The Journey of The Blue Salmon

Text by dr. Elena Sadykova

2020

Art Center Silkeborg Bad and Museum Kastrupgårdsamlingen, Denmark

For more than three decades, the attention of the art world has repeatedly focused on the work of the Danish painter Pia Andersen. Enchanted you look at her works with relief-like surfaces flooded with light, that seem to be woven with colors from the whole color spectrum, and whose foreign-familiar forms attract us with a mixture of abstraction and figuration. Whoever has been lucky to follow the artist’s career over the years or even right from the beginning, has witnessed an ongoing creative adventure, where the goal best can be described as the unfolding of color and the capture of light.

The current exhibition is definitely a welcome opportunity to dedicate yourself to the life and oeuvre of Pia Andersen as a whole. To look at her new works, to reflect, to make comparisons, to change perspectives. The artist herself has composed the selection of works for the exhibition. Most of the works were created especially for the occasion. The others date back to recent years and form a visual and thematic complement to the newest core. Overall, a well thought out, harmonious composition, that reveals some surprising as well as consistent twists within her latest development.

The very title of the exhibition arouses curiosity. This, too, origins from the artist herself. When she asked me, what I would think of it, my first intuitive thought was: it’s the most coherent artist statement I’ve ever received from an artist. “The Journey of the Blue Salmon”. A short sentence – a powerful metaphor! With these three words, two nouns and an adjective, Pia Andersen describes her exhibition concept and lets parallels to her character gleam through, to her ego, so to speak, which determines her work as well as her direction.

The metaphor is obvious: a salmon, the blue-shimmering creature from the north, whose life is perceived as a naturally predetermined, permanent and exhausting migration; stands for strength, will to survive, perseverance, but also for durability and adaptability. So, what is this powerful illustration, if not a brief allegory, a joking, but somehow also serious analogy to her own fate, to be born as a dedicated person, as an artist even?

 

History

The word “journey” in the title, generally includes movement, migration, expedition and embodies an extremely important aspect in the life of Pia Andersen, who was born in Frederikshavn in 1960 and spent her childhood in rural Denmark. She gathered her first artistic experiences during long walks with her father, who knew how to draw her attention to the beauty and peculiarity of the surrounding landscapes. He taught her to observe the changes in nature, that had their own rhythm, and drew her attention to the repetition of variations and phenomena, that appeared according to the time of the day and the season. Not to forget and even more to understand these changes, he encouraged her to inculcate what she saw, to document it. She already knew how to draw and now she learned to use the perspective. She drew the forms, that changed depending on her position. She thought about the colors and their dependence on light, which meaning she first understood intuitively, and later on sought to explore. Already then, she probably noticed the connection between many natural phenomena.

These regular small trips became for the little girl, who Pia Andersen was then, her first great journeys into the world, still lying far and open, blurry and unfathomable ahead of her. These were the experiences, that first aroused and then nourished her curiosity towards this unknown greatness. This was the beginning of her real journey.

During her school years she proved her creative streak. She was supported by some teachers, who allowed her to act out her interest in art in many projects, and thus she developed. The craftsmanship was very important to her, and it played a decisive role in her subsequent choice of profession: a pure art study was somehow out of reach for her at the time. She wanted to work with her own hands and keep her feet on the ground. So, she did not choose the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, but the School of Arts and Crafts in Kolding. The study, however, expanded her horizon. It was a time of experiments, that brought new insights and opened up a path taking her beyond the mere craftsmanship. She developed her own visions and sought ways to realize them.

The beginning of the 1980s, when she began her studies, was a very interesting period of time. A new drive distinguished the western art scene, constantly producing­­ new art movements. The so far dominant art genres, such as Pop Art, Minimal Art, Concept Art, etc., had almost become outdated, despite great influence, still. Everywhere, young artists were working to reach the limits of the well-known in order to cross them. They all wanted to mix, to set new standards, not to belong to any traditional art style. Some were intrigued by the possibilities in the “out of fashion” genre-painting, rediscovering it intensely. This rediscovery pointed in many directions, most of which were opposed to the intellectual and conceptual art movements of the time. Some, like the Neue Wilden in Germany, playfully took on dilettante painting, intentionally painting incorrectly and exaggerating many motifs. Others used comic-like elements to underline the importance of a work. Others again, led by Keith Haring, discovered e.g. graffiti and had it reflected in their works. And some dealt with social and even political problems in their art.

Apart from her faithful interest in painting, Pia Andersen did not extract much from these movements. She took a different path and found other role models. Already her first experiences with art as a child in the wild, had awakened her longing for a satisfying reproduction, respectively interpretation of what she saw and experienced. Her desire was to find the most possibly direct language to see and experience her art with all your senses at the same time. Simultaneously she sought aesthetic means to make her works comprehensible and accessible to the viewer. She got to know the former European avant-garde, from “Blaue Reiter ” to “De Stijl“, from Expressionism to Constructivism, who were preoccupied with the directness of feeling or understanding, what partly, at least, explained the emergence of Abstraction.

She looked up the achievements of the succeeding artist generation, The Abstract Expressionists. She shared their declared goal of introducing the viewer directly to the work of art. Her most important source at the time, she found in the “American Abstract Sublime”, by artists  such as Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Clyfford Still, whose claimed message primarily was focused on the emotions and feelings of the viewer, and whose newly defined self-image as artists led to groundbreaking experiments in all areas of painting. Although Pia Andersen could not escape the influence of these artists and for a long time still dealt with the form- and color concepts of Robert Rauschenberg and Willem de Kooning as well as their concern to involve the public in their works of art; the path of pure abstraction was never seriously or permanently an issue for her. Rather, she felt at home in both worlds and sought to combine the spiritual with the emotional, the informal with the figurative. Nature, which once shaped her worldview, became a source of inspiration and thus decisively shaped her attitudes and feelings. Now she needed to look for the right methods. From then on perfecting the craft was on top of the to-do list.

The craft part of her education in Kolding, where she had enrolled in the faculty of textile design, facilitated her with a large knowledge of materials. She began to dream of artworks, that were haptic perceptible and whose bodies were three-dimensional without being merely illusionist. At that time many artists experimented with incorporated found objects and unusual materials in order to achieve exactly these goals. But on this point, too, Pia Andersen chose her own path. She wanted to master her materials and considered creating them herself. To do so, she needed more experience and inspiration. Surprisingly, she found both in Poland by the textile artists Ryzard Kwiecin and Lilla Kulka. Their works fascinated and convinced her. So, she made a rather unusual decision for a west European art student in the times of the Iron Curtain. She decided to travel east to continue her education in Poland, an east European country. The bilateral agreement between the two neighboring countries provided her with a scholarship for the one-and-a-half-year study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, one of the oldest cities of education in Europe.

 

The Journey

An extraordinary and profound experience was to come: living in a country that was almost entirely the opposite of your own may at first have seemed shocking, but there was a lot to do and Pia Andersen knew exactly what she wanted. By studying the language, she gradually oriented herself. And she found what, she had been looking for: she worked in different genres, mostly cross-genre installations made of different, partly found, simple materials. Drawing live model also proved valuable, – being part of the classical academic training in Poland. At that point she decided on paper as her future image carrier.

After returning to Denmark, where she graduated from Kolding in 1985, she experimented a lot with paper, until she decided to make her own with a structure and texture, that gave her the desired surface for painting. For a long time, paper was her preferred companion. Even after eventually moving to canvas, she used paper as installation parts until she had exhausted its potential, however, this experience turned out to be valuable when working in oil. Later she developed her own special spatula technique to create several small light-reflecting areas, that filled the entire surface and made it look like an organic, radiant, breathing membrane. This happened later, though, when she had made her first experiences in muted colors, rather grayish, nuanced between black and white. The importance lay mainly in the tactile experience of the surface and in the simple geometric shapes forming her compositions. The strict geometry of the image structure would remain an important feature of her work for a long time to come.

The vivid, bright colors that we know in her works today, on the other hand came relatively soon and consistently as the results of another journey, not less unusual and productive than the first one. Once again, she went to a completely different world, even to another continent. In 1988, supported by the Jubilee Foundation of the Danish National Bank; she traveled to Mexico, whose culture and Pre-Columbian art had fascinated her for a long time. Again, she learned a new language and looked for new experiences, connections and inspirations. The more than one year long stay in South America surpassed all her dreams. She enjoyed the freedom to travel through this great country, to meet artists, in Europe known and unknown, to learn about completely new art styles and papermaking techniques. There she developed further and worked together with new artist friends.  Later her works were to be shown in the Oaxaca Museum. It was a time of human and artistic maturation.

In South America, where she after Mexico also visited Guatemala and later Brazil, her view on colors changed. In nature as well as in art and in everyday life, she was exposed to a completely different color palette, which was much stronger and louder than the one she knew. The impact was like a revolution of the senses. Little by little she succumbed to this overwhelming effect of sun-flooded colors, got used to them and gradually dared to ventilate the diffuse north European haze and look directly at the light. That is, what this new experience was about, which first and foremost called for an intensive examination of the effects of the light. She discovered a new reality of colors such as ultramarine blue and cinnabar green, carmine red or yellow. These discoveries caused a profound, irrevocable change in her sense of color and contributed to the complete transformation of her color palette.

Paradoxically, the art of the countries she visited left no visible traces in her work, but light and color had enriched her journey to the other part of the world. Until today they have remained hallmarks and guidelines in her work. As already mentioned, this relatively rapid change in her color palette did not cause a change in the basic compositional principles on which she based her works. Still, for some years she maintained a strictly geometric structure, but eventually the basic forms started to grow less clear and rigid. As if the radiant colors, she was using now, increasingly began softening and warming the strict framework of her image to melt the structure, and finally dissolve it completely. Only, this did not happen immediately, but in the course of an intensive reconstruction of her own work processes and choice of topics. Her inspiration from nature became more and more obvious.

 

The recognition

Her journey, once started, continued. From many exhibitions in Denmark and soon also in Germany, North and South America she received a clear and strong confirmation of her path from the critics as well as in response from the audience. She got new exhibition offers, prizes, commissions, scholarships followed by further trips and new inspiration. The move to Spain in 2000 was an important decision. Here she bought a finca in a rural part of Extremadura and had a house and an atelier built. A life travelling between the South and the North of Europe brought new contrasts and thus further strong impulses. In addition to the exciting cultural finds, she discovered thrilling color worlds and developed and refined her painting technique. Her interest in other materials also grew, and she began gradually to experiment with ceramics and porcelain, until she was ready to work together with world-renowned manufacturers such as Royal Copenhagen Porcelain and Tommerup Ceramics. This successful experience with new materials, that corresponded with her original motto of combining art and life, again brought her recognition, and was reflected in the growing sophistication of her painting, where new facets were added, which still determine her path today.

Pia Andersen’s artistic talent was noticed early on. Already her first still pale works on handmade paper aroused real professional interest. Neither did the subsequent development of her career go unnoticed and was repeatedly discussed and analyzed in public. Much was written, described and discussed. You find all sorts of catalogues, interviews, films. For years Pia Andersen has been regarded as an established, internationally recognized artist.

And yet it is never easy to look at the artistic performance of a contemporary artist in a completely objective way. To completely ignore an art-historical evaluation. It requires distance in time to displace the horizon and provide space for visual perception. Whether this temporal distance already today is sufficiently long in the case of Pia Andersen, is now to be tested. She turned sixty in 2020. Her artistic career began 35 years ago. If that isn´t a good moment to look back and look for the larger contexts in which an exciting artistic vitae is hidden!

As already mentioned, we can learn a lot about the artist Pia Andersen: The reviews of her exhibitions are publicly available; catalogues with solid contributions appeared regularly, there were extensive interviews and artist talks in all media. So, by and large, her life is no secret, which considerably facilitates access to her work and ouevre. Although the question of the relationship between the biography and the work of an artist often is seen as of less importance, it is quite helpful to know the facts about the development of the causal chains, which underlie all events, large and small. Turning points of an artistic career or even individual works are enriched by the knowledge of new facets, which can strengthen and expand the logical basis of interpretation. That is why, I cannot and will not renounce some biographical details here, in the hope of clarifying the closeness between the artist, her work and the viewer.

 

The exhibition

The exhibition “The Journey of the Blue Salmon” constructs an extremely coherent visual retelling of the history of this artistic development. The variety of the selected works makes it particularly extensive and well-founded indeed, but nevertheless extremely exciting and surprisingly entertaining for the viewer.

We look at the carefully arranged rows of bright, colorful paintings and delicate, subtly luminous works in glass. All of them, paintings as well as glass objects, seem to consist of light and colors. They all seem organic, alive, almost breathing. All works seem extremely sculptural, actually more like sculptures or reliefs than paintings, which gives them a peculiar presence, a gravity. All are they in the same way abstract as well as figurative. Although the content of the image is not formally represented, it is recognizable or perceptible, either at first glance or by longer observation. It is clearly about nature associations, appearing in different variations. Some seem like windows to the outside, others feel as if being in the middle of it, watching an incident or object in nature on close range, even from the inside, while others again provide views from an aerial perspective, not unlike flight recordings or maps. So, we have close-ups and distant views, as well as wide and narrow perspectives, that remind you of fragments and sceneries. Anyhow, there are none or only very few tangible details, which help us obtain more detailed information about, what is being shown.

What are they then, these compositions, that give you a strong feeling, but very little clarity? Their attraction, not least, consists in simultaneously appearing familiar and strange to the viewer. They are like pictorial impulses, immediately sensed, but without leaving a familiar recognition. They awake strong associations with nature, supported by a focused image construction, hue and perspective. It is clearly about nature.

So, are they landscapes? Maybe. But only by omitting their specific assignment. And, of course, the loyalty to the realistic detail. Because they are intangible. They elude any localization. They suggest without revealing any details. They encourage, irritate and open numerous new perspectives to the viewer. They are not definitive. They are never static, but always notable within their own situation and that of the viewer. Just like nature.

Any encounter with the art of Pia Andersen is also an encounter with nature. Landscape has become the personal prism through which, the artist looks at the world and echoes it in her art. At the same time, nothing could be farther from her than calling herself landscape painter. Her interest in nature is a rather friendly-cooperative one, when you ignore her lively, respectful enthusiasm. She is not afraid of it, nor is she rigid in awe. She observes, researches and searches for the rules and laws, that she can use creating her own art. A work so exciting and enjoyable as a game, and so serious and thorough as the creation itself.

 

The creative process

This approach is based on an understanding of art, originated in a kind of analogy between processes in art, certainly painting, and processes in nature.Pia Andersen performs her work conscious of the permanent correspondence between herself and her environment, necessary and inevitable elements in order to form and end the process of creating her artwork.

The idea of unity and inseparability of art and nature accompanies the painting process of Pia Andersen and displays itself in every single work. Therefore, it is not surprising, that the artist uses landscape to give shape to her idea. She chooses landscape as subject to describe the diversity of interrelations between nature and man. That is, why she does not make illustrations or detailed copies of her surroundings. She rather appeals to our senses and offers with her works a variety of possibilities to react to nature, to perceive it.

Because no landscape painting is exactly like the landscape depicted. No loyalty to detail can reveal the adequate experience. Just as the mere sight never can be identical to the entire perception. Looking at a seascape, is not the same as feeling the cool water, or inhaling the salty wind or letting you drift with the waves. Not even when we look at it from the exact same spot as, where the artist painted it. On the other hand, a painting is never perceived in the same way by its creator as by its viewers.

Primarily, we therefore must look for a middle way to combine a number of methods and manners to observe and experience. This is the way of Pia Andersen. She creates her compositions from several recollected fragments, related to places and feelings, to the present and the past; and in the interaction of forms and colors she creates a new experience, that reminds you of nature.The reason is found in the painting process itself based on a creative interaction between the artist and his environment.

“The painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. Its only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give-and-take [1]. This quote comes from Jackson Pollock and provides a perfect description of a coherent process of creation, that ideally can lead to a successful work of art. But whoever may sense something esoteric here, should reflect more on it. This “life-of-its-own” or “give-and-take” is not a reference to supernatural secrets, but rather a good metaphor for a process, that demands all potential attention and sensitivity from the artist, as well as a supreme degree of skill and professionalism.

Here the crucial point is the emphasis on the artist´s intimate relationship with his work, even his surroundings. Strictly speaking, this is about the harmony between intellect and matter. Just think of the great complexity of forces and influences, which determines every painting process: the forces that indicate the way from the brain to the hand, from the hand to the brush, from the brush to the canvas, and finally control this chain backwards. Every single grip affects and changes the effect of the others, but without being decisive. Neither intellect nor matter can conclusively dominate in this process: a work of art is a result of a balanced interplay of both components.

In art films by Pedro Luis Jiménez Arnaiz, Pia Andersen speaks openly and seriously about her own experience in painting and about her concern to shape the painting process as an ongoing coexistence, where she is partly in control and partly under control. She describes her work on a painting as a long process, a dialogue with countless inherent possibilities, and with an unpredicted end, that never can be determined in advance. “The plan, I have when I start a painting, is part of the painting process itself.” [2] Therefore, this process is the goal, that repeatedly is being reworked and changed during the progress of the work. The responsibility of the artist is to open and to end the dialogue, though she cannot predict the course of it. Just like the result. There are too many contingencies, too many elements, that call for new decisions, which again cause other developments. Artistic experience and intuition help her to deal with the permanent interactions and changes in the painting as well as in the environment, that cause them.  The landscape thus becomes a symbol of painting, which in turn stands as a metaphor for nature and our relationship with it.

 

Art history

Today, the landscape has reached a more significant importance not least because of our awareness of the irreversible disturbing changes in nature and in our environment. This fact finds a strong expression in art. And who deals closer with painting today, will again find an omnipresent landscape painting. This genre thrives like never before. This occurs without attracting much attention and even less reaching the collective consciousness. Because landscape painting still struggles with prejudices. However, it is extremely interesting as well as informative to take a closer look on the causes of this reluctance. Why is the reaction to the term “landscape painting” still associated with a strong skepticism, even rejection? What facts, or rather what clichés are in use here?

It is no secret, that landscape entered Christian western art history as the youngest of all classical or traditional painting genres. And precisely the Christian religion is guilty of this restrictive development. Unlike ancient cultures, where natural philosophy preached the unity and equality of all-natural phenomena, including man; Christianity shaped a completely different world view, where man, in the image of God, was assigned the dominant role. In this so-called anthropocentrism, inherent in our Christian culture, many see the cause of the increasing alienation between man and his environment. Driven out of Paradise, man is confronted with nature as a stranger, not as part of nature, but its conqueror; a force destined to occupy, oppress or shape his environment, in order to make it his own. Seen from this perspective, such an engaging attitude towards nature was culturally conditioned, like the development of art in general. The landscape depiction was particularly hit; for a long time, it was only used secondary within other genres, as a framework for the representation of a primary and self-sufficient object, be it portrait, history, etc.

 

Filosofi

European landscape painting maintained this secondary, serving role for almost a millennium, until the modern confrontation with Plato´s, Aristotle´s and especially the pre-Socratics´ worldviews had opened the way to a new conception of the world, where it was to be understood as a unity. Also, the encounters with Far Eastern philosophy allowed an insight into a completely different, contrasting understanding of the world, where nature never confronts human nature, but always is everywhere at all times. Nature belongs to everyone and everyone is part of it: we are in nature and likewise nature is in us. Understanding it, not fighting it, is therefore the only right mission.

Such views had a hesitant, but irreversible influence on the development of European culture and art. As a result, the role of the landscape also began to change gradually, until it could be appreciated for its own worth. This growing importance was decisive for the emergence of landscape painting as an autonomous genre. The interest of the artists applied increasingly less to the mere reproduction of the outer characteristics of nature, and much more to the representation of the complex interactions within nature and between nature and man.

“With painting you are always trying to find a way to describe what you are seeing because you’re often looking in the indescribable…”[3].

This is the real challenge of landscape painting. Because the landscape possesses such power, that just to imitate it in a painting is impossible. It eludes imitation and can never be limited to mere visibility. It is aimed on all physical senses. Landscape cannot be contained in a restricted space, nor can it be limited to a single moment. The aim of the painters, who deals with nature or landscape, can only be one: to reflect the depth, that lies behind each surface of the portrayed landscape. So, to speak as Ludwig Wittgenstein, it is important to make the depth visible even tangible on the surface[4].

Half-intuitively, Pia Andersen made exactly this discovery at the beginning of her development and dedicated her full strength and career to the complexity of this knowledge. Still today she works on this. When we look at her original works, not the illustrations, it is always a panperceptual experience. We perceive them with several senses. This is due to the merging of an infinite wealth of factors. She is always concerned with a variety of interactions. She combines and mixes colors, structures and perspectives.

 

Summary

The early originally geometrically shaped compositions, where horizon lines or structural delimitations often were implied or where graffiti-like forms were incorporated, slowly gave way to the rush of the color, that slowly, but steadily captured the entire surface and thus became the content itself. Gradually she developed and perfected her technical process, where semi-dry colors are applied layer upon layer – e.g. red upon yellow, then cadmium and finally another blue; thus, to create the pasty, multi-layered surfaces, which almost seem like mosaics. And like those, her surfaces seem to consist of numerous small colorful spots, that reflect the light time and again, which makes her works appear like reliefs or wall sculptures.  The artist composes her colored structures with a rhythm, that leads to the emergence of infinitely many new reflections, that seem to create a vibrating movement within the works; which again makes her surfaces breathe and thus fills them with life of their own.

 

Work comments

Within the different groups of works in the exhibition, where some partly are formed as series, we are confronted with a wealth of varied examples, that also grants us a vivid insight into the artist’s working methods. For example, the here most extensive series “Snapshots”, consisting of more than fifty small-format oil paintings. A wealth of possibilities is spread out in front of the viewer, like a fan enabling you to get closer to the art of Pia Andersen. But that doesn´t happen just at first glance. Because these works do not open up to the viewer immediately, they need time and concentration to be seen and interpreted. They all show a different degree of abstraction, a different color trend, a different structure. And every single image is obviously inspired by nature. On closer inspection, we are faced with a flood of different views of nature, that open in all possible shortenings and nuances. A rim of a meadow, a part of the cloud, a flower bed, the surface on a pond, a fragment of a flowering tree, a piece of the sky, a light-flooded forest … these are just a few of the impressions that spontaneously come to mind. As we continue to watch, the number of interpretations grow, just like they change and multiply again and again. It is not even possible to determine how far away nor on which side of a phenomenon the viewer is located.

The artist almost floods us with images, she half-jokingly refers to as snapshots, those fast-made photos, that have become an important part of the life of everyone today. The photos we use to “document” our everyday life on smartphones and tablets. We exchange them with friends, meet them on social networks and stash them in clouds. These pictures contain our impressions of life. Here, Pia Andersen shares hers with us.

Because her work process is right from the start exactly a part of this retention of any, even the smallest detail, which ever has thrilled or in some way impressed her. This is her “storeroom” of artistic inspiration; to a stranger it may seem chaotic or opaque, but it is essential in order to gain something artistically new from a lot of impressions. As a little girl, she learned to organize and understand her impressions by drawing in her sketchbook. Later she reached for the camera, which still accompanies her on her travels as well as in her everyday life.

The rows of small pictures we now face, therefore, as a whole are to be taken as an allusion to the process of artistic creation, which Pia Andersen calls her own. And no single image listed here should be perceived as a true-to-life representation of a specific condition. She still is no landscape painter.

Nature is not a model for her, but a cornucopia of inspiration. Qua art she seeks to capture the essential of, what she has seen and turn it into reality in her work. The pasty, layered application of paint sometimes makes her works look like colorfully woven carpets; sometimes the texture and shimmering shine suggest a light-soaked treetop, sometimes a sunlit flower meadow. Nevertheless, we do not find neither specific country nor nature motives. Reproducing the landscapes of Denmark or Spain, Morocco or Iceland could never become her goal. She rather weaves an almost universal, general landscape, braided from many impressions; in which no regional nor seasonal natural characteristics take over, instead they coexist without conflict.

The artist has become a virtuoso.  She creates abstract landscape images from her personal memories, by her reduction of forms and her creative use of colors, where light and color circumstances from all possible countries and corners meet in a friendly manner and coexist in almost perfect harmony.

Overall, the series “Snapshots” contains much more than an indication of the artist’s working methods. The value of the individual small painting is not finished by its respective inherent value; because furthermore each of them was conceived as part of a larger work; a wall installation, where they determine contents and rhythm in different variations. The earlier example about mosaics again seems obvious. On the other hand, there is another possibility of comparison: the tile pictures you repeatedly encounter in Spain or Portugal, Morocco or South America. Her travels in these countries and her own experience with the production of glass and ceramics, inevitably, raises the suspicion, that these pieces of art could be a source of inspiration, as well. Anyhow, here she introduces one further new dimension – as an interpreter of nature.

When we observe the small and larger paintings closer on this exhibition, we inevitably notice another transformation of her works right in front of our eyes. We already mentioned the geometric structures, that formed the backbone of her image structure. And that the later compositions, however, more were to be perceived as homogeneous color bodies, than as clearly arranged color structures. Yet, it becomes increasingly clear to us, that at some point in the course of the last few years, new components have crept into her images. At first, they more likely make you think of graffiti or simple street art doodles. You get associations to scratched letters or symbols, like those carved into tree trunks by children, which again establishes an intuitive connection to the images from another extensive and well-known series “Trunks”, that Pia Andersen developed over a period of years. These first signs are somehow light, playful, arabesque; comparable to tracks of bird’s feet.

This mischievous lightness is expressed differently in the following works, sometimes subdued or even completely withdrawn. New elements are being added; the usually darker and heavier or sharper cross-shaped signs stand clearly out from the homogeneous color hue of landscape views. They seem to come from the outside without an original organic connection with the colored surface. And yet, the structure and the color of the images shine through, as if they emphatically were stamped on the finished works at some point. The geometric structures, that most often dominated the image structure in the early works of the artist, are back in a modified, hardly recognizable form. Taken out of the interior of the compositions, they now seem to be laid out on top from the outside. Or rather from above? Because many larger works immediately make you think of maps, cut out or spread out in front of you. Or views in bird’s-eye view. A great distance is suggested in these works, that prevents you from thinking of a specific or limited area. The mere thought of any restriction is questioned here. Some of the large paintings seem like world maps, but of course outside our usual geographical notions. Like the artist’s landscape paintings, these “maps” do not allow any certainty either. They rather give us insights into her own world, spread out before us in several variations. Her own worldview takes shape before our eyes. These crosses, with far reaching symbolism, are placed on top like white or black shadows, that either do not reflect, or do not need to reflect the light, that surround or flow through them. Thus, retrospectively – they become a firm component of the compositions, inseparably intertwined.

The titles that Pia Andersen gives her new works are also revealing. In a way, they often differ from her usual, very specific and scarce references to geographical locations, seasons of the year or hours of the day. Nevertheless, these new, motto-like titles are clearly time and place designations, but in a completely different, not less concrete, but rather personal form.

HERE I AM! The artist addresses her audience directly, us. THERE! HERE! With these calls, she reveals her presence, even her whereabouts. Verbally, she now leads us directly to her images, where we this time meet the places, she claims as hers or merely specifies as her coordinates. The mystery of the crosses begins to dissolve.  Partly, at least. In our eyes they transform into the artist’s signatures, into symbols of her presence and a communication, carefully built up, with us.

Other sentences follow, that now seem less specific, more silent and thoughtful: WHERE DO YOU COME FROM? WHERE ARE YOU GOING? The eternal philosophical questions, that never lose relevance. She invites us to think about these together.

The journey therefore has not yet ended.

 

To sense nature

The oeuvre of Pia Andersen marks the longing of the contemporary artists for a profound confrontation with nature, which they largely see as a metaphor for art. They consider the processes of nature and the creative processes in art, if not identical, then at least similar and comparable. They look for parallels and discover – as landscape painters – their ability to connect the spiritual and emotional messages. In this new discovery of the landscape, the former distance to nature disappears; now it is to be explored and studied. They are not alienated to nature, nor do they try to take on its role. They seek the balance between attentive and sober observations of their surroundings and the emotions it evokes in them. This desire, to unite thinking with feeling as well as harmoniously to unite matter with spirit, has led to countless artistic experiments and views, that we find in contemporary art today; especially within the genre of landscape painting; of which Pia Andersen is a worthy representative.

 

Dr. Elena Sadykova, Berlin, June 2020

 

 

[1] Jackson Pollock, “My Painting” 1947, in Jackson Pollock: Interviews, Articles, and Reviews, Pepe Karmel, New York MOMA, 1998, S. 18

[2] vgl. Pia Andersen in: Pedro Luis Himénez Arnoiz: El Aroma de la luz: Around the artist Pia Andersen:  https://youtu.be/ecMA-xdrZgI

[3]see Peter Doig in: Landscape Painting Now: From Pop Abstraction to New Romanticism,  ed. Todd Bradway, p. 143

[4] vgl. Wittgenstein, Ludwig, „Zettel“, hrsg. Ascombe und von Wright, Oxford 1967, vgl. Edward Casey, Ortsbestimmungen, Wilhelm Fink Verlag, München, 2006, S. 39

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