pt.2 gallery is pleased to present Viewpoint, a solo exhibition by Copenhagen-based artist Sune Christiansen. Working with oil stick, pastel, acrylic and industrial enamel paint, Christiansen creates a colorful world of vibrant figurative abstractions. The works are simple upon first glance, almost child-like in their rendering, and the artist’s signature palette of limited tonality and vibrant value infuse a youthful spirit. But a breadth of experience is evident behind these iterative compositions. The depth of the work comes from its honesty: in the artist’s deft yet unpretentious application of media; in the innocence of interfacing with the canvas; in the attempt to capture simple truths.
The work bears a strong likeness to colorist tradition and surrealist abstraction — Miro and Kandinsky come to mind. In this context, it is the unmitigated quality of the artist’s hand that differentiates him. Christiansen’s works are rendered with brevity, both in the speed of the application of pigment and in the concision of his visual language. In observing the work, you can witness the act of creation: the urgency and directionality in each stroke leads the eye through the work, while swaths of bare canvas mark the artist’s hand breezing past.
Built from a finite vocabulary of shapes, figures, and colors, Christiansen’s paintings can begin to feel like hieroglyphic language. Each component is selected from a toolbox of themes, including human figures with dotted torsos and geometry juxtaposed with organic forms. Each symbol has a mutable meaning defined in part by its arrangement in space and in part by the viewer’s experience of it. In many works, the blocking of the canvas can be seen as a structural division as figures stack themselves in physical hierarchy; or perhaps these figures are supporting each other, and the rectangles are building blocks laid in foundation. Like words in a sentence, Christiansen maps out his compositions with familiar forms, but the meaning is contextualized by the viewer’s subjective lens.
In Christiansen’s landscapes, depth is often compressed into a single plane, and bright and arresting colors define boundaries between fields. In Untitled #6, the atmosphere is layered in stripes upon the horizon — grass, glowing mountains, blue skies, sun — atop a Diebenkorn-esque landscape of spatial division superimposed with stacked figures. Christiansen’s works without the figure point to a practice of allotment or organization of objects as the canvas is methodically divided and regrouped. The placement of forms within these boxes, like the orientation of stacked or inverted figures, is reminiscent of hierarchy and religiosity, intimacy and opposition.
Each composition, at its core, is exciting, effusive, even fantastical, while still being grounded and raw. Christiansen’s paintings, so bright and light, convey the gravity of societal and interpersonal realities with a sense of playfulness. When he puts pigment to canvas, he chases the essence of the scene, and life bubbles up from the surface. —Annie Dauber