His inaugural installation at the gallery is part of KEWENIG’s new exhibition format ‘12 Rooms’, a monthly rotating artist programme in the enclosed room between the gallery and the adjacent building. Each month a new installation by a selected young artist will be on display.
The works by Norwegian artist Fredrik Værslev are defined by a revisionist handling of materials and painterly traditions. Værslev rejects established conditions and conventions of painting, while at the same time he contributes to that same tradition by testing the boundaries of abstraction.
The diptych is part of Værslev’s ‘Canopy paintings’ series, initiated in 2011 and consisting of either monochromatic or striped compositions on large vertical panels, where external factors such as time, space, and the weather play a crucial role. Exposed to a range of weather conditions the canvases are tattered; stains and spots become painterly gestures. Combining classical modernism and Arte Povera, Værslev’s ‘Canopy paintings’ show an affinity to post-war abstract painting – to Robert Motherwell’s colourfields, Ad Reinhardt’s monochromes, or Daniel Buren’s stripes – while simultaneously recalling the poor economy of production and nature’s intervention characteristic of Arte Povera.
The series’ title reveals Værslev’s source of inspiration: the decor of his childhood home, more precisely, his mother’s canopy bed, an imagery as reflected in Værslev’s coloured stripe paintings recalling wallpaper patterns of past centuries. The canopy, in a broader sense, makes reference to the artist’s interest in the material language of urban environments: the canvas represents the contact surface between nature and urban architecture.
At a first glance ‘Untitled (Canopy Painting)’ looks like a traditional abstract painting – an orange colour block contrasting against a lower field of white. A closer look, however, reveals that the artist’s intervention has been reduced to the minimum: instead of painting with brushes and pigments, Værslev renders his cotton canvas in a process of disintegration. The work’s surface appears like a kind of ‘objets trouvés’, two pieces of found fabric, which the artist left exposed to natural decay, before cutting, sewing and stretching them onto large frames.
The discourse of Fredrik Værslev’s paintings is often associated with Abstract painting and the wider heritage of conceptual art and institutional critique. Beyond this, Værslev takes abstract painting as both model and myth, in a blend of homage and irreverence. His work is a shrewd, ironic testimony of the monochrome patina, now permeated by imperfections and organic intrusions.