Turning Power On!
Text by Kati Kivinen
In the art of Swedish artist Jacob Dahlgren, unadorned minimalism building on basic geometrical shapes meets the post-pop art of the 2000s in its playfulness and richness of colour. The traditions of modern art form a strong backdrop to Dahlgren’s art, which draws on simplification and repetition. The artist continues to boldly rely on the power of abstraction. In his works a traditional abstract painting usually has a three-dimensional form, reaching out into the surrounding space and surprising the viewer as a powerful, material metamorphosis.
Dahlgren combines shapes and materials that are traditionally considered opposites to each other. Graphic stripes and checks are paired with functional forms of everyday objects. The basic colours are complemented with candy colours, familiar to us from kitchen utensils and other everyday household objects. Together the colours form, unexpectedly, a rather serene and harmonious world of colours. At the same time, the concept of abstraction is blurred, as the ingredients chosen by the artist for his work – various articles of serial production, such as coat hangers, striped shirts, bathroom scales, clothes pegs, pencils, tape measures and dartboards – are easily recognisable and perceivable. It is the material choices that make Dahlgren’s art easily approachable on one hand, and, in a strange way, alienating on the other, as familiar objects and components are seen out of their usual contexts, as purely visual material.
Dahlgren works on the traditions of modernism in an unorthodox way by making the viewer smile through his humour and by pushing the viewer from a static role into participation. On a formal level, the playfulness inherent in Dahlgren’s works draws on a combination of balanced mathematical composition and insightful material choices. What is also important to the artist is the interactivity of the works – he wants to engage his public in creating art. The public is, for example, given an opportunity to weigh themselves by stepping on colourful scales, to wear a striped shirt in a collective performance, to walk through a thicket of multi-coloured ribbons or to throw darts at a wall covered with dozens of dartboards where the chance of succeeding is already maximised.
Dahlgren’s recent abstract paintings are presentatations of simple organic shapes, but they seem to be flowing out of their frames. Instead of paint, the artist has used as his material colourful electric wires with which he has “drawn” shapes on a monochromatic surface coated with acrylic paint. The wire, escaping from its frame towards the floor, is connected to a work light standing on the gallery floor. The light illuminates the painting in front of it. All this constitutes a sort of self-perpetuating, self-contained system. In his work, Dahlgren preserves the original function of the wire by allowing it to convey throughout its meandering course electricity to the lamp illuminating the painting.
In his new work (Title???) Dahlgren expands, by using numerous multi-coloured electric wires, his line drawing into the exhibition space where the wires run along the walls, into their surface. The electric wires twisting and turning on the walls, finding their way up and down, produce patterns that in their rhythmicity and winding quality could represent a piece of music or the magnitude of an earthquake. The electric current flows through the wires across the entire space to a television monitor on the floor showing Dahlgren’s video work. The video shows colourful reflections projected by a TV monitor onto the opposite wall. In his work, Dahlgren surrounds the audience with electricity. He shows a visual presentation of the source, the current, that makes the video image visible on the screen.