2008 Teddy Brunius - LGN - English

Lars-Gunnar Nordström - paintings 1980 - 1987

The artists of the Nordic countries have journeyed closely on the artistic road of the concrete art. The word concrete is usually used in a context meaning firm and obvious; in English the word concrete also means the construction material, concrete. When Otto G. Carlsund together with some friends impressed the French word concrete into the art debate, the meaning of the word was that of a painting, which is created in the consciousness and has no direct parallel in the actual surrounding world, it becomes a stable composition on the paintings surface.
 It is usual that our conscious is filled with surrounding realism and memories of the surrounding reality. In the painting realism is impressed by the reproduction of objects and figures, the impression of that which we see when we see, how we through colored and formed entities create a picture of the reality, and the well-known objects of surrealism exchange place with what could be called catachresis or discontinuous reality. During the break-through of the modernism, these prerequisites were being mixed and all, regardless of how it looked, was abstract. The abstract art always has a fragment of something figurative. The concrete art is not figurative and contains no fragment of the reality that surrounds us. It is an art that creates news.
 Two peculiarities are to be found in the concrete art: a geometrical form and a smooth painted surface. The divine geometry is mostly figurative. We all recognize the supremacy of the square; after all we did learn in school how a square looks. The concrete square however is accomplished with very well painted color. When two colored areas or contrasting lines are placed up against each other and an optic effect in the eye is achieved, simultaneous contrast and afterimage. This is experienced as a dynamic shimmer in the eye of the viewer.
 “Imagine, if there will come a day, where man sees color and form in the art the same clear way that they listen to musical tones and sounds”, Lars-Gunner Nordström expressed, a classic in the modern Finnish art. That he is called “the classic” is because he has stuck to the simple and clear principles within the art. He is by no means a loner holding that position throughout the second half of the nineteenths century, but he has stuck to an avant-garde within the international art, and there he holds an independent position.
 “To call us fanatics is wrong. Instead we have been exposed to fanatics”, this is another utterance made by Lars-Gunner Nordström. He has played the cards, paintings, sculptures, serigraphy and public ornamentations within the Finish environment, but he has not had an easy time. Leading critics have opposed him. Einstein reminds one of an utterance, or maybe it was Planck, which said that the progress does not depend so much on the truth in that, which they have done, but more on the fact that the opponents after a time have died.
 Lars-Gunner Nordström has outlived many opponents, and now that he has had a long and productive working life he could, if he should be so inclined, be content with that which he has accomplished.
 Immediately after the Second World War the young generation of artists were drawn towards international role models and contributed with numerous of their own formulas. There was Ole Kandelin, who died while having an exhibition in Stockholm characterized by new configurations. Later came the searching artists as seen with Sam Vanni, Per Stenius and Biger Carlstedt. Highly vital, almost brutal, was the conduct of the young Nordström in Finland.
 He was born in 1924 in Helsinki, Finland. Due to his powerful personal measures the commonly used name Nubben was befitting. He searched for strength and clarity. In 1947 he began to show what he was good for, but he was still in a searching mode. He wanted to get attached to architecture and got work in an architect’s office. He was educated in Finland in what is called husflit. He became a furniture designer amongst many other things.
 He came to Paris in 1949, and there he saw the paintings by Magnelli, Dewasne and Vasarely. In this way he came close to Nordic contemporaries – Robert Jacobsen, Richard Mortensen and Olle Baertling. He concluded the still life painting and the portraits and became non figurative in his paintings. He worked with a rich geometry, containing contours as lines, straight with sharp edges, with angles, boat shaped, curves, circles, squares, triangles – the whole rich and formal syntax that contributes with its form play, that is non figurative pictures.
 He had his first separate exhibition in Helsingfors in 1949. After expressive work with the brushes the surfaces of his paintings soon became smooth. He belonged to the concrete artists, but he himself reckoned that the word constructive was a better description of what he does. This word also catches his three-dimensional works. He tried to monotypes and silk-screen-graphic. Ripolin-color could give his surfaces a shine with reflexes. He created sculptures in sheets of steel and iron. His working tool with sculpture became the welding torch. He could blast aluminum and execute acrylic -constructions. One is reminded of the words of Apollinaire in the book about cubism, that the more the artist distances himself from the figurative the more closely he got to architectural art. He also tried, with success to do stage design, and here the lighting became an important part of the production.
 With this very broad specter of work, the word constructive is a good basis to hang on too. He stubbornly sticks to certain combinations of form. Sometimes they are varied, often they are repeated, and then they are called tautologier. The sculptures can become like bilinear passages. During a visit to the USA, he got into contact with the new ideas for working with color, which Josef Albers showed in his works, and in his theoretical book Interaction of color. Because of this, the OP ART came in the sixties to be a headline in the concrete art. Lars-Gunnar Nordström’s painting did not change, but he became more convinced, that his painting since 1950 was a road of no return, where only repartitions happened. This the Finish art critics had suggested from time to time. He also got into contact with Alexander Calder and Stuart Davis’ creations.
 The trend in the USA at that time, Hard Edge, was very familiar to him. He had painted like that for the past ten years, even though the word for it had not yet been invented.
 In the Nordic art after the 1950’s Lars-Gunnar Nordström holds the position as a strong pioneer. He does not hold the same choreographical lightness in his painting as Richard Mortensen. He also does not posses the soft porous attack of colors and the slightly curved couture line, the way Baertling over the years managed. In return he has achieved a gravity that makes his paintings durable within the heavy brutal concrete architecture. In the same way as Baertling, he attempts to lift out the painted forms in a tree-dimensional way in the public monuments, so as to make the urban environment easier to live in. He looks at the colors as dynamic forces that contribute to a formal system. They ad fuel to the engine he has said. He gives the shiny surfaces the power to expand and shrink, go towards the viewer or away from him. Some formal systems get as latticework of light and color as a background. He has also understood how to create reflexes in his art that hits the viewer.
 All that I have now tried to account for makes him one of the present times great artists, on a major line with Herbin, Gorin, Magnelli, Albers, Dewasne, Robert Jacobsen, Richard Mortensen, Olle Baertling, and Erik H. Olson. There is strength and clarity to be found in Nubben’s actions.
This can be the beginning of an experience of 16 paintings created from 1980 to 1987 with oil paint on panel. The artist can freely draw from composition forms that he has tried out, through his long production time. That he at the bottom has an architectural construction is obvious. He is to be found in the group of new creating searching artists that has their roots in the twentieths groups, De Stijl and Bauhaus.
 Lars-Gunnar Nordström formed his paintings with reflecting shiny colored surfaces. At times they can resemble the architectonical tiles. With his sense of color he goes his own way, with series of paintings that are light reflecting. Solely horizontals and verticals, but also diagonal compositions can dominate his form systems. A rigid sense of form is pronounced in Lars-Gunnar Nordström’s art – never mix more form systems. The work should radiate a minimum.
 This is a way of painting that adapts to our time of rigid functionalistic architecture with concrete and smooth glass as strict monotonic factors. This type of environment demands strong play of color, and works as Lars-Gunnar Nordström creates them, are in this way necessary in our time of architectonical setting.

Uppsala in March 2008

Teddy Brunius
Fil.dr.professor emeritus

Translated by Anette LIndegaard