conspicuous "framing" or unpainted border play? Here, Strandh seems to reverse the development of monochrome painting a bit. His picture surfaces are not, as Rodschenko wrote, “a discrete plane”. He now also relativizes the colour’s claim to absoluteness by again drawing limits, by giving it – albeit carefully – a form. Those "borders" simultaneously allow him to create new picture compositions through the flush hanging of individual canvases, as he has already given signs of in several exhibitions. The concept of the picture is thus expanded in that an individual painting can be easily extended to an additive picture.

Dr. Tobias Hoffmann, Ingolstadt, 2012
[1] Alexander Rodschenko: ‘Working with Mayakovsky’ in From Painting to Design: Russian Constructivist Art of the Twenties (Cologne: Galerie Gmurzynska, 1981), p. 191.