At Gether Contemporary, the new year begins with Norwegian artist Birk Bjørlo’s fourth solo exhibition O is for supper. The exhibition presents a new series of works that examine the capacity of painting and the creation of art in a free organic process. These works mark an intense, colourful, and expressive period in Birk Bjørlo’s artistic practice. Bjørlo compares his recent painting process with a recipe for cooking and points to the analogy between the act of painting and sauce, introduced by Danish painter Troels Wörsel in 1985 and American novelist Gertrude Stein’s poem PASTRY from 1914: “Cutting shade, cool spades, and little last beds, make violet, violet when.”
Bjørlo’s approach to painting nods to Informalism’s exploration of free, expressive gestures. In particular, there is a resemblance to the pioneer of Lyrical Abstraction German painter Wols’ (A.O. Wolfgang Schulze) dynamic paintings. Like Wols, Birk Bjørlo works standing over a canvas from which he pours layers of paint in an attempt to navigate between the random and the intended. One painting triggers the next, and all of them are mutations from the same point of origin. These are works that, as a typical motif, have their own free creation.
Layer upon layer, Bjørlo builds up his paintings. He scratches and burns the surface, so that previous layers are again exposed. In doing so, Bjørlo evokes a wealth of small nuances in the surface structure of the images he produces. Bjørlo allows the painting process to influence the finished result, and in this way his paintings look like the outcome of organic growth and processes. In turn, the works evoke connotations of natural formations and geology’s abstractions in a static, but eternally changing landscape.
While the material structure of the paintings varies, the majority of the works are made on plywood reliefs which are then painted with thin layers of ink and oil paint mixed with pigment. To finish the works, they are covered with a shiny seal of wax or epoxy. Due to the complexity of the underlying layers, the image below transcends the lacquer’s glossy surface from which elusive, shapeless shadow drawings emerge. The paintings can be considered to be in motion, as it is difficult to determine whether the abstract motifs are resurfacing or dissolving. Background and foreground slide in and out of each other, swelling and billowing in a continuous movement that occurs when the view encounters the work.
In the exhibition, O is for supper Birk Bjørlo returns to ‘the O-series’, which reflect the artist’s curiosity in examining how painting creates meaning conceptually, formally and technically.