Posts in the English category

The Grand Cabinet

A conversation between Trine Boesen and curator Anna Krogh (Brandts) with an introduction by Anna Krogh, 2014.

You can’t just stand in a painting?

Yet this is where any conversation about Trine Boesen’s recent monumental work The Grand Cabinet must begin. Nothing less than a 146 m2 space consisting of painted floors and walls held in a limited colour palette: Delicate blue and black fields of colour come alive through Boesen’s dynamic line work, both angular and organic. Twisted viewpoints and sequences of interrupted contours create the impression of a funhouse on drugs.

The installation presents a very physical encounter with a painting in an expanded field, wild and unruly. One senses the influence of fellow artists like Katharina Grosse and Jessica Stockholder, where artistic force is used to collapse the limitations of painting, creating an open, virtual space. At the same time The Grand Cabinet is so focussed and tightly composed that you realise the work makes use of deliberate gesture and direction; that a path has been provided for the eye, the body and the senses.

If you know the feeling of looking up at a starry sky and really sensinginfinity, then you’ll know what it’s like to step into Boesen’s work. It is unmistakably like standing in a galaxy of stars, planets, space probes, satellites and other UFOs – literally unidentified flying objects. Perhaps this is where the obvious reference to the horror film Dr. Caligari’s Cabinet from 1920 is located, by German director Robert Wiene. The legendary film set design, created by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer, symbolizes the mental state of the emotionally unstable protagonist. Boesen’s sci-fi universe also challenges the physical experience of the work, allowing it to settle as a state of mind; not as an emotional imbalance, rather it is about letting the energy of the space act in symbiosis with the viewer’s mind.

It is not an uninteresting point, to consider, that out of the American theorist Rosalind Krauss’ famous essay Sculpture in the Expanded Field, from 1979, grew thoughts on painting in an expanded field as well. In the 1970’s not only sculpture would collapse traditional concepts of space, defy the dogma of the pedestal and affect the surrounding reality, but also the framework of painting would be challenged. In the 1990’s painters took on painting as three-dimensional space and Trine Boesen is one of Denmark’s most prominent exponents of this practice, having experimented considerably with the possibilities and implications of painting. The Grand Cabinet is no exception. Within the physical scope of the piece, the eye meets yet another depth, namely the two-dimensional space of the image. It is from this painted surface that the motion of the work takes place. It whirls.

AK: In relation to theories of painting in the expanded field it might be interesting to discuss whether an understanding of The Grand Cabinet is anchored in seeing the work as sculpture or as painting. Does it matter, which category of work we refer to?

TB: I call The Grand Cabinet a painting-installation. In this way you can talk about the work using several approaches, rather than limiting it to a clear definition. I’ve been interested in staging painting to such a degree that it shifted from what could be perceived as an actual painting but at the same time you wouldn’t be able to place it within the tradition of sculpture either. It is an amalgamation of several genres; the style, the staging, the painted surfaces, and in this way The Grand Cabinet is really just a natural extension of the hybrid universe I usually work in. I’ve been developing strategies in relation to space and surface in my paintings for a while now, exploring how to visually create the illusion of space while evoking something infinite and also representing reality as a false front. I don’t know if it would be meaningful to call The Grand Cabinet a rather large three-dimensional painting or if you could call it an installation set-painting or something else. It’s precisely one of the points of working with painting in the expanded field, that the work does something else than usual and that this something else is perhaps part of renewing the understanding of what painting is today. I approached the surfaces of The Grand Cabinet on different terms than I would have if it had been an ordinary painting because I knew it was a total universe I was building, but I engaged in the process as if it were one big giant painting.

AK: How do you compose a complex work such as The Grand Cabinet?

TB: I had laid out some dogmas for myself. I wanted to create one large whole with as few devices as possible, but also, and through this, to liberate my visual vocabulary to such an extent that it would be possible for me to ditch some of the considerations I usually act upon in the painting process. I chose the palette of black, blue and white to create a sense of calm within the turbulent mesh of lines and shapes that were to create the experience of infinite space in the work. As a result of many of my earlier explorations into abandoning linear perspective, I could freely move around on all the surfaces creating the entrances and exits needed for a sense of space in the piece. I had the idea that I, with Brian Eno in one ear and Tortoise in the other, would be able to cancel the pull of gravity merging images of distant galaxies, reminiscences from daily life, rules and regulations, manuals, machine parts, signs, vanishing points and explosions into a single whole.

AK: It is interesting that you insist on highlighting pictorial elements, which you fetch in the real world. The installation also appears to refer to an aesthetic informed by stage sets and scenography, i.e. a fictional universe. You have spoken about your interest in the film Dr. Caligari’s Cabinet? Could you elaborate?

TB: My method for working with the space and the construction of The Grand Cabinet is inspired by the film in as much as I have made use of some of its effects and devises, i.e. the use of theatrical movie sets and the warped universe. The Grand Cabinet is not a paraphrase of Robert Wiene’s work but when I saw the film it really pushed me into pursuing ideas I had been considering working on for a long time. The thoughts I had about expanding my painting by creating a set-like staging of the work were somehow framed by the film, but where the film is dense and claustrophobic, I chose to open up The Grand Cabinet releasing it out toward the universe. Dr. Caligari’s Cabinet reflects a mental condition of fear and insecurity using, among other things, elaborate set design. It reveals a state where reality is distorted. I noticed that the sets in the film allow you to become caught up in the universe, despite the obvious staging. I was also interested in creating an environment that could grab the viewer and make a non-place visible, a place that does not exist, but would be recognised by many even so.

AK: The idea of the spectator being incorporated into the piece, so to speak – partly by the simple fact that it is three-dimensional, partly by you insisting on referring to an environment that many recognise – seems to be a recurring theme in your work. It is a well-known strategy from the 1990’s to place both the production and perception of meaning into the hands of the viewer. A practice you are also an exponent for. What is it that painting can and should be able to offer to be relevant to the viewer?

TB: Well, it’s a bit tricky to come up with a recipe for that but I feel that painting is a powerful means of expression, that to a very high degree painting is able to communicate ideas and emotions. Anything is possible on a canvas. Essential thoughts can be translated and made ​​visible in a painting. There is such a large range for what painting can examine and how it looks. Sometimes it speaks directly to your soul because it strikes a sore spot or opens up to something completely new you never saw coming. Painting can be unfolded in so many ways that make it relevant. In my work I explore how to visually involve the viewer in the piece. One of the ways I do this is through my installation-like staging of painting. I invite the viewer to experience a sense of unity where the communications of various influences interweave. I have an idea that the distance between viewer and piece is broken down when the painting is no longer confined by a frame but instead enters into the space around it, and when, as a viewer, it becomes necessary for you to move around within this space.

AK: Where do you find your inspiration?

TB: I’m a bit like a sponge absorbing everything around it. I’m constantly seeing new connections between different things which don’t necessarily belong together. I photograph quite a lot of what I come across and use these images as models. A painting is often shaped from the observations and records I’ve collected. It’s often what surrounds us that I’m interested in, such as architecture. It tells us of history, of time and place, and creates the environments we operate in. At the same time I’m also fascinated by odd details like things that have lost their function or have simply been abandoned. The world of things held up against the intangible has always been an area of ​​interest to me. I’ve been looking at the Baroque quite a bit, at its philosophies of eternity, because I find the thoughts and ideas of the period inspiring. It seems to me that when these notions are brought into our time, they still appear relevant. A film like Gravity from 2013, by the Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, where the depiction of vast infinite space puts both the fear and the attractiveness of indefinable perpetuity into perspective, is similarly inspiring. The extended moment where everything quivers before it shatters into a thousand pieces, changes its shape and becomes something else. I also have many references and sources of inspiration from both art and music. But like so many other artists I particularly get a lot out of travelling and meeting other cultures. It’s as if all your senses are sharpened when you are away, and you look at everything with renewed interest. It’s all around us.

Posted on September 11th, 2015 in English, Texts
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Hybrid Worlds

Hybrid Worlds – Time and Space in Trine Boesen’s Painting

By dr.phil Anne Ring Petersen, 2014

”Psychedelic” or ”fantasy” you might think the first time you are sucked into one of Trine Boesen’s paintings, and thrown breathlessly around between wildly growing ornamentations and strong acid colours in a universe in which all the usual relations of scale have been eradicated, and wondrous close encounters occur between otherwise disparate and separate elements. Indeed, she has already been placed into this framework. This happened partly in 2011 when Holstebro Kunstmuseum organised the group exhibition ”Psych-Out. Psychedelic Contemporary Art” and brought Boesen’s painting into the company of capricious fantasy spaces of other Danish artists like e.g. Anders Brinch, Jonas Phil, Ida Kvetny and Christian Finne, and partly when Kunsthallen Brandts in 2007 arranged the group exhibition ”Girlpower & Boyhood”, in which Boesen, amongst others including Julie Nord, Kathrine Ærtebjerg, Lise Blomberg Andersen and Eske Kath were declared as representatives for ”the new figurative fantasy painting”, which deals with fantasy, figuration and gender issues (Kjems 2011: 6). Should you look closer, however, you discover – bit by bit – that all the figurative elements in Boesen’s works refer to something that actually exists, like her human figures that often take their reference point from photographs of real people. As Trine Boesen herself has explained about her working methods: ”My approach? I look at all the material that exists in the world that I am in” (Grosenick 2006: 34). In spite of this foundation of empiric observations of reality, you can hardly call Boesen a realist. Generally, her melded universe is difficult to place in well-defined style and genre categories such as ’psychedelic art’, ’fantasy painting’ and ’realism’, because there are elements of all of them in her art. As an initial description of Trine Boesen’s paintings, I will therefore label them as hybrids. I thereby distance myself from previous identifications of Boesen as a fantasy painter, as these failed to acknowledge the development of a more spatially and abstractly-orientated painting that marks her work and exhibitions from recent years.

‘Hybrid’ is a characteristic that applies to a large segment of painting from the last 20 years. If you consult a ’global’ overview of contemporary painting such as Vitamin P. New Perspectives in Painting, you can see this for yourself, as well as get a clear sense that paintings can be hybrids in many different ways (Breuvart 2002). ’Hybrid’ can refer to both the style, the work’s content, the chosen form of expression as a combination of media, and finally to the cross-cultural anchoring of the piece through appropriation of, and references to form and content elements from several different cultures. In this case, the characteristic hybrid underlines the fact that Boesen’s work might well be painted in Denmark, but in an interchange with an international scene. In which sense Boesen’s paintings can be said to be hybrids – whether this characteristic covers more than the taking in of inspiration from the outside and stylistic fusion of the psychedelic and the realistic – we will return to in the following.

Between Countryside and City
Trine Boesen grew up in Ry, was educated at The Jutland Art Academy in Aarhus from 1995-1997, and from 1997-2002 at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, where she still lives and works when she isn’t out on one of her many travels to absorb impressions and atmospheres. In other words, her path is suspended between an upbringing in one of Denmark’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty and the capital’s quick pulse and colourful cultural diversity. Seen in that light, it is not so strange that the universal opposition and connection between nature and culture have always been a key motif in Boesen’s paintings, in which for instance the big city’s stripper can meet the pine forest’s deer as seen in Temptation – Mother me (2006), and in which skyscrapers and fantastic giant flowers can grow in a race towards the sky, as in Mind read me (2008). Additionally, many of Boesen’s motifs seem to be derived from the landscape as genre and basic compositional model, but significantly, realised as hypermodern urban landscapes. It is, amongst other things, this particular crossfading of landscape and cityscape and the manmade and naturally created, which contribute to making Boesen’s paintings hybrids – in this case on the level of the motif and the symbolic.

If you want to reach a deeper understanding of Boesen’s art and the development she has undergone in recent years, it is useful to take cross-section through her production. The following will therefore first focus on her universe of motifs, then look at how she unfolds this universe into the respective dimensions of time and space in order to finally return to the work’s composite character and the tension the hybridity evokes.

Inner and Outer Realities
In Trine Boesen’s paintings from 2005-2006, the human is, in several cases, the motifs central figure. This applies for example in the trilogy with the big city tableaux Strange Days, Strange Nights and Kids in the Mist, which replays the dream of great love in three acts, with the young loving couple placed monumentally in the middle (Junge-Stevnsborg 2006: 10). It has, however, always primarily been places and things that have preoccupied the artist, together with moods and colours. People and their emotions have mostly functioned as the narrative impetus for the image narrative and the formal pivotal point around which the rest of the work’s elements are interwoven. As an almost logical consequence, the human figure has not disappeared in the later paintings, but it has at least been scaled down into discreet figures, which only just about give the spectator an anchoring in the image in the shape of a placeholder in its space. Whereas the trilogy from 2005-2006 has the lovers as the main characters in the obvious sense that the series is about them, and thereby only allows the spectator to participate in the image through empathy with the characters’ stories and states of mind, the newer images are more open to the viewer’s own projections and interpretations. They invite you to remember, associate and create meaningful connections on the foundation of your own subjective interpretation. Together with the human figure, the modernist architecture of the skyscraper, which dominated many of Boesen’s images from the mid 00’s, such as Settlers (2003) and Another Real World (2004), has also started to occupy a less prominent place.

An example is the aforementioned Mind read me. Like most of Boesen’s canvases, the painting is big: it measures a whole 215 x 190 cm. In fact, it is structured according to classical landscape painting’s formula with a foreground, a middle ground and a background. In opposition to this, Boesen, however, applies the central perspective’s mimetic representation of space only to the figurative details and not to the entire composition. In spite of the format and the huge yellow chrysanthemum that shoots up in the foreground like a wildly growing and untameable giant hogweed, the painting appears to be almost intimate due to its density of detail. The skyscraper city no longer dominates supreme as in for instance Adventures in Wonderland (2005). Instead, it appears behind the flower’slaciniateleaves, dwarfed by their relative size. In contrast to the flowers, the architecture is not coloured-in, but appears as a graphic drawing in black and white as if it had lost its material substance. This, in turn, increases the architecture’s flexibility as image, and thereby its ability to become one with the portal of signs and things that circle vortex-like in the image’s middle ground and create the frame through which you get a view out towards a cosmic void or an endless universe that simultaneously seems to generate and absorb everything.

In the portal’s web of abstract ornamental and spatial elements, you re-encounter a number of typical Boesen motifs: from the car to the nuts, which anchor the stream of things on the ground, over stylised faces of young girls, to warning signs forbidding explosives and a Swiss army knife, which with unfolded blades seems to attack the flower from the side, seconded by a laughing set of false teeth. You also re-encounter the mushrooms and the exotic flowers that grow lushly out from the cracks in the urban motifs. As if to underline the dynamic in the picture, Boesen lets a banner reminiscent of a road network wave through the empty space as an abstract sign for speed and movement, which, however, ends in a recognisable figure: a cherub gone astray, hurled from the outer universe into the dense weaving of worldly objects. While the woman above wears black sunglasses, and thereby seems to look inward towards her own self, the woman in the lowest part of the picture looks curiously outwards and upwards. It is through her active observing figure that we are projected into the image universe and become the recipients ourselves of the flood of mutually interrelated pieces of information that float towards her. Mind read me thereby visualises the connectedness, which is one of the challenges in a globalised world in which digital networks and increased traffic across the globe get people, cultures and information to cross paths on a – so far – unseen scale and at a higher speed. That the painting’s overwhelming accumulation of things and signs, movements and streams does not seem heavy and overloaded, but on the contrary has a fine and almost weightless balance in its composition, is due to Boesen’s particular method of combining painting and drawing, in which the contours of all the shapes in the painting are drawn with a pencil on a prepared white canvas, with several areas being allowed to remain uncoloured as a line drawing.

Painting and the Other Media
In a historical sense, drawing has been an important sketching tool for the artist, not in the least when one made paintings ’after nature’. The nature or reality that Trine Boesen portrays in her pictures is often a reality experienced at second hand, because it is first filtered through the images of others. As with most other artists, Boesen sources nutrition for her own art through the study of the art of others: it can be space-creating painters such as the Germans Katharina Grosse and Franz Ackermann, American feminist artists or a frenetic artist using drawing such as Raymond Pettibon, or it can be psychedelic image experiments from the 1970’s, or the sampling of different images from pop artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist (Junge-Stevnsborg 2006: 11). Although she finds inspiration in small everyday things, her pictures are not based directly on an observation of reality, as pictures of realism and naturalism are. Rather, they build on findings from her now extensive image archive with images from magazines and books, private photos etc.

Therefore, Boesen’s paintings are representatives of the form of painting that the artist and art theorist Peter Weibel has named ”pittura immedia” (Weibel 2010), but with a term from media theory you may also name them ”remediated” painting (Bolter and Grusin 1999). Weibel used the term to describe how painting was transformed in the 20th century when artists, in a larger manner, started to appropriate images and techniques from mechanical, electronic and digital media such as photography, film, TV, video and – later on – the computer and the Internet. Paintings based on such media are, according to Weibel, not only characterised by mediation, but also byimmediation.They have been filtered through the visual media’s mechanical reproduction, i.e. their ’photographic’ and ’filmic’ visuality and modes of depiction. Thereby, their relationship to the world has become partially more distant and second hand, while partially becoming more attentive to the nature of its imagery. According to Weibel, the result is a painting, which emphasises painting’s mediated, coded and contextual character. Because such works are paintings they can, however, also work themselves out on the other side of the mediation and forward to a form of sensory immediacy and presence in the midst of its mediation – that Weibel calls immediation. In short, media conscious painting transcends the visuality of the electronic and digital image forms by simply insisting on the painterly as a sensory phenomenon. It is a type of painting that wants to have it’s cake and it eat too. It is holding on to painting’s sensuality and colour, yet at the same time insisting that painting is connected to the technically reduceable forms of images that dominate the visual culture of our time. As ”pittura immedia”, Trine Boesen’s paintings are also a kind of indirect description of the epochal visuality and common visual culture they are derived from; an image culture where images are accesible in excess, and where it is almost impossible not to be sucked into its vortex on a daily basis.

The flood of motifs in Boesen’s paintings thereby sends a signal about the dominance and accessibility of images in our culture. Boesen constructs a realism of details by using a kind of collage technique in which pieces of motifs from different existing image sources are assembled into a new reality, and are even further mediated through the use of yet another technology – that being the overhead projector, Boesen’s indispensable tool. As opposed to the collage, however, painting and drawing tend to even-out the transitions between the fragments so that we hardly think about the stitching of the motifs, but to the contrary, experience a Boesen painting as a kind of totality, an image world.

The Mutual Relationship between Things
Indeed, ’Realism of details’, ’collage’ and ’pittura immedia’ are terms that can help to define the characteristics of Boesen’s artistic expression. To this one should add ’accumulations’. Kirse Junge-Stevnsborg has, very appropriately, compared Boesen’s teaming big city universes with an anthill, in which everything happens and interconnects in multifarious ways: ”One doesn’t notice it until one is in the middle of it. One starts to imagine that there is a whole little world inside it. Social norms and communities, patterns of behaviour and rules of law. A societal order that can be compared with a mental thought process in which the brain cells communicate with each other and create activity, images and meanings. A microcosm within a macrocosm.” (Junge-Stevnsborg 2006: 11) An accumulation therefore of the big world in the painting’s small world. As Lise Skytte Jacobsen has noted, the accumulation is as an artistic organisational principle, historically connected with the modern industrialised world and its forms of mass production. The accumulation is probably most widely used as a sculptural organisational principle, but as Boesen’s paintings demonstrate, it can also function as an image-making compositional principle. An accumulation is an assemblage of many different things, but the quantity is not important in itself. A factory warehouse with thousands of systematically placed goods does not constitute an accumulation but, rather, a warehouse system; while on the other hand, so does a gathering of old furniture and belongings in a loft. It is thereby the organisation of the objects, their distribution in space and their spatial as well as architectonic structure, which define an accumulation. An accumulation is thus a qualitative term that describes a structuring of the things, which does not arise out of their user function, but rather – as the collage – tear the elements out of their original contexts. The accumulation and the collage de-contextualise the things in order to make them into something else. As Skytte Jacobsen concludes: ”The accumulation threatens, in other words, the objects’ independent identities and their stable meaning.” (Jacobsen 2005: 11) An accumulation creates unfamiliar encounters and interactions between things, and it accelerates a shift in meaning because ”the accumulation [is] not first and foremost depending on the density, but rather on initially unexplainable, overwhelming relations between the elements” (Jacobsen 2005: 16).

Relations are precisely what steers Boesen’s work with painting. She transfers her imagery onto transparencies so that she, through the aid of her overhead projector, can project them and, using pencil, transfer them to the canvas one at a time. By changing the distance between projector and canvas she can regulate the size of the motifs. By moving the projector, she can repeat a motif, and by placing several transparencies on the projector at the same time, she can, in the sketching phase, investigate how one element connects itself to another to create a constellation that can connect itself with new constellations over and over again, so that the object elements create ambiguous and branching, but never-the-less, consciously directed chains of association. Even though Boesen usually has an overall idea as to how the painting should be, the accumulation of motifs evolves in a working process that is at once controlled, and yet open to surprising occurrences, incidentally appearing couplings and impulsive thoughts.

One thing is the motif elements, another is the themes that the elements build up and that form leading threads through Boesen’s production. The clearest and possibly most important of these is the relationship between nature and culture, but other factors are pushing in. There is not a great distance between accumulation and a lined-up display, or still life as it is called in art terminology. In a still life, all the objects are loaded with symbolic meaning and point ultimately towards life’s connection with death. Therefore a lined-up display is often interpreted as a momento mori. In a traditionally still life with e.g. a lavish bouquet of flowers, one can thereby find a few withered flowers or perhaps a fly or a butterfly, which symbolically points towards life’s shortness and earthly transience. The detailed realism of the objects makes Boesen’s paintings reminiscent of a still life’s frozen stasis – while simultaneously, they are paradoxically very dynamic. As in the sixteenth century Dutch Vanitas pictures, one constantly encounters small reminders of the fragility of life – from the threatening switchblade, to warning signs forbidding explosives, the grinning of false teeth, and the copulating skeletons above the flies, the butterflies and the stuffed deer trophies, to the empty dark universe that breaks through the cracks in the thin membrane of civilisation.

If Boesen’s universes are suspended between life and death, nature and culture, microcosmos and macrocosmos, they are at the same time also suspended between chaos and order. And this applies to the formal compositional level as well as the content. Take for example Ghost I (2010) and Ghost II (2010) in which huge stacks of firewood tower along a road as far as the eye can see, and give the image-space a walled stability. However, the stability seems, at the same time, to be overshadowed by the frenetic cluster of known and unknown artefacts that drift above them like a runaway storm cloud. Compositionally, the stacks of firewood in Ghost I and Ghost II function like the modern architecture from slightly earlier big city visions such as Cucumber Eyes (2004), Concrete River (2005) and The Mind’s Eye (2005). They form a temporary bulwark of order against the explosive chaos, which streams towards the viewer like a tidal wave approaching from afar.

It is therefore no coincidence that Boesen has given the double painting from 2005 the title Butterfly Effect 1 and Butterfly Effect 2. In chaos theory, the butterfly effect refers to the observation that small changes in one place, in a non-linear system and through chain-reactions, can cause major changes at a later stage and in another place. The term can be traced back to the middle of the 20th century when meteorologists mapped apparently random or chaotic weather phenomena that, when analysed over time, created a graphic double spiral pattern, reminiscent of butterfly wings. Since then the term has often been used as a metaphor for how an apparently chaotic process can be controlled by a form of self-organisation, and how small occurrences can lead to major consequences, even though we humans cannot directly determine the logic that connects them. To Trine Boesen, the butterfly effect seems to almost have become an image of how her art comes about. Like a butterfly’s wing beating in the chaos theory’s theoretical example can create small changes in the atmosphere, which can influence the direction and character of a tornado weeks later somewhere else, so can any element that Boesen adds to her images affect the whole, and cause unpredictable semantic changes. As viewers, we have no insight into the underlying system – the causes for the choices Boesen makes. We are just witnesses to the accumulating tornado that most of her paintings really are.

Space and Architecture
The tornado effect, however, does not overshadow the fact that Trine Boesen’s compositions are at the same time tightly controlled. They are ruled by an overview like the architect’s and the city planner’s. Like them, Trine Boesen first of all creates space. And she belongs to the innovators exploring space within painting – both inwards and outwards. Inwards, she renews painting (equally with painters like the Ethiopian-born, New York-based Julie Mehretu, the German painter Torben Giehler and, on Danish soil, Eske Kath) with great strength and daring by twisting the spatial construction of the central perspective in new ways, manipulating the natural scale of things and suspending gravity so that the space of the image is set strongly into motion and things threaten to slip out of place. Boesen uses overwhelming jumps in scale to connect the things together in new ways. The things look real, but the proportions are out of tune with reality. Instead, their scale is dictated by the meaning and function they have in the image’s narrative (Rosenvinge 2010). With the distortion of the relationships of scale in a recognisable motif, the artist opens the possibility for the eye to be tricked into seeing a figure in an abstract form, or vice versa, to seeing an abstract form in something that is actually a figure. In a split second everything can transform itself, and everything can connect itself with something else. Spatial connectivity and temporary simultaneity thereby seem to be two sides of the same coin for Boesen, who interweaves inner and outer realities so tightly that they can no longer be separated.

In terms of motif, Boesen has often organised the space using modern architecture as large forms, which hold the image’s myriad of details in place. Although she likes to let the architecture stand unpainted and flat like a theatrical set piece, she nonetheless gives the viewer a strong experience of spatiality by using a three-fold artistic method: first of all, a steep or suction-like perspective. Boesen knowingly exploits the possibilities to direct the viewer into unfamiliar viewpoints with the assistance of frog’s or bird’s-eye perspectives in combination with twisted angles and multiple vanishing points in the same painting. Secondly, she works with the repetition of abstract elements distributed on the surface to create spatial depth; and thirdly, she uses overlapping planes to create a sense of space behind space, which evokes a feeling that the big city’s noisy and familiar world of fellow human beings, high-rises, everyday events and personal things bursts, revealing an unknown and unfathomable space behind.

Painting and Installation
Trine Boesen does, however, also work with the physical space around the paintings. Since 2002 she has drawn on the exhibition walls, and on several occasions since 2007 she has opened up the picture space to the viewer by utilising the strategies of installation art. Beginning with the solo exhibition ”Strange Days” at Vane Contemporary Art in Newcastle in 2007, Boesen has gathered her paintings together in an installatory hang by extending their motifs out into the surroundings through the use of illusionary mural paintings. For example, in ”Strange Days” the whirling loose pieces of boards in The Wish (2007) continued their explosion outside the painting’s format, while the pine forest in Temptation – Mother Me grew out into the surroundings.

Boesen’s Frisk pust fra kosmos (A Fresh Wind from the Cosmos) was in fact an actual wall painting executed in and for one of Kunsthal Charlottenborg’s exhibition spaces in connection with the exhibition of wall paintings Til vægs (Against the Wall) in 2009. By letting the painting spread out from a corner, Boesen connected her image with the room in a way that created space. The painting struck, in an illusionistic way, a hole in the wall and opened up a view to the cosmos, from where a ”fresh wind” flowed in, in the form of round red balls, accompanied by signs, nuts, stars and other surprising objects. They seem to hurtle at high speed from outer space in through the crack, in order to spread out in the hall. The motif was, on the one hand, a painting in the tradition of the baroque monumental illusionary wall and ceiling decoration, which in a similar way opened up the architecture to let another often divine or mythological world into the concrete architecture. On the other hand, and to a great extent, it was also a modern abstract composition whose bearing elements, the cosmos’ black monochrome and the repetitive ball-shape that constituted the picture’s minimalist and formal primary motif.

You also got a cosmic sense from the 75 m2 large wall painting that Trine Boesen created in 2013 for the octagonal hall in Den Frie, Centre of Contemporary Art as her contribution to the group exhibition ”Stedet er Rummet” (The Place is the Space) about the dealing in contemporary art with science fiction and ’space’ understood as both a galactic space and architectural space, including the exhibition space itself. Under the title Et andet sted (Another Place) Boesen installed paintings as ’roofs’ on the diagonal surface of the two freestanding podiums. They seem to intercept identifiable and unidentified flying objects from the poetic light blue panorama that Boesen has spread out onto the walls behind them, as the sky over the rooftops of the city. Et andet sted takes its motif’s form from the painting series UFO presented earlier the same year at Boesen’s solo exhibition at Gallery MøllerWitt in Aarhus. In this series, which features the outlook post as an architectural centre point and ’observation’ as lead motif, you also see clouds of signs, pictograms, words, objects, numbers and abstract elements as line fragments, circles and arrows spread out over the paintings’ weightless universes.

The installation Et andet sted did not only give a ”freshwind”, but rather transported the hall and the viewer into another form of spatiality or another dimension of consciousness. The ”other place” that the installation suggested, broughtwell-known manmade objects in close contact with the bluish infinity of the space and unidentifiable objects. The installation thereby created an unknown form of polarity between near and far, known and unknown, material and immaterial. Et andet sted thereby also suspended the viewer between ’here and there’: between the body’s heavy presence in the physical space and a weightless journey out to imaginary galaxies.

But what does the arrangement of an exhibition (or a contribution to an exhibition) as a coherent installation actually bring to Boesen’s otherwise two-dimensional canvases? What does she achieve by letting psychedelic patterns intertwine themselves as a pressure wave out onto the walls, as she did in her exhibition ”Hej Society” in Aarhus Kunstbygning (2005), or by ’connecting’ the paintings Miss Blacky White and the Anthills (2006) and Miss bLW (2006) to the surroundings with black tendrilson the wall of the now defunct Gallery Mogadishni (2006)? Not to mention her carefully orchestrated interconnection of all her canvases with the aid of a huge wall decoration at the significant solo exhibition of World Without End at Vejle Kunstmuseum in 2009. As at Kunsthal Charlottenborg the same year, Boesen had made illusionistic holes in the walls, so that something unknown could penetrate in from a distance. But in Vejle the pace and the impact was different because here coloured balls in delicate hues drifted slowly and gracefully as soap bubbles from the holes in order to spread themselves out over all the walls of the exhibition as a silent and wonderful poetry.

What Boesen achieves is first and foremost an expansion of her universe beyond the frame, and an enhancement of the mutual relationships between the individual paintings in the exhibition. Secondly, she displaces painting in a genre-like sense: the pieces are no longer ’easel paintings’ in a traditional sense, but unlike e.g. Franz Ackermann’s and Katharina Grosse’s painting installations, they do not completely overtake the gallery space. Boesen’s exhibitions position themselves consciously askew in relation to both categories. The pieces are neither easel paintings nor installations, but then again they are in turn a bit of both. Finally, the staging releases a kind of double invitation to the viewer. One is partly encouraged to experience and read the collected presentation as a whole in which the paintings refer to each other across the space, partly invited to immerse oneself in each painting’s own anthill. In this way the viewer is invited into a more complex experience than what painting often offers.

This was particularly evident at Boesen’s exhibition ”Everything is Blinking”at the Copenhagen gallery Beaver Projects in 2012, where she, as something new, had tried her hand at a circular picture format, here shown in a total staging with night-black walls sprinkled with clusters of stars drawn with Posca pen. As a whole the installation signalled ’cosmos’, but at the same time the round canvases, like some remote, isolated spheres put under magnifying glass, encouraged the viewer to examine each of their unique magical weightless worlds. In contrast to the actual installation art, Boesen’s stagings of painting do not rob the spectator of his or her overview. Even though the total exhibition space cannot of course be overviewed in its entirety in a glance, you are still able to get an overview of the single canvas. Rather, the installation in Beaver Projects made the viewer spatially disorientated. That probably had more to do with the dizzying perspectives in the round, almost floating paintings themselves than the fact that the exhibition was staged as an installation in which the round images were glimmering from unfamiliar high and low positions within the space’s starry sky.

In 2014 Boesen continued to work with site-specific all-encompassing stagings and round canvases in the solo exhibition ”Measuring Space” at the Copenhagen gallery Kant. Here she had divided the exhibition space in two: a green space for the series Wanderlust and a white space for the round canvasses from the series Grey Scale. The contrast between colour-scale and grey-tone, the green space’s relative darkness and, caused by the contrast, the almost glowing white space created a contrast-rich sensory experience in which the interactions between spatial connectedness and temporal simultaneity, which Boesen works with in her paintings, seemed to extend themselves out to the surrounding space. Compared with earlier works, Grey Scale and Wanderlust introduce a simplification and reduction of the figurative elements, possibly most evident in Grey Scale.

The series indeed contains ’documentary’ elements from cityscapes of Copenhagen, Berlin and Marrakesh, but they are interpreted so abstractly that the paintings become what the anthropologist Marc Augé has described as non-places, meaning anonymous places one can find everywhere in the globalised and urbanised world of today, places devoid of local character and cultural anchoring in ’the place’. In turn, Boesen has endowed them with a spacy weightlessness that makes them into places from another world. The architectonic and abstract geometric thereby move in the foreground in the exhibition ”Measuring Space” – also in a literal sense as Boesen in the gallery’s front space executed the wall painting Start with the End across the corner of the space. The painting’s geometrical outlines with white on a black background hark back to Sol Lewitt’s monumental wall drawings, but with the addition of Boesen’s unmistakeable dynamic activation of the pictorial space and play with spatial depth and infinite endlessness. At the same time, Start with the End pointed forward to Boesen’s solo exhibition ”New Resort” at Trapholt in the Autumn of 2014. In particular to the up until now culmination of her work with painting’s spatial dimensions in the total installation The Grand Cabinet. Here the piece’s 4.1 meter high architecture formed an asymmetric star-shaped painting-as-theatrical-set-piece, which completely enclosed the visitor, who as a voyager moved into its core to explore its inner landscape.

At the exhibitions where Boesen has extended the image’s universe beyond the canvas with either figurative or ornamental areas of paint, something else happens. Here the barrier between the piece and the spectator’s space is penetrated, because the areas of paint around the canvasses create doubt about where the borders are drawn, and whether the borders are still there. We are so used to consider paintings as a form of art in which the borders are defined by the frame, that we seldom think about the fact that strong images can contain an auroral dynamic, meaning a radiance that causes the charging and conquering of the space around them to such an extent that nothing else can hang in their proximity. Boesen’s wall paintings can be perceived as visualisations and image-making of this so to speak invisible, yet perceptible radiance. This perhaps becomes most visible in her installation of Space Odyssey I (2011) at Holstebro Kunstmuseum’s exhibition ”Psych-Out. Psykedelisk samtidskunst” (Psych-Out: Psychedelic Contemporary Art) (2011). Here the image’s own pink foundation was extended ’aurorally’ out into the surroundings due to a stronger pink colour on the wall around the image, which created a colourful radiance that enhanced the awareness of the pressure waves emanating out from its explosive motif.

Time and Speed
One of the characteristics of installation art is that it extends the experience of the artwork over time (Petersen 2009: 41-42). Trine Boesen consciously exploits this characteristic when she stages her paintings as installations. Add to this that her detailed realism and her surprising combining of motif elements also contribute toward getting the viewer to dwell with curiosity and investigate the piece. Although at first her dynamic compositions send signals about high-speed life in the fast lane, as seen for example in The Bridge (2010), the level of detailing supports slow contemplation. In addition, each piece is, in reality, the product of a slow and time-consuming work process. It would therefore not be wrong to say that, in terms of time, the contemplating viewer’s reading-time mimics the artist’s production time, and that the slowness of both stands in a relationship of tension to the experience of speed and acceleration that the images communicate. Boesen’s images thereby function as a kind of intersection of different temporalities: the slow and the fast, the static and the moving. It is perhaps the key, too, that they so efficiently communicate a sense of chaos and ”all things simultaneously being present in the world” (Bonde 2007: 37). On the one hand, they relate to the overwhelming flow of information that many contemporary people are exposed to; on the other hand, they establish small oases of beauty and contemplation.

I started out by calling Trine Boesen’s paintings hybrids, and as we have seen they are hybrids in more than one sense. As the introduction already stated, they unite different stylistic features. Amongst other things, she draws on psychedelic art, fantasy painting and photo-based realism, but also on architectural drawing, illusionistic monumental painting and ”pittura immedia” (Peter Weibel). In technical terms, the paintings are built on the interaction between different media and technologies: photography, the internet, the overhead projector, drawing, painting, collage and installation. Add to this that her pictorial worlds intersect different times and insert different spaces into each other. In terms of her motifs, she has a unique ability to get everything otherwise incompatible and fundamentally different to reconcile on the painting’s surface, so that the image at once seems convincingly coherent and clearly constructed. Therefore it can also be said that Boesen’s paintings are controlled hybrids. Although the diversity of each image can at times seem overwhelming, it is not just everything that is allowed to be in a painting. The overall concept of the painting controls the selection of the elements, and considerations of content and form are carefully balanced. Therefore the repeated space-creators and a colour scheme narrowed down in a single image to a limited palette, to ensure a unifying coloristic effect.

Cultural hybrids always contain tensions, and Boesen’s hybrid worlds have this more than average. Purely in terms of the experiential, they can create a tension in the viewer between ’here’ and ’there’ – that between the viewer’s actual space and bodily presence ’here and now’ and the image’s illusionistic space, which generates another time and another place, or another dimension of consciousness: the dream or vision. Regardless of what theme Boesen brings up, she seems to be inclined to build on the relationships of tension, for example, between big and small, distant and near, acceleration and slowness. She also builds up the image around interacting opposites, as for example, the recurrent dualisms between nature and culture, and between chaos and order. For Boesen, such polarities and tensions are a contemporary condition that the painting in itself cannot change, but possibly helps us to reflect on and understand:

“I think that we live in a time, where nearly everything is possible, the reality far surpasses what one could possibly imagine, the flow of information and mass communication is heavier than ever and we are very ’global’. Our time is very dynamic, very planned, very ambitious, very chaotic and to a great extent filled with contrasts. The polarity is pronounced in both respect to the positive and the negative. I’m not trying to change ’our time’ in my paintings; I try to capture it.” (Boesen quoted in Grosenick 2006: 35)

Bolter, Jay David and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999.
Bonde, Lisbeth. “Blomster & bomber”. In Girlpower & Boyhood. Ed. Lene Burkard. Odense: Kunsthallen Brandts, 2007: 24-89.
Breuvart, Valérie, ed. Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting. London, New York: Phaidon Press, 2002.
Grosenick, Uta. “Where Do You Come From?”. In Trine Boesen. Paintings. Ed. Trine Boesen. Copenhagen, 2006.
Jacobsen, Lise Skytte. Ophobninger. Moderne skulpturelle fænomener. Copenhagen: forlaget politisk revy, 2005.
Junge-Stevnsborg, Kirse. “Trine Boesen and the Butterfly Effect.” In Trine Boesen. Paintings. Ed. Trine Bosen. Copenhagen, 2006: 6-11.
Kjems, Folke. “Psykedelisk samtidskunst.” In Psych-Out. Psykedelisk samtidskunst. Ed. Jakob Vengberg Sevel. Holstebro: Holstebro Kunstmuseum, 2011: 3-4.
Petersen, Anne Ring. Installationskunsten mellem billede og scene. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanums Forlag, 2009.
Rosenvinge, Line. “Når det bobler og brister.” Copenhagen, 2010 from Accessed12 September 2014.
Weibel, Peter. “Pittura/Immedia: Painting in the Nineties between Mediated Visuality and Visuality in Context.” In Contemporay Painting in Context. Ed. Anne Ring Petersen et al. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2013: 43-64.

Posted on September 11th, 2015 in English, Texts
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Chaos under control

By Lisbeth Bonde, 2011.

Published for the exhibition House of Odd

Trine Boesen (b. 1972) overwhelms the viewer with her explosive and chaotic figures and shapes that twist in all directions. In her ahierarchical pictorial universe, all times and places meet: Pop and Classical, The West and The East, past and present, organic and geometric structures and forms swirl around in a wild and vital current. Only the imagination sets limits as to what can happen in the paintings if one masters technique as well as Boesen does. There is however, a controlled chaos which is drawn neatly with Posca pens, as well as Boesen’s hand, controlling the brush without trembling as she sets acrylic colors on the virgin white canvas which she handles like a piece of paper. Her works are a hybrid between painting, collage and drawing – working in unorthodox ways with the old medium of painting, twisting it in new directions.

Boesen situates herself far from the abstract-expressive ”hands-on” agenda, in which the artist poured his soul and put down his emotions and feelings spontaneously onto the canvas with wild brushwork, impasto and aggressive layers of oil paint, if the paint hadn’t been dripped onto the surface of the painting while dancing. She belongs to the generation which came after the major ideologies and -isms and plays with the outward appearance of things, carefully thinking out a plan before laying down her first stroke. She projects her main motif – usually a knife-sharp architectural vision, onto the canvas using an overhead projector and uses it as a kind of matrix or fundamental structure. Thus, in her work, the architectural elements hold together a world that is out of joint. As Carsten Thau writes in his new book ‘Arkitekturen som tidsmaskine’ (Copenhagen 2010), architecture is the oldest tangible mass medium that not only is “the most resistant media to decay over time, but it also offers the most immediate experience of day and night, and light moving through the man-made”. Once Boesen has painted architecture as a resistant grid, she can then add her fertile and often humorous chaos that resembles the flow of information we encounter on the Web and in electronic mass media. Her new works for Galerie MøllerWitt testify that the narrative plays an increasingly minor role in favor of painting’s formal possibilities, just as her palette has been slightly more muted, to amongst other things, give shape and structure a more prominent place.

But the lush, vital and cheerful information “boom” which is  Boesen’s distinctive hallmark is fortunately still there. The pictures are filled with stuff, signs and strange events which are exciting to explore, because herein lies a quantity of hidden or more-or-less direct messages that entice the viewer. All these things seem to have been catapulted out of a black hole in the universe, or rather is it perhaps that they are about to be engulfed by it? It is impossible to determine whether the world is about to disappear, or on the contrary, whether it actually is in the making. But regardless of this, there is a characteristic other universe – a hole through to something non-definable, something unknown. The mysterious, empty parallel universe forms a contrast to the familiar which we meet on the image’s surface. The known world appears in general as a thin and far from sustainable construction that we only have on borrowed time, but before this world disappears like bubbles in a stream, Boesen initiates a wild party. And that is something that for nothing in the world, would one want to miss.

Posted on March 13th, 2011 in English, Texts
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When it bubbles and bursts

By Line Rosenvinge, 2010.

It bubbles and bursts in the paintings and on the walls beside them. That is Trine Boesen’s style – terribly messy. One feels like holding a magnet over one of her paintings in order to see if the image can be pulled together. It doesn’t happen, it doesn’t want to! It wants to be terribly, wonderfully messy.

Like when a woman empties her handbag out on the floor or a forgotten drawer gets turned upside down – out falls the world, or at least a world of small things and assorted man-made stuff. All this mess is not annoying because it is overwhelming in a positive sense.

You find things you know, and things you think you know, and things you would like to get to know. Together they form an image which you can’t complete – like a rebus which plays with your mind.

So even though the artist samples contemporary and global urban culture and stories from her own life, it does not end up in chaos. This being largely due to the colours she uses. The colours in Trine Boesen’s paintings are within the same family and work to bind the images together because a white mixing colour and a discrete neon-coloured porno-palette runs throughout her work.

Trine Boesen has a defined style in which one looks down towards the horizon or looks up to a vanishing point. The proportions used are out of tune with reality. It is a seductive chaos! The size of the objects depicted is secondary to the content of the painting…a streetlight could be the same size as a lipstick, while no-one reveals what all sorts of wrappings were meant to contain.

The motif runs together. Not because it would let itself be read as a baroque still-life in a tradition-heavy way, but because it – in a modern way – would let itself be read as an image of the moment.

When these peculiar paintings hang together in an empty white space, they evoke a feeling of a world of black holes filled with things one has forgotten. The artist knows. She comes up with the painting of cracks and bubbles on the wall in between the paintings, so that the captivating sense of space further asserts itsel

The paintings impose themselves on us. The painted parts of the walls draw connecting lines and capture the spectator. The main character is your body in the space, between the paintings. The images refuse you the privileged position of the spectator, they prod you, so that you flounder around in the net in that space that appears, as a result of the way in which the artist has drawn on the walls and staged the paintings.

The staging is therefore bodily and not narrative. There is no sequence, no Archimedean point, no beginning. There is, on the other hand, a demand for a significant presence.

The spectator is simply captivated into letting herself be blown around by it – as with the individual motifs, which whirl around the canvases. It can therefore be a slippery slope to give oneself in to the paintings, especially when they are staged in a space with the painting on the walls.

When Trine Boesen paints , she doesn’t create ”just pictures”. Trine Boesen creates space, draws on the walls and stages her paintings. When that happens she creates both spaces and cracks between these spaces, as a reminder that everything can crack, so that the light can come in, or out.

The paintings are in themselves filled with cracks. They breathe in spite of the layered denseness of the motif. The paintings in the space creates holes between themselves, but they do also have lots of holes within. The artists dares to show the bare white canvas between the dense painted areas. In short, the paintings can breathe, in spite of what is at times an extreme and layered denseness of motif.

We are reminded that we take everything for granted. Before reflection, comes the sense of connectedness. Art helps us on the way to this. The art can describe and show the world as it looks. The art does not have to explain nor to analyze –it suffices to offer us the so desired connectedness. As people we are inextricably linked to reality and we find ourselves in a confrontation with reality. Staged paintings like the ones by Trine Boesen assist in this confrontation and make us more open.

The paintings can sometimes seem ”drawn”, in the same way as there can be drawing on the wall. This is due to the precision in the rendering of the objects.

The objects in the paintings can be (and are sometimes) precise, photographic depictions. There are no spontaneous splashes and spills of paint here, which are allowed to run their own course. On a symbolic level the paintings are untamable, but confident order exists on a formal level.

The artist often travels, always bringing her camera and notepad. It is not only pictures she brings with her home as inspiration – it is the whole package. The atmosphere, colours, and sounds find their way to the studio. For example, one of her paintings incorporates the atmosphere of  San Francisco and Tokyo,  the echo of a song and an alleyway from Amager.

It is the places and objects that interest the artist. The people and feelings are formally absent. In reality it is actually your personality, the paintings and their staging acts upon. They ask you to remember to create connection, and associate with the painting’s gathering of objects in spinning futuristic spaces.

That is why it is seductive to see the paintings together in a space where they are carefully placed, so that they set us off on a journey. Like in a cartoon’s first or last page, or in the split second before sleep succumbs to dreaming.

Posted on November 15th, 2010 in English, Texts

Where do you come from?

“WHERE DO YOU COME FROM?” a talk between Trine Boesen and Uta Grosenick in 2006

Published in Paintings, catelogue by Trine Boesen, 2006 

UG: When I first saw your work in 2004, I was very fascinated by your paintings that seem to pull the viewer into a tunnel of fiction and fairy tale. At the same time they reminded me – which is maybe not very polite to mention – of two other painters, who don’t have very much in common with each other and probably not with you as well:
The German Franz Ackermann and the American Lisa Ruyter. While Ackermann’s works combine the external reality of a location with the artist’s subjective feelings about different cities around the world, which he refers to as “mental maps,” Ruyter’s works stand in the tradition of Pop Art and focus on everyday scenes painted in bright unreal colours. What is your approach to your work?

TB: My approach? I look at the stuff that is in the world that I’m placed in. Then I try to transform what surrounds me onto the canvas, and like Ackermann, with subjective interpretations. I try to make images of us and of the time we live in. I focus on a reality that might not look very real, for example by mixing between different art directions.

UG: Ackermann makes sketches in form of a diary during he travels and later transforms them into huge paintings. Ruyter takes photo snapshots herself and paints her canvases after them. How do you proceed?

TB: Mostly I use the photos as sketches. It could be my own private shots of things, buildings, parties, travelling, persons that I know or images found on the internet, or from commercials, magazines, books and so on. I collect images from anything and from anywhere. The images of course have to give me some kind of meaning, symbolic, visual, graphic etc., anything that makes my inner film running. When I start a painting I usually have a main idea and from there it develops from out of all the material that I have collected. I transform the photos into drawings and then project these drawings on the canvas, where I play with them and give every single motive/object a whole new order.

UG: Can you describe the “time we live in”? How do you change this “time” in your paintings? Are they showing a more colourful life than we live in or do they transmit a more menacing environment than we experience in reality.

TB: I think we live in a time where almost everything is possible, reality is far beyond what one could ever imagine, the information flow and mass communication is heavier than ever and we are very “global”. Our time is very dynamic, very planned, very ambitious, very chaotic and very much filled with contrasts. The polarity is pronounced in both a positive and a negative way. I don’t try to change “our time” in my paintings, I try to capture it. Sometimes life seems sugar coated, but it doesn’t mean that it tastes good every time you take a bite. That might be the menacing in some of my work. My use of colours is a tool to express certain energy, feeling, state of mind or atmosphere. Together with the all figurations they seem very insisting/powerful. It is a way to bring the common sense into another light and to reflect this world. I have just turned up the volume.

UG: In a short text that you wrote in 2003, you say: “There is always more than one reality.” Do you try to bring these different realities together?

TB: Yes, I work with the idea of duplicity of life. I question how we perceive the world, we live in and how we make it make sense. I think reality has more than one level. A dream is just as real as the place I buy groceries in. We have a physical world we all agree on and then we have a mental world that’s very individual. I try to bring these things together, side by side. That is also why I use figurations that we know. It is not hard to get the viewer to believe that the outline of a car or a can is a car or can. We know the symbol/idea of “car” and “can” and understand it very fast, but when you put the car inside the empty can it’s a whole different story. Then you don’t know, if the car is very small or the can very big and what does it mean? Everything I use in my painting is culture or nature taken from physical life, things everybody more or less known and then I twist it in the connection with other objects/figurations. My universe always has a lot of different stories, objects, symbols and so on that point in more directions, but still make the whole picture come together.
I work with the idea that everything happens simultaneous. Like in the movie “Short Cuts”, where people are running in and out of each other’s life without knowing it and how one fortuitous action can start an avalanche that changes life for everybody in different ways and no one know the connection. This is one way to explain the parallelism that I try to bring into my work.
The white drawings are often very concrete, representing the “real world”? Or is it the surroundings that are more real? I think that my work is some kind of mirror for the existing society as well as psychological reflections.

UG: What do you tell the viewer of your paintings? Should he dive into his fantasy world and forget about the daily small and big problems. How does someone get the colourful beauty that you create into his boring everyday life?

TB: I see my work as a hybrid of everything around me and inside me. Thereby it is also a hybrid of everyday life or at least my reflection/impression. Of course I know this is not what everyday life looks like when you look out of the window, but if you turn your eyes towards your self you might recognize some of the stuff I express in the paintings. I think, I have come quite far, if the viewer disappears into an imaginary world for a while, by looking at my paintings. I also think it is very important to let go of your troubles and routines once in a while. Free the mind and open up for other possibilities.
“Colourful beauty” as you describe my work, I use as a way to seduce the viewer and to twist the wicked and cynical details that my work definitely also is made of. The colours and the energy might attract you, but when you take a closer look, something else sometimes appears.
UG: Skyscrapers are a motif that you use in many of your paintings, what do they symbolize for you beyond urbanism of the 20th and 21st century?
TB: Skyscrapers fascinate me because of their enormous scale and the closeness they are built in. It’s like, from a distance it looks like one big organism that shows no human signs, if you didn’t know that it was made for people by people. I think skyscrapers are like anthills. It is not until you are in the middle of it that you feel the action and the million lives inside of it. So when I use the image of those kinds of buildings in my paintings, they symbolize some kind of chaotic cosmos that’s actually very structured.

UG: The “reading” of an airplane between the skyscrapers has turned from technical progress into a claustrophobic nightmare. Do you play with such shifts?
TB: Yes, I do that a lot. Power plants that float on an explosion of beautiful stars, giant butterflies and roses in nice warm colours that make you feel safe. It always goes more than in one direction for me. Even if I’m scared and alienated by the technical revolution, I am also a part of it.
UG: Do you work up current catastrophes of humanity or socio-political problems in your images? I try to imagine what the canvases you will paint in the future will show.
TB: I don’t work with catastrophes of humanity. I see why you ask. There is a lot of blackness and cynical tension in my work, but it walks hand in hand with beauty and innocence. I’m not picturing a nice fairy-tale-world with a happy end nor judgement day. There has always been evil in humans, it’s in our nature. I guess, we try to get rid of it, but it is not that easy. That’s why it exists in my images, but not as the end of humanity. I am very interested in the problems between good and evil in a socio-cultural way. But to be honest, I don’t know how future canvases will develop.

Posted on April 26th, 2010 in English, Texts

Trine Boesen and the Butterfly Effect

By Kirse Junge-Stevnsborg in 2006.

Published in Paintings, catalogue by Trine Boesen in 2006.

The story of Chuang Tse’s dream is useful for describing the duality reflected in Trine Boesen’s double work The Butterfly Effect I and II. According to the story, Chuang Tse dreamed that he was a butterfly flying with other beautiful butterflies and living a carefree life. When he woke up, he asked himself, “Did I dream I was a butterfly or am I a butterfly dreaming I’m Chuang Tse?” In The Butterfly Effect I and II, Boesen thematizes this reflection on our understanding of reality.

The first painting is a skyline view of a city, the other a portrait of a woman and a car on the outskirts of a city. In The Butterfly Effect I, the foreground skyline is graphically rendered in black and white with empty fields. Behind a stylized figure, the city explodes in a riot of plants, patterns and symbols: a butterfly, a fly, stars, people, a radiator, hands with crossed fingers and a set of dentures, teeth clenched hard, with the contours of a skyline on both gums. In The Butterfly Effect II, the woman and car are graphically outlined on top of a large empty field next to two deck chairs and a big bird, while all around is an eruption of city, flowers, plants, roads, butterflies, helicopters, an unfolded Swiss Army knife, gift-wrap ribbons, wheels, a spider, a sign with a bomb and a hovering satellite universe.

The two paintings unfold two perspectives in one – two views of the city, two mental states. The Butterfly Effect I is a bird’s eye view of the city, while The Butterfly Effect II shows us the city from the perspective of the woman and car – from outside, from below. As in medieval perspective, the size and position of the pictorial elements are determined by their significance and symbolic value. The natural elements, animals and plants, are the same size as the houses. Nature and the floating elements can be seen as images of the activity and vitality of the city as an independent organism. By all appearances, the pictures are clearly powerful, riotous bursts of nature dichotomically shattering the controlled space of the city. On closer inspection, however, ambiguous and disturbing elements are seen to be breaking this stereotypical division of nature and culture. What is natural? Are humans and human-made things separate from nature?

The sign with the bomb, the row of anonymous human figures, the huge radiator (why is it so cold there?), the clenched dentures (are they devouring the city?), the overgrown plants and flowers (nitrate poisoning?), the Swiss Army knife (a utility for any conceivable situation), the hands with the crossed fingers (luck is needed?) and the black hole, the floating satellite universe. Taking the individual elements as symbols of social and psychological forces, the bird becomes a person waiting for the woman (but why?), the spider an individual standing apart from the butterflies and the helicopters (otherness?) and the houses, plants and butterfly appear to be fleeing from the dentures (but whereto?). Something is going on, but what remains a mystery.

Like the ethical social philosophy of Confucius, Boesen’s two paintings, like so many of her works, indicate that all actions and thoughts are significant. The Confucian social ethics prescribes a striving for Yen, social virtue/manners building harmony based on the ideal of do unto others. How do we recirculate behavioral patterns? Can social mores in one place shift because of activity somewhere else? Boesen explores the Confucian concept of causality and in the titles, The Butterfly Effect I and II, she links the paintings to chaos theory and non-linearity: a butterfly fluttering its wings in China can trigger an avalanche on the other side of the planet. The butterfly effect denotes a recurrent pattern of singular logic that was mapped in the 1950s by meteorologists studying apparently arbitrary, chaotic phenomena. By meteorological analysis, these phenomena over time started forming a graphic double-spiral pattern resembling a butterfly’s wings. Boesen, in her work, applies this meteorological logic to the Confucian social and mental logic of causality.

Boesen’s work questions our understanding of chaos. How do we aid in the production of common norms of chaos? Is chaos merely the designation for an as yet unknown form of organization? Is chaos culturally defined? In five images of our times – The Mind’s Eye, Adventure in Wonderland, Don’t Get Straighned by Reality, Concrete River and City Lights – Boesen likewise contrasts stylized, ostensibly ordered elements with a chaotic firmament of seemingly arbitrary everyday elements. Though the pictorial elements can be taxonomically organized into classes, types and species – people, animal, flowers and plants, buildings, artifacts and conventional symbols – Boesen asymmetrically jams the two picture planes (stylized and color saturated) up against each other according to a personal logic. The elements intermingle like chains of uncontrolled signs pointing to new signs. Like the philosopher Peirce’s evolutionary theory of signs stating that signs create new signs in a biological evolution and human evolution is linked to the cultural evolution developing concurrently.

Adventure in Wonderland can be seen as a mental journey as well as an anonymous sociocultural portrait of the city. A collective image of material goods, thoughts, actions, elements of nature, dreams and different forms of community. A collective unconscious. In an intensely red color dynamic, a universe forms around the city made up of water lilies and sewer pipes, darts and kisses, fleeing horses and parts of machinery, skulls and eggbeaters. The viewer is observing a whole at a distance, as figuration becomes fantasy, realism becomes hyperrealistic, futurism becomes and baroque becomes Gothic in a metamorphic process. In The Mind’s Eye, a female and a male face, looking straight out of the picture, return the viewer’s gaze. The viewer is included in the picture. Whirled into an urban jungle of drama, the viewer is directly forced to ante up his or her own associations. The unconscious is made manifest.

Boesen moreover gleans symbols from the Taoist understanding of nature and the concept of the natural, reciprocal order of all being things. Is our mental world of thoughts and fantasy natural? When is something real? Hyperreal? Surreal? Artificial? As the art historian Julie Damgaard pointed out in About Trine Boesen, 2002, Boesen plays around with the way we look at things, abruptly distorting a recognizable subject by abnormal proportions and angles, in no time morphing a semi-abstract figure into a lampshade or a phone. Don’t Get Straig’nt by Reality presents us with an image of a high rise. Behind it, as in the artist’s other works, the picture explodes with such symbols as mushrooms, butterflies, traffic lights, roads, nature, a spider, bats. The house is gestalted as organism. A portrait of someone. Are we witnessing a mental image of artificial intelligence? Or an image of experimentation with chemical substances in “robots” to achieve natural intelligence?

As in a Zen image, Boesen intermingle pairs of opposites (particles of Yin and Yang), binarily organizing the world into good vs. evil, light vs. dark, masculine vs. feminine. But she also questions that dualism by mixing up elements that traditionally are positively loaded (masculine) with negative (feminine) elements to make ambiguous statements. Concrete River and City Lights are chockfull of masculine vs. feminine power signs. In Concrete River, the street we find ourselves in as viewers looking in at the picture, is a dollhouse for the bride (an image of the perfect marriage). Absurd and funny. Threatening eggbeaters (female roles or chefs de cuisine?), helicopters (escape?), bridal bouquet of mushrooms (edible/poisonous?) and randomly cast dice. In City Lights, mass society’s consumerism comes bursting out of the city like a broken dam. Streetlights, ribbons, butterfly, lipsticks. The city itself is seen to grow on stars and grapefruits. Empty houses, empty thoughts, empty lives. Similar takes on the concept of masculine vs. feminine are found in several other Boesen paintings, notably a series of three paintings entitled Strange Days, Strange Nights and Kids in the Mist. The series can be considered as urban tableaux, presenting a three-act drama about the dream of true love where everything is not what it would appear to be.

Romantic elements are accented in a graphic line: a bride, intimate lovers. Contrasting these pictorial elements are widely different signals, including skulls (vanitas), mushrooms (potentially lethal/delirium), stag (masculine forces), cigarette lighters (fire), a mysterious man (father/criminal), putti (faith/religion), rabbits (breeding), butterflies (feminine forces), spiders (phobia?), sewer pipes (waste), a sign spelling “Fear” (warning), a sky in turmoil (stormy weather), jungle vegetation (the unknown/exotic). Each picture contains its own metaphor. As in a comic book, we get a fragment of an action, but without the option of flipping to the next panel. We merely get a sense of a string of threatening elements tying the three pictures together coordinately, metonymically. Strange Nights shows a woman holding a pillow in her hand. Did she just uncover the man’s face before leaning over to kiss him? Or strangle him? The lovers in Kids in the Mist seem undistracted by the neon sign spelling “Fear.” Fear of what? Love, the mysterious man, the brood of rabbits? The bride in Strange Days represents the schoolgirl fantasy of true love and the chance to be princess for a day. But what does the skull represent? Or the stag? Is the stag the groom, the masculine force, distracted by the butterflies? An instance of the ultimate bourgeois hunting trophy, a violent emblem of male dominance – pulp novels, flight of the stag, the traditional Danish coffee klatch?

In Oh Dear, the stag’s head hangs like a trophy on a wall of ornate, petit-bourgeois wallpaper. The main subject, the stag, is surrounded by a long line of pictorial elements drawn from Boesen’s universe of symbols. The stag is pacified and objectified. An image of social power struggle? Is the stag the loser in an indefinable game, stereotyped and locked in a role? Does the stag in this case represent femininity? The chain of associations stretches as far as imagination allows. In Oh Dear, Boesen explores the romantic idealization of feelings and fantasy – the salon painting of a stag, an idealized portrait, in which the beast functions as a psychological sign of man and the fabled creature becomes an image of ourselves. In Boesen’s version, the fabled creature is embodies by the stag – familiar, conventional, trivial and banal. In her animal-human parables, Boesen points out that there are signs of non-linearity in the animal kingdom as well. Species becoming extinct or undergoing significant changes happens according to recurrent patterns. When the fox population is low, for examples, the rabbit population grows. More rabbits mean more food for the fox, increasing the number of foxes and, in turn, diminishing the number of rabbits. Boesen is always twisting meanings and our symbolics (or, rather, letting us, the viewers, do the work). Like a showdown with romantic poetry, she tells stories she does not want to open, because she does not want them to close in on themselves.

Boesen shows us that there is never just one truth, but a multitude of levels, lenses, perspectives, visions and stories. Like Chuang Tse’s dream, Boesen’s pictures reflect on the schism in our understanding of reality: What is real/unreal? What is organized/chaotic? What is parallelism? What is image/counter image? There is always an image behind the image, like a postmodern riddle inviting the viewer to deconstruct manifold, ambiguous image layers – as Elisabeth Byre put it in Solitude Standing in the Urban Jungle, 2004. Boesen’s urban universe of imaginings, dystopias and dreams can be likened to an anthill – there is a lot going on. You may not notice it until you are standing right in the middle of it. You start envisioning a whole world inside of it. Social mores, community, behavior patterns, legal rules. A social order comparable to a mental process of the brain’s cells communicating and fostering activity, images and meanings. A microcosm within a macrocosm. Stir up the anthill and chaos ensues. Carefully rehearsed emergency measures are triggered. Just like humans adapting to change or acting under stress by biochemical adjustment.

Small things in the everyday may set off an avalanche of images and meanings – that is how Boesen describes her working process. She gets inspiration from magazines, music, popular culture, books, private photos, movies, artists like Louise Bourgeois, Raymond Pettibon and Andy Warhol, ’70s psychedelic visual experimentation and American feminism. In her artmaking method, Boesen draws on Pop Art’s sampling of signs, though always in “offbeat” aesthetic clashes of the mundane vs. the poetic, kitsch vs. beauty, mass culture vs. bourgeois emblematics. Humor and satire. Elements of neofiguration, a new sensibility and neo-Gothicism wrapped up in an expressive and ornate formal language. Trine Boesen’s works are equal parts graffiti and tile painting.

Posted on April 26th, 2010 in English, Texts

Trine Boesen is not a pop-artist

By Julie Damgaard. 2003

Trine Boesen is not a pop-artist. While she does lift existing images from their original contexts and places them in new compositions, she never does this without first manipulating these images. To simply identify her pieces with advertising, consumerism and mass communication would be to miss the point and to completely overlook the many unusual layers and subtle narratives that exist within her pieces. While it might seem that she varnishes her work with pop, the priming consists of something other, that being the gothic, and in here lays its significance and its strength.

Trine Boesen tells stories of the heart. She feeds materials from magazines, books, photos and films into her internal database which in turn provides the picture surface with its iconic motifs. Through the coordination of a variety of signs, she sketches out a parallel world of energy, tempo and fantasy which draws the spectator into a mixture of solemn awe and cheerful surrender, and in a magical way speaks of the overload of symbols and elements that forms the world- that we every day bring into order and use to systemise our individual lives.

Order and chaos exist as two concrete levels which push themselves towards each other. This integration leaves behind its imprint on both elements, and as a result, what was once a recognisable motif suddenly becomes twisted by an abnormality of scale and angle, or by a momentary semi-abstract transformation of a figure into a lampshade or a telephone.

In the art of Trine Boesen, the graphic drawing is neither more real nor fictitious, meaningful nor illogical than the coloured explosive space. One can, via the only partly coloured images, speak of a level that is both present and empty, but even with this definition one has to be careful. The whole space of the picture possesses a brilliance of presence which comes as the result of the dynamism, action and aggressiveness of the drawings. Trine Boesen has recently underlined this presence through the lines’ transcendence of the surface in combination with an artistic incorporation of the surrounding space. Pop-up figures attached to the paper, drawings done on the wall and a doormat placed in front of the picture are strategies that provide a conspicuous tactile physical presence.

With a sweeping gesture, the spectator is invited into Boesen’s filmic universe. One now exists – in the best science fiction style – as the main character in a divided space in which, as in gothic art, the central motif and its surrounding non-figurative sphere are skilfully arranged in relation to each other, and where the proportions gets distorted by the mystical euphoria of storytelling. The raw central field in the picture exists in a miraculous moment, open for the spectator’s input and interaction, and like in the reifying, concrete reality, s/he is invited to make a selection in order to mix a colourful, exotic cocktail.

translated by
Jon Lewis & Maibritt Rangstrup

Posted on April 26th, 2003 in English, Texts