IT BEGINS - Anette H. Flensburg - 2016


By Anette H. Flensburg

It begins by me joining two surfaces to form a corner. The scale is still life/doll’s house, and the material usually foam board assembled with pins. This creates the beginning of a space: it has both surfaces and perspective – and a clear relationship to several a priori conditions like time, for example, when the angle of the sun draws rapidly shifting figures of light and shadow. Gravity is, of course, also ever-present: if the surfaces are not firmly joined, the entire fragile construction collapses instantly like a house of cards. Just as the molecular structure of the walls determines whether they block the light or are transparent. These physical conditions, and I have only mentioned the most insurmountable, constitute a meaningful wall to play against – a trustworthy yet surprising interlocutor for my tentative ideas. Because what is it I am searching for when I move these walls around, in the same way as Morandi, year after year, moved the same cans, jugs and bowls around? When, again and again, I build rooms that like architectural metamorphoses contain their own transformation?

I cannot come closer to defining it than describing it as an attempt to maintain the form of intensity that can emerge in the momentarily visible. As if there is an important message about the world in precisely that transient configuration. That the end result is usually large paintings, and not the model itself or the photograph of it, also has something to do with intensity, i.e. my development of things as painting is a way of focusing that sensory intensity – as well as simultaneously challenging the conditions of possibility mentioned above. But it is also a conscious attempt to inscribe the paintings in and borrow meaning from a wider art and art historical narrative.

An example: during a recent visit to London to see a vast amount of new and old art in a short space of time, one of the places I visited was the Enlightenment Gallery at the British Museum. It is a huge, long, high-ceilinged gallery containing objects and books collected primarily during the 1800s, i.e. during the Enlightenment. From floor to ceiling there are collections of shells, feathers, glass, skulls, pots, dolls, images, Stone-Age axe heads, sculptures – everything the heart could desire as evidence of human curiosity, intellectual exploration and a sense of innovation and aesthetics. All displayed in rows apparently ordered according to aesthetics rather than standard categories – which makes it even more stimulating to look at. And as I wandered among the shelves and display cases, I (immodestly) started to think that if my painting were to hang here visitors would – in principle – understand what they encompass. Without any further explanation.



Af Anette H. Flensburg

Det begynder med at jeg sætter to plader sammen til et hjørne. Skalaen er stilleben/dukkehus, og materialet er som regel skumpap sat sammen af nåle. Så har jeg gestaltet begyndelsen til et rum; der er både flade og perspektiv – og tydelig relation til flere apriori vilkår som for eksempel tid, når solens vinkel tegner hurtigt skiftende figurer af lys og skygge. Tyngdekraften er selvfølgelig også allestedsnærværende, hæftes pladerne ikke solidt sammen, braser den skøbelige konstruktionen lynhurtigt sammen som et korthus. Ligesom pladernes molekylære strukturer er afgørende for om de spærrer for lyset eller er transparente. Disse fysiske vilkår, og jeg har bare nævnt de mest uoverstigelige, udgør en meningsfuld mur at spille op imod. Som en både pålidelig og overraskende samtalepartner for mine anelsesfulde ideer. For hvad leder jeg egentlig efter når jeg flytter rundt på disse plader, på samme måde som Morandi år efter år flytter rundt på de samme dåser, kander og skåle?. Når jeg igen og igen bygger rum, der som arkitektoniske metamorfoser bærer på deres egen snarlige forvandling.

Jeg kan ikke sige det tydeligere end det er et forsøg på at fastholde den form for intensitet der et øjeblik kan opstå i det synlige. Som findes der en vigtig besked om verden i netop denne flygtige konfiguration. At det hele ofte ender i store malerier og ikke med selve modellen eller fotoet, har også noget at gøre med intensitet, altså at min fremkaldelse af tingene som maleri  er en måde at fokusere den sanselige intensitet  - og samtidigt udfordre de omtalte mulighedsbetingelser. Men det er også et bevidst forsøg på at skrive billederne ind i og låne betydning af, en større og kunst– og kulturhistorisk fortælling.
Et eksempel; Da jeg for nylig var i London, for på kort tid at se rigtig meget både ny og ældre kunst, besøgte jeg bla. ‘The Enlightenment Gallery’ på British Museum. Det er en enorm, lang og højloftet sal der indeholder genstande og bøger indsamlet især i 1800 tallet, altså i oplysningstiden. Fra gulv til loft findes samlinger af muslingeskaller, fuglefjer, glas, kranier, krukker, dukker, billeder, stenøkser, skulpturer, alt hvad hjertet begærer af vidnesbyrd om menneskets nysgerrighed, åndelige søgning, innovative og æstetiske sans. Placeret side om side i en orden der synes mere æstetisk begrundet end den sædvanlige måde at katagorisere – hvad der gør det så meget desto mere stimulerende at kigge på. Og mens jeg gik rundt blandt reoler og montrer kom jeg i al ubeskedenhed til at tænkte på, at hvis mine malerier hang her i denne sammenhæng, så ville de besøgende - i princippet - forstå hvad billederne kredser om. Uden yderligere forklaring.

BEYOND COLOUR - Anna Krogh, Curator at Brandts - 2016


By Anna Krogh, Curator, Brandts

A space without a place. It sounds like a riddle. As a sentence, it makes no semantic sense. Where there is a space, there is a place. There has to be. And would it not be equally impossible to imagine a place without a space? If we imagine that a space is a place we occupy physically, then we expect a defined area. Possibly with walls. In any case, we should be able to talk about ‘what we see’. And it also seems to be a prerequisite that we can inhabit a space, at least mentally.

These are the kind of spaces Anette Harboe Flensburg creates in her paintings. Not with us as figures, since her painterly places are devoid of people. On the other hand, they are full of spatially defining boundaries in the form of (paper-thin) walls, screens and transparent surfaces. And even though we do not inhabit these spaces, we can imagine what it would be like to be there. So the semantics add up, so to speak. But what if it is a little more complicated than that? Because even though we can recognise the rooms and their different elements, and even though it only takes a little imagination to enter them, it is as if there is another dimension. The spatial definitions are tricky – it is not that easy to identify their dimensions, just as the proportions within them are suspended. Something is atremble. Is it the colours? Is it the space? 

Some of the answers can be found in classical modernism – the avant-garde – or at least a specific aspect of it. Like many other contemporary artists – names like Bill Viola, James Turell and the young Tim Eitel spring to mind – Harboe Flensburg’s works have an affinity with influential colleagues like Mondrian and Malevich. At a descriptive level it is clear: like the artists of the early 20th century she is interested in the creation of forms and thereby painterly spaces. Harboe Flensburg’s spaces are perhaps more legible as habitable places, but her use of abstraction is akin to that of the modernists of Moscow and New York. In this sense, Harboe Flensburg is a modernist formalist. She is also eminently and exceptionally skilled in her craft, able to fully grasp and use the artistic effects of painting to achieve what she wants: illusory representations of three-dimensional spaces. At one level it is very concrete. Where Mondrian created spaces of colour between hard-drawn black lines, Harboe Flensburg uses masking tape to define the line – to define the limits of the field of colour. Or where Malevich highlights a long, red sphere on a white surface, she uses transparent surfaces. All based on the same artistic question: what (or how little) is needed to create energy and a sense of space on a surface?

Harboe Flensburg’s works might well be figurative, but abstraction is just around the corner. Because even though we are dealing with space – the elements in her works refer to walls, screens and transparent surfaces – the means she uses are so few and minimally defined that the images can only just be understood as three-dimensional. It sounds simple, but the result is not, because the works remain both figurative and abstract. As viewers we look for something familiar that can spark our imaginations. And this is what Harboe Flensburg’s paintings do, because there is something else – something in the spaces we cannot see.

Is it about Colour?

Harboe Flensburg cannot be called a colourist in the sense that her main focus is colour. But she uses every aspect, nuance and appearance of colour – transparent and compact, defined and diffuse  – making it a protagonist that defines both space and form, just as in classical modernism. Because it gives form to what we see, it acts as a supporting structure in the painting. Blue tones and green nuances, for example, create transparent surfaces. In other paintings, yellow and red form the floor and ceiling. They are all delicate and seductive, and have the crucial function of making the elements of the image assume architectural forms. 

But colour is also an emotional register. Some of Harboe Flensburg’s paintings seem distanced, almost clinically subdued, whereas others are warm and welcoming. Colour sets the tone, and also contributes to the depth of the image and thereby the viewer’s belief in the spatial illusion where the imagination and stories can unfold. Colour, in other words, triggers something beyond itself. Harboe Flensburg does not use colour for the sake of colour. Her interest is in what colour facilitates.

There was a philosophical, existential agenda behind the classical modernists’ formalist investigations of colour and space. They had a concept of utopia as a non-place, something that does not exist but that the artist strives to identify. Modernism’s romantic idea that it is possible – with the help of art – to make the world a better place to be, that it is possible to change the world order, was for painters like Malevich and Mondrian a spiritual utopia. Their art was based on the belief that there is a metaphysical, hidden reality just waiting to be unearthed – with art as the intermediary. Through abstract canvases, though the existential realisations and insight that paintings can bring about. Simultaneously simple and complex. And what a lot of art is about – also young, experimental art where the questions are legion. And where the answers just might lie.

Harboe Flensburg’s colours are not an association test about what we think or feel when we see the colour blue, for example. But they have a definite feeling, an atmosphere. A secret? They have another dimension, something we can neither see nor identify, but which is clearly present. In spaces we cannot fully explain, define or establish the dimensions of. It lies in the colour, between the cracks and walls. We can sense it. Her paintings can be seen as a symbol of a modernist utopia, where the pivotal point is precisely the space of possibilities created by colour. Harboe Flensburg’s paintings create a glimpse of something beyond what is visible on the surface, creating an opening for new understandings of the world and our own existence. We might not be able to reduce it to words, but it is there – in the colour and beyond.




Af Anna Krogh, Kurator, Brandts

Rum uden sted. Det lyder som en rebus, sætningen giver jo semantisk set ingen mening. Hvor der er et rum, er der et sted. Sådan må det være. Og man kan vel heller ikke forestille sig et sted uden rum? Hvis man tænker sig, at et rum er et sted hvor vi fysisk opholder os, så forventer vi et afgrænset felt. Eventuelt med nogle vægge; i hvert fald bør man kunne tale om et ’det vi kan se’. Og det synes også at være en forudsætning, at vi kan opholde os i det rum, om ikke andet så mentalt.

Anette Harboe Flensburg skaber i sine malerier sådanne rum. Ikke med os som figurer idet hendes maleriske steder er mennesketomme. Til gengæld er de fyldt med rumdefinerende grænser i form af (papirstynde) vægge, afskærmninger, transparente flader. Og selv om vi ikke bebor disse rum, kan vi forestille os hvordan det vil være at tage ophold dér. Så hænger semantikken sammen, så at sige. Men hvad nu hvis det er lidt mere kompliceret end som så? For selvom vi nok genkender værelserne og deres forskellige elementer og selvom det kun kræver en lille smule fantasi at indtage rummene, så er det som om der stadig er mere på spil. Rum-definitionerne driller lidt – det er ikke helt let at identificere rummenes størrelse, ligesom de indbyrdes proportioner tilsvarende ophæves. Der er noget der sitrer. Er det farverne? Er det rummet? Og hvad betyder det?

Nogle af svarene findes i den klassiske modernisme, i avantgarden. Eller i hvert fald i et særligt af aspekt af den. Som mange andre samtidskunstnere – Bill Viola, James Turell og unge Tim Eitel for at nævne de mest indlysende – finder Harboe Flensburg slægtskab med betydende kollegaer som Mondrian og Malevich. På et beskrivende niveau er det tydeligt nok: Hun er optaget af hvordan man som maler skaber former og dermed maleriske rum. Det var kunstnere i det tidlige 20.århundrede også. Harboes rum er måske tydelige som beboelige steder, men hun læner sig op ad abstraktionen som også modernisterne i Moskva og New York gjorde. Harboe Flensburg er i den forstand modernistisk formalist. Hun er en eminent og enestående håndværker, der forstår at bruge maleriets virkemidler til at opnå det hun vil: illusoriske gengivelser af tredimensionale rum. Det er på den måde meget konkret. Hvor Mondrian skaber farvede rum imellem de hårdt-optrukne sorte streger bruger Harboe Flensburg afdækningstape til at definere stregen, til at afgrænse farvefeltet. Eller hvor Malevich markerer et aflangt rødt felt på en hvid flade, bruger hun transparente flader. Alt sammen ud fra samme kunstneriske spørgsmål: hvad (eller hvor lidt) skal der til for at skabe energi og rumfornemmelse på en flade?

Harboe Flensburg er nok figurativ, men abstraktionen lurer om hjørnet. For selvom der er tale om rum – hendes billedelementer henviser til vægge, afskærmninger, transparente plader – er virkemidlerne så få og så minimalt defineret, at man kun lige forstår billederne som tredimensionale størrelser. Det lyder enkelt, men det er resultatet ikke, for billederne forbliver på en gang figurative og abstrakte. Vi vil som betragtere gerne fremkalde noget genkendeligt, der kan sætte vores fantasi i gang. Og det gør Harboe Flensburgs billeder for der er mere på spil. Der er noget i de rum vi ikke kan se. 

Handler det om farven?

Man ville ikke kalde Harboe Flensburg kolorist i den forstand, at det er farven der er hendes egentlige ærinde. Men hun bruger den i alle dens facetter, nuancer og tilsynekomster – transparent, kompakt, markeret og diffus – og den er protagonist forstået på den måde, at farven definerer både rum og form – præcis som hos den klassiske modernisme. Den fungerer som en bærende struktur i maleriet i og med, at den formgiver det vi ser. Blå toner og grønne nuancer skaber eksempelvis transparente plader, i andre af malerierne agerer den gule og røde farve gulv og loft. De er alle delikate og forførende og de tjener den afgørende funktion at få billedets elementer til at antage arkitektoniske former og figurer.
Men farven er samtidig følelsesbåret. Nogle af Harboe Flensburgs billeder virker kølige, næsten klinisk neddæmpede, mens andre fremstår varme og imødekommende. Den sætter en tone lige som det også er farven der er med til at skabe dybde i billedet og dermed den, der etablerer betragterens tro på rumillusionen og giver plads til forestillingen og historierne. Farven sætter med andre ord noget i gang der rækker ud over den selv. Harboe Flensburg bruger nemlig ikke farven for farvens skyld. Det handler om dét den formidler.

For de klassiske modernister lå en filosofisk, eksistentiel dagsorden til grund for de formalistiske undersøgelser af farve og rum. De dyrkede tanken om utopia forstået som et ikke-sted, som noget der ikke findes, men som kunsten stræber efter at identificere. Modernismens romantiske forestilling om at man – ved hjælp af kunsten – kan gøre verden til et bedre sted at være, om at man kan forandre verdensorden handlede for malere som Malevich og Mondrian om en spirituel utopi. Deres kunst var funderet i en tro på, at der findes en metafysisk, bagvedliggende virkelighed, der med kunsten som mellemmand blot skal graves frem. Gennem de abstrakte lærreder, gennem det billederne afstedkommer af eksistentielle erkendelser og indsigter. Enkelt og kompliceret på en og samme tid. Og det er det meget kunst handler om – også den unge, søgende kunst, hvor spørgsmålene står i kø. Og hvor svarene måske findes.
Harboe Flensburgs farver udgør ikke en associationstest om hvad man tænker eller føler når man eksempelvis ser farven blå. Men de bærer på en følelse, en stemning. En hemmelighed? I hvert fald formidler de noget andet, noget vi ikke kan se og identificere, men som helt tydeligt er der. I de rum vi ikke helt kan forklare, afgrænse eller størrelsesbestemme. Det ligger i farven, mellem sprækkerne og væggene; vi fornemmer det. Man kunne kalde disse malerier et sindbillede på en modernistisk utopi, hvor omdrejningspunktet ligger i præcis dette farvens mulighedsrum. Harboe Flensburgs malerier skaber glimt af noget andet end det umiddelbart synlige og derved åbner de for nye forståelser af verden og vores eksistens. Det lader sig måske ikke konkretisere sprogligt, men det er der, i farven og bagved.



By Carsten Thau


The art historian Kenneth Clarke considered the experience of light to be a fundamental indicator of the value of a painting. And it is precisely luminosity and the ability to deploy the effects of light that are immediately apparent in Anette Flensburg’s paintings. They seem explanatory, both her explicitly constructivist canvasses and other, often large-scale works where the illusion of depth of perspective in the arrangement of space appears full of atmosphere thanks to the distinct precision of the tracing of shadows and translucency of things. The beguiling ability of light to penetrate is experienced within the contours of a meticulous, geometrical precision.

At an early stage of her career, Anette Flensburg, with an equally early technical brilliance, painted pictures that in an apparently paradoxical manner connected douce, atmospheric painting with characteristics of American superrealism. An art where Vilhelm Hammershøi’s sense for the misty veil of light in interiors marked by a striking quiet – a state in which the architectural room is lifted out of time – met American photorealism or superrealism, in which motifs from a bar or a chair in splendid isolation in a diner, are similarly haunted by a discrete, seeping, noble melancholy.

In an architectural context, the atmospheric is understood as being that which can be sensed as an immaterial quality between oneself and the boundaries of an interior space. It is often an overall impression, where something conscious or unconscious is perceived as being tinted by the emotional or existential. Interiors where the colours, lines and forms of surfaces and furniture convene to form a whole mediated by their individual capacity to reflect light from a combination of granular, matt or smooth surfaces.


In recent years, Anette Flensburg has moved in the direction of more constructivist traditions of modern painting. Painting that is still preoccupied with architectural space, but now combined with analytical thinking in the composition of elements in that space. Just as in most of Anette Flensburg’s current works there is an almost high-tech clarity and sharpness that is quite different from the veiling achieved in atmospheric interior painting.

The colours, however, do not come in any radical constructivist or ‘industrial’ fashion directly from the tube. Particularly in the large works with semi-transparent sheets, a spectrum of tones has been composed, in one instance a carefully calibrated constellation of blue and grey tones, which in their delicate transparency reach a spellbinding floating point.

Yet the relevance of Hammershøi still applies today, and remains not entirely misplaced. In the work of this neoclassical Danish master, a method related to constructivist strategies can be observed. With Hammershøi these are applied to the actual investigation of the precise role played by door panels, door openings, panelling, window bars, picture frames, easels, etc. in structuring the surface of the image, alongside an analytical view of the depth and proportions of the architectural space. There is an inclination for the gaze to swing between a structural view of the composition of the painting, and the spatial articulation of the architecture’s structured order of subcategories.  


One of the founders of constructivist painting, Piet Mondrian, arrived at the pure, abstract investigation of the condensed, stylistic force of lines, surfaces and colours through radical simplification. His so-called neo-plasticism (i.e. ‘new form’) came to influence students of the Bauhaus school, installations by Frederick Kiessler (1), later buildings by Le Corbusier, and not least Piet Mondrian’s compatriot, the architect Gerrit Rietveld. (2)

Which is not that surprising, because in his atelier on Rue du Départ in Paris Mondrian himself moved from the two-dimensional surface of the painting to using all three dimensions of his studio by painting the walls white and allowing solitary monochrome paintings to populate the space at different levels, as well as painting the door panels as separate squares. The interplay of the panels coupled with the luminosity of the colours in the carefully distributed paintings created a vibrating optical state in the atelier, a fresh and animated sense of space that broke down the boundaries of the room (3). Mondrian himself believed that the aesthetic programme he had developed through his careful process of distillation, aimed at a clear (and spiritually elevated) communicative style, could and should form the ideal point of departure for the entire physical environment of the new age, i.e. architecture, the city and urban planning – no less. (4)

The extent to which Mondrian primarily thought centripetally, i.e. conducted an investigation of the forces that hold what is inside the frame together, or whether he first and foremost thought centrifugally has been much discussed. (5) Did he aim to probe the distribution of squares, lines and colours as part of the composition of the painting within the frame? Or did he want the interception of lines towards the boundary of the canvas to represent a thrust and gesture that goes beyond its physical borders? Such that the interception of lines and squares be understood as centrifugal forces on the background of which something is flung out? It is not an issue that can be entirely resolved. 


It is indisputable that Mondrian, who has been a vital dialogue partner in many of Anette Flensburg’s recent works, grappled with the issue of the frame in painting. (6) Is the traditional gilded frame part of the painting, or part of the room?  In a modern understanding, is there any need for traditional, separate, easel works on the wall, or should one, as Mondrian’s Russian colleague El Lissitzsky declared, aim in principle to transform the entire design of a room into a dynamic, three-dimensional composition where the borders between the painting and visual art disappear?

El Lissitzsky exhibited in Berlin in the 1920s in his so-called Proun room (7), which consisted of tangents, surfaces, small geometric forms, etc. It was an exhibition that avant-garde artists and architects like Mies van der Rohe rushed to see. The issue of creating a hybrid of art and architecture in spatial art was undoubtedly on the agenda at the time.  And it is in the context of these issues that Anette Flensburg intervenes with her architectural paintings. Her large-scale works take possession of the surrounding space, but without becoming architecture. They do, however, take issue with framing as a linear system, demarcation and quadrangular motif. History folding in on itself.

For a time, Mondrian himself confined the frame to a thin, white wooden strip, before going one step further and mounting his canvasses in front of a slightly larger white panel. The canvas thus burst out of the frame, extended into the room, and took the first step towards being liberated into the space. 


A series of Anette Flensburg’s paintings conduct exhaustive investigations of the role of the frame in painting, and in doing so investigate some of architecture’s primary structures, with the addition of climbing structures, shelves, etc. That this series of works are in an upright format, underlines the idea of building up, i.e. architecture’s struggle with gravity in the towering skeleton constructions familiar from high-rise buildings.

In a textbook on painting, which was highly influential for centuries after its publication during the Renaissance, the painter, architect and dramatist Leon Battista Alberti (8) writes that in a painting called a landscape one should work with a view of ideal scenery seen from a single point of view through a window at a distance the equivalent of three times the width of the window (to prevent the perspective escaping to all sides). Alberti hereby formulated a rule for perspective and ratio governed by the window frame, the impact of which it would be difficult to overestimate.


Clement Greenberg, who as we know emphasised the increasing significance of the surface in painting after Impressionism, argued that we have to accept painting as two-dimensional, and that its focus has shifted from the subject to the act of painting itself, i.e. texture, colour and the application of paint as an empirical, visual expression. On the basis of contemporary abstract expressionism and its large formats, he concluded that the ultimate destiny of painting was to become architecture. According to Greenberg, the sheer size and emphasis on surface in painting, had to lead to the works being absorbed by the architectural space, just as the space, in exchange, was enriched by the specific values and characteristics of painting. Barnett Newman, who worked with extremely large-scale divided, serial and continuous surfaces, claimed to have detached himself entirely from the long reign of the window and the frame in painting, whereas a predecessor like Mondrian continued to be trapped in the epoch – there was still too much window in Mondrian’s entire conception of painting. (9)

Certain of Anette Flensburg’s works, not least the newly arrived genre where the size and depth of the work make us believe that we could step into the image, are characterised by being centred, put into perspective, and consisting of arranged or installed slices of translucent, coloured material. These works intervene decisively in any space where they are hung, just as they cannot fail to enter a dialogue with its characteristics. They do not, however, become entirely architectural elements: they also represent something, manifest their own universe. They could resemble an archive or a storeroom with translucent sheets leaning against the parallel walls. We are dealing with enigmatic objects in a large-scale still life. They could also be seen as representing pictures, wall sheets, window glass or thin membranes to be placed in front of other, possible showcases.

They look like a stage, laid out according to the fourth wall convention of theatre, the kind of set design where the fourth wall facing the audience is removed, allowing them to look into the room or space where something is enacted.

The oblique sheets’ translucency and industrially precise appearance removes any of the pathos of human absence or sense of purely academic arrangement that can occur in the still-life genre.


The entire approach is the result of a selection process where Anette Flensburg constructs and lights the space/stage in a carefully built architectural model. It is striking how confidently she handles a series of difficult, technical issues for painting, like the illusion of translucency, the precise distribution of shadows, and the logical consistency of reflections in relationship to the light source: the entire convincing clarity of structure, spatial definition and illumination.

Historically, it was analytical cubism that manifested the optical phenomenon of one plane being able to lie both in front of and behind adjacent planes. This phenomenon is also present in Anette Flensburg’s works, for example in the large canvas with the central, floating blue-toned membrane. Here there is a crystalline, rectangular precision of focal plane upon focal plane that in its own independent articulation inherits the technical investigations of the pulsating, spatial, dynamic co-existence of planes from Braque and Picasso, the sculptures of Naum Gabo, and the appearance of Marc Rothko’s sedimented fields with their diffuse outline opening onto undreamed of depths.

In the 1920s, the Bauhaus teacher Lazlo Moholy- Nagys believed that in the future people would paint with coloured light instead of pigments (10). The luminosity of Anette Flensburg’s planes results in the materiality of some of the transparent sheets undergoing a metamorphosis towards weightlessness, despite being the result of a physical oil painting. In an era when we meet electronic light screens everywhere, it is illuminating to see light walls painted with pigment. 


Anette Flensburg also draws inspiration from modernist architecture’s studies of translucency. Like Yakov Chernikov’s utopian, colouristic architectural drawings (11), which at times anticipate the capacity of airbrush techniques to allow transparent planes to exist in overlapping sequences. Other and more concrete studies of the glass house can be seen in Mies van der Rohe’s manifestations, like his exhibition buildings with frosted glass walls in Berlin, and the German Pavilion at the International Exposition in Barcelona in 1929, where the space unfolds solely divided by free-standing partitions. Here, thanks to the large sections of glass walls and the multifaceted interplay of transparent glass, freestanding spatial partitions and openings, the interior spaces can escape into the open air and the space outside can wander through the interior. (12)

In Anette Flensburg’s two-dimensional canvasses, an approximate, kindred spatial continuum can be experienced, approximate because the space she describes has fixed outer boundaries. Some of Mies van der Rohe’s glass panels were slightly green-toned to give them more weight. Others were made of opal glass. The light seems to be present in the material like an immanent property. In Anette Flensburg’s works, a similar effect is achieved in the sense that there is an exchange between entirely transparent sheets on the one hand, and opaque sheets on the other, as well as via a third category that is translucent in such a way that it seems to contain materialised light. In addition, due to her excellent, technical control, reflections on the surfaces merge with the light’s penetration of the transparent panels. The space flows around and through these planes that small channels of air and filtered light emerge between. At the same time, there is a complexity that cannot be explained or interpreted within any clear ground plan.


The smaller, upright canvasses provide an acrobatic exercise for the eyes. Numerous elements are brought into play in the stacking of motifs, as in the quadratic meshes that keep the basic structure together. In terms of the latter, a hybrid between Mondrian’s planes and linear system emerges between the technological abstraction of the concrete skeleton of modern skyscrapers and the principle of the cross section through a built structure practised in architectural drawings.

Add to this the element of play and ability to survey all floors familiar from doll’s houses. There is no explicit definition of function for each room, and the stairs connecting the horizontal levels are more sculptural than connective of the floors below and above. Optically what we have are variations on art and architecture’s framing of gazes, views and looking inside. Despite the anatomical exposure of the image/house laid out in the cross section itself, there is no conspicuous sense of depth. Rather, it is reminiscent of the kind of unruly trompe l’oiel seen on buildings. The spatial cells of the paintings form a rebus that the viewer has to compose and interpret, like the images in the mind from place after place that trail behind us as we walk through a building. 


  1. Here I am thinking of his virtuoso installation City in Space (1925).
  2. His Rietveld Schröder House in Utrecht belongs to the works one could imagine standing on Anette Flensburg’s house altar, not so much because of any direct similarity, but due to an affinity with colouristic and surface oriented structural thinking, the principles of which build on a movable joining of parts, which in turn gives the work the character of a work in progress. The elements appear to be mobile.
  3. Mondrian also made a stage set in his models for Michel Seuphor’s play Léphémére est éternel (1926). Only a single reconstruction of these models has survived.
  4. What from a present-day perspective sounds like incredible megalomania, is typical of the avant-garde’s ecstatic hopes for the future. It is fantastic that a circle of key figures in the avant-garde movement from 1910-1930, actually only a couple of hundred of them, believed that they could shape the entire aesthetic history of the world, that it all lay before them in their studios and manifestations. In a way they were right, albeit with modifications. The 20th century was not radically homogenised according to their ideas.
  5. See, for example, Rosalind Krauss: The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths, MIT Press, 1986.
  6. The frame is in principle drawn into the painting itself as an object of reflection. It is thus liquidated, partly into an object for meta-theoretical investigations of its role in establishing focus, as a boundary, and as a structural element, etc. This is explored in more depth in Carsten Thau, ‘Murder Incorporated’, Henrik Bjerre (ed.) Frames – State of the Art, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen 2008.
  7. El Lissitzsky, who was in close contact with both the teachers at Bauhaus and the members of the Dutch De Stijl group (van Doesburg, van det Leck, and not least Piet Mondrian), put a lot of energy into breaking down the academic isolation of art by advocating an entirely new form of spatial art – spaces that people could be in. He called a series of his works Proun art, an acronym for ’project for the affirmation of the new’ in Russian.
  8. Leon Battista Alberti, Della Pittura, 1435 – published with a dedication to his friend the architect Brunelleschi, who almost a decade before had invented the mathematical laws of perspective. For an English translation see Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting, edited by Rocco Sinisgalli, 2013.
  9. Re. Carsten Thau, op. cit. p. 220 ff.
  10. Moholy-Nagy in connection with the description of his Raum-Licht Modulator in Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Hanna Weitemeier et al (eds.), Verlag Gerd Hatje, Stuttgart 1974, p. 76 ff.
  11. See Carsten Thau, ‘I tegningens medium’ in Arkitekturens som Tidsmaskine, Kunstakademiets Arkitektskole 1st edition, 2nd issue, 2010, p. 292 ff.
  12. The effect of transparency and a wide-meshed steel grid akin to Anette Flensburg’s investigations also appear in the atrium of Mies van der Rohe’s Metallurgical and Chemical Engineering Building, IIT, Chicago, Illinois (1945-1946). See Werner Blaser, Mies van der Rohe, Birkhäuser Verlag, Berlin, 1997, p. 91. And congenially in a 1992 experimental drawing by the Mies van der Rohe disciple Kamol Jangkamolkulchais, reproduced in Detlef Martin (ed.) The Presence of Mies, Princeton Architectural Press 1994, p. 108.





Af Carsten Thau


Kunsthistorikeren Kenneth Clarke mente, at en grundlæggende indikator på et værdifuldt maleri, består i oplevelsen af lys. Og netop lysstyrke og evnen til at behandle lysvirkninger er kvaliteter, der springer i øjnene ved Anette Flensburgs billeder. De virker forklarede, hvadenten det drejer sig om udtalt konstruktivistiske lærreder eller andre, ofte de store formater, hvor illusionen om perspektivisk dybde i rummets  opstillinger optræder mættet med atmosfære under nøje omhu i afsætningen af skygger og tingenes gennemskinnelighed. Lysets forførende penetrationsevne, erfares inden for en koncis geometrisk præcision.

Tidligt i sin karriere malede Flensburg, med sin allerede dengang udviklede tekniske brillans, billeder der på en tilsyneladende paradoksal måde forbandt et atmosfærisk, douce stemningsmaleri med træk fra amerikansk superrealisme. En kunst, hvor en Vilhelm Hammershøis sans for lysets disede slør i interiører præget af en slående stilhed – en tilstand hvor det arkitektoniske rum løftes ud af tiden – mødtes med amerikansk foto - eller superrealisme, således motiver fra en bar eller stole i en diner, der i splendid isolation på tilsvarende vis hjemsøges af en diskret og på samme tid nobel melankoli.

Ved det atmosfæriske forstår man på arkitekturens område, det der i interiøre rum kan sanses som en immateriel egenskab mellem en selv og rummets grænser.  Der vil ofte være tale om et samlet indtryk, hvor noget bevidst eller ubevidst perciperes som tintet af emotionelle eller eksistentielle værdier. Interiører hvor overflader, objekters og møblers farver, linjer og former træder sammen i en helhed medieret af deres individuelle evne til at kaste lyset tilbage fra en kombination af  ru, matte eller glatte overflader. 


I de senere år har Anette Flensburg bevæget sig i retning af mere konstruktivistiske traditioner i det moderne maleri. Et maleri der ligefuldt er optaget af det arkitektoniske rum, men som forbinder sig med en analytisk tænkning i rummets sammensætning af elementer. Ligesom der aktuelt i de fleste af Flensburgs arbejder er indtrådt en high tech-agtig klarhed og skarphed, temmelig forskellig fra det udvirkede slør i atmosfærisk interiørmaleri.

Farverne kommer dog ikke på radikal konstruktivistisk og ”industriel”  maner lige ud af tuben. Særlig i de store opstillinger af semitransparente plader udarbejdes en vifte af tonaliteter, i et enkelt tilfælde en omhyggeligt kalibreret konstellation af blå og grå toner, der med deres delikate transparens når et trylleagtigt svævepunkt.

Relevansen af at nævne Hammerhøi gælder dog fortsat og er heller ikke i dag ganske fejlanbragt. Man kan hos denne nyklassiske danske mester observere en fremgangsmåde i familie med  konstruktivistiske strategier. Disse er hos Hammershøi anlagt i selve udforskningen af den præcise rolle, dørfyldninger, døråbninger, paneler, vinduers opsprosning, billedrammer, fritstående staffelier m.v. spiller i struktureringen af billedfladen simultant med et analytisk blik på det arkitektoniske rums dybde og proportioner. Man er tilbøjelig til at lade blikket svinge mellem snart et strukturelt blik på billedets komposition, snart på arkitekturens spatiale artikulation af en tilrettelagt orden af underdelinger.


En af grundlæggerne af det konstruktivistiske maleri, Piet Mondrian, nåede frem til en rendyrket abstrakt undersøgelse af linjers, fladers og farvers via radikal forenkling fortættede stilstyrke. Hans såkaldte neo-plasticisme (i.e. ”ny form”) vandt indflydelse på studerende på Bauhaus-skolen, udover på installationer af Frederic Kiessler (1), senere bygninger af Le Corbusier og ikke mindst på Piet Mondrians landsmand, arkitekten  Gerrit Rietveld. (2)

Hvilket ikke er så underligt, for Mondrian tog selv i sit atelier i Rue du Départ i Paris skridtet fra maleriets todimensionelle flade til udfoldelsen af hele sit atelier i tre dimensioner ved at male væggene hvide og lade solitære plader befolke rummet på forskellige niveauer, samt at bemale dørenes fyldninger som separate kvadrater. Spillet fladerne imellem parret med farvernes lysstyrke i de omhyggeligt distribuerede monokrome plader, skabte i atelieret en vibrerende optisk tilstand, en animeret frisk rumfølelse, der nedbrød rummets grænser. (3) Faktisk mente Mondrian at det æstetiske program, han havde arbejdet sig frem til gennem et omhyggeligt destillationsarbejde med sigte mod en tydelig (og spirituelt eleveret) kommunikativ stil, kunne og skulle gælde som mønstergyldigt afsæt for en ny tidsalders hele fysiske miljø: dvs. arkitekturen, byen og byens plan, intet mindre. (4)

Man har diskuteret, hvorvidt Mondrian i sine malerier primært tænkte centripetalt, dvs. foretog en undersøgelse af de kræfter der holder sammen på det der ligger inden for rammen, eller om han først og fremmest tænkte centrifugalt. (5) Sigtede han mod at afsøge distributionen af felter, linjer og farver som led i billedets komposition inden for rammen? Eller ønskede han med sine linjers afskæring mod lærredets grænse at angive en stødkraft og en gestus, der rækker udover lærredets fysiske grænser? Således at man skal forstå linjer og felters afskæring som centrifugale kræfter, på baggrund af hvilke noget slynges ud? Spørgsmålet kan ikke afgøres entydigt. 


Sikkert er det, at Mondrian, der har eksisteret som vital dialogpartner i en række af Anette Flensburgs værker fra de senere år, tumlede med rammens problem i maleriet. (6) Er den traditionelle guldramme en del af billedet eller en del af rummet? Behøver man i en moderne forståelse overhovedet traditionelle, singulære staffelibilleder hængt op på væggen, eller skal man med Mondrians russiske kollega, El Lissitzskys ord, af princip sigte mod at omdanne hele rummets indretning til en tredimensionel dynamisk komposition, hvor grænsen mellem maleri og billedkunst forsvinder? 

El Lissitzsky udstillede selv i 1920erne i Berlin det såkaldte Proun rum (7) , bestående af tangenter, flader, små geometriske legemer mm. på en udstilling som avantgardekunstnere og arkitekter som Mies van der Rohe, ilede hen for at se. Spørgsmålet om en hybridisering af billedkunst og arkitektur som almengjort rumkunst var overhovedet på dagsordenen i disse år. Og det er bl.a. i relation til disse spørgsmål  Anette Flensburg sætter ind med sine arkitekturbilleder. Hendes store formater griber det omkringliggende rum i sin helhed, uden dog at blive til arkitektur. Men de udfolder indramningens problematik som linearsystem, afgrænsning og motiv. 

Mondrian selv indskrænkede gennem en årrække rammen til en tynd hvidmalet liste, senere valgte han at tage skridtet videre og at montere sine lærreder foran en lidt større hvid plade. Lærredet sprængte derved rammen, blev holdt frem og indledningsvist befriet i rummet.


En serie af Flensburgs billeder foretager indgående undersøgelser af rammens rolle, i maleriet og samtidig hermed inden for arkitekturens primærstrukturer, tilsat stigers klatrestruktur, reoler mv. At det drejer sig om en serie billeder i betonet højformat understreger idéen om op-bygning, forstået som arkitekturens livtag med tyngdekraften i højt rejste skeletkonstruktioner, som vi kender det fra højhuse.

I en grundbog for maleriet, der fik stor indflydelse i århundreder efter sin publicering i renæssancen, skriver maleren, arkitekten og dramatikeren Leon Battista Alberti (8) , at man ved et maleri, kaldet land-skab, bør arbejde med udsigten til et ideelt natursceneri set fra et enkelt øjepunkt gennem et vindue, således at man holder en afstand svarende til tre gange vinduets bredde (for at undgå at perspektivet løber løbsk til siderne). Alberti formulerede hermed en regel for perspektivet og udsnittet som styret af vinduesrammen, der har haft en virkningshistorie, der dårligt kan overvurderes. 


Clement Greenberg, der som bekendt hæftede sig ved fladens stigende betydning i maleriet siden impressionismen, mente at man måtte akceptere maleriet som todimensionelt og at dets fokus var flyttet fra motiviske bindinger over på ”painthandling”, dvs. tekstur, farver og påføring af maling som et rent empirisk visuelt udtryk. Med udgangspunkt i sin samtids abstract expressionism og dennes vidtstrakte formater, konkluderede han, at det var maleriets ultimative skæbne at blive til arkitektur. Maleriets blotte udstrækning og dets betoning af fladen måtte, iflg. Greenberg, føre til at værkerne blev absorberet i det arkitektoniske rum, idet dette rum på den anden side blev beriget med bestemte værdier og karakterer gennem maleriet. Barnett Newman, der arbejdede i meget store formater med flader af en opdelt, seriel og kontinuerlig karakter, mente han havde løsrevet sig helt og aldeles fra vinduets og rammens lange epoke i maleriet, mens en forgænger som Mondrian endnu hang fast i denne epoke – at der endnu var for meget vindue i Mondrians hele konception. (9)

Visse af Flensburgs værker, ikke mindst en nytilkommet genre, hvor man pga. billedernes størrelse og dybde tror at kunne træde ind i billedet, udmærker sig ved at være centrerede, perspektiviske og bestå af opstillede eller installerede skiver af translucente, farvede materialer. Disse værker griber afgørende ind i ethvert rum de måtte være ophængt i, ligesom de uvægerligt går i dialog med dets egenskaber. De bliver imidlertid ikke gennemgribende til arkitektoniske elementer, de forestiller også noget, viser deres eget univers. Dette kan ligne et arkiv med plader stillet op mod de parallelle vægge, måske et lager mv. Der er tale om gådefulde objekter i et stort anlagt stilleben. Eventuelt forestiller man sig dem som repræsentanter for billeder, plancher, pladeglas til vinduer eller tynde membran, der kan stilles foran andre, mulige ”showcases”.

De fremstår som en scene anlagt i henhold til teatrets fjerdevægskonvention, en type teaterscenografi, hvor den fjerde væg (ud mod publikum) er fjernet med henblik på, at man kan se ind i den stue eller den sal, hvor noget udspiller sig. 

De skråtstillede pladers gennemskinnelighed og præcise industrielle udseende slanker dem for den patos af menneskeligt fravær eller ren akademisk opstilling, der kan indfinde sig i stilleleben genren.


Hele grebet er resultat af en selektionsproces, hvor Flensburg har opbygget og belyst rummet/scenen i en omhyggeligt opbygget arkitekturmodel. Det virker umiddelbart slående, hvordan Flensburg sikkert håndterer en række for maleriet meget vanskelige  tekniske problemer vedrørende illusionen om translucens, den præcise fordeling af skygger, logisk følgerigtighed mht.  genskin i forhold til lyskilden, overhovedet en overbevisende klarhed i henseende til struktur, spatial definition og illuminationen.

Historisk manifesterede der sig med den analytiske kubisme det særlige optiske fænomen, at et plan kan ligge både foran og bagved tilstødende planer. Dette fænomen optræder i Flensburgs billeder eksempelvis i det store lærred med den centralt svævende, blåtonede membran.  Dér med en krystallinsk, retvinklet præcision af billedplan på billedplan, som i en ganske selvstændig formulering arver tekniske undersøgelser af en pulserende, spatialt dynamisk sameksistens af planer fra Braque og Picasso over skulpturer af Naum Gabo til, på sæt og vis, en Marc Rothkos tilsynekomster af planer med en diffus kontur, som åbner for uanede dybder.

Bauhauslæreren Lazlo Moholy- Nagys mente i 1920erne, at man i fremtiden ikke ville male med pigment, men med farvet lys. Det luminøse i Flensburgs planer får visse af skivernes stoflighed til at undergå metamorfoser henimod vægtløshed, de forbliver dog resultatet af et håndgribelig oliemaleri.

Flensburg er også gået vejen gennem det 20. århundredes arkitekturs studier af translusens. Det kunne være Yakov Chernikovs utopiske, koloristiske arkitekturtegninger (10), der sine steder foregriber airbrush-teknikkens kapacitet for at lade gennemsigtige flader leve i overlappende sekvenser. Også Ludwig Mies van der Rohes Tyske Pavillon til  udstillingen i Barcelona1929,  hvor rummet lever  opdelt via fritstående skillevægge, kunne være en af hendes yndlingslokaliteter takket være de store glaspaneler kan flygte ud i det fri, samtidig med at det ydre rum vandrer igennem interiøret på grundlag af det mangesidige spil af transparent skiveglas, fritstående rumlige afgrænsninger og åbninger.

I Flensburgs todimensionelle lærreder kan man opleve et hermed tilnærmelsesvist beslægtet rumkontinuum, idet rummet dog hos hende har faste ydre grænser. Hos Mies er udvalgte glaspaneler svagt grøntonede, for at give dem mere tyngde, andre udført i opalglas. Lyset synes her at være tilstede i materialet som en immanent egenskab. Hos Flensburg opnås en tilsvarende effekt, i den forstand, at der dels opstår udvekslinger mellem helt transparente paneler på den ene side og opakke, glatte på den anden, dels via en tredje kategori, som er gennemskinnelige på en sådan måde, at de synes at indeholde materialiseret lys. Desuden træder i en virtuos teknisk beherskelse reflekser i overfladerne i ét med lysets gennemtrængning af skiverne. Rummet strømmer rundt om og igennem disse planer. Mellem de fritstående planer opstår små sluser af luft og filtreret lys. Samtidig opstår en kompleksitet, der ikke lader sig forklare eller opløse inden for en overskuelig plan.

De mindre lærreder i højformat byder på en akrobatisk øvelse for øjnene. Mange elementer bringes i spil i motivernes opstabling, som i de grid der holder sammen på grundstrukturen. For det sidstes vedkommende kan man observere en hybrid mellem Mondrians flade og linearystem, den teknologiske abstraktion i moderne skyskraberes betonskeletter og selve princippet for snit gennem en bygget struktur, som den praktiseres i arkitekturtegninger. Hertil kommer den ingrediens af leg og overblik over alle etager vi kender fra dukkehuse. Der forekommer ikke nogen udtalt definition af funktionsområder, trapper der forbinder de horisontale afdelinger har mere skulpturel end forbindende karakter etagerne imellem. Optisk er der tale om variationer over den billedkunstneriske og den arkitektoniske indramning af blikke, udsyn og indkik. Trods den anatomiske blotlæggelse af billede/hus anlagt i selve snittet gives der ikke nogen udtalt fornemmelse af dybde, snarere minder det om den type sprælsk trompe l´oeil, man kan opleve i gavlmalerier.     


  1. Der tænkes her på hans mesterlige installation ”City in Space”, 1925.
  2. Dennes såkaldte Rietveld-Schröder Hus i Utrecht hører hjemme blandt værker, der kan tænkes at stå på  Flensburgs husalter, ikke så meget for nogen direkte lighed men som følge af et slægtskab i en koloristisk og fladebetonet strukturtænkning, hvis princip bygger på en bevægelig sammenføjning af delene, hvorunder værket får karakter af work in progress. Elementerne forekommer flytbare.
  3. Mondrian udarbejdede også et scenisk rum som modeller til Michel Seuphors skuespil ”Léphémére est éternel”, fra 1926. Disse modeller findes kun i enkelt rekonstruktion.
  4. Denne i dag næsten ufattelige megalomani kendetegner avantgardens ekstatiske fremtidshåb. Det er ret fanatastisk at en kreds af nøglepersoner inden for avantgardebevægelserne mellem 1910 og 1930, mente, at de kunne forme hele den æstetiske verdenshistorie, at altsammen lå på bordet foran dem i atelieret og i deres øvrige manifestationer. På en vis måde fik de ret, dog med modifikationer, det 20. århundrede blev ikke gennemgribende homogeniseret i deres billede.
  5. Se f.eks. Rosalind Krauss: The Avantgarde and Other Modernist Myths, New York 1985.
  6. I hovedsagen trækkes rammen ind i billedet selv som et reflektionsobjekt. Den bliver således dels likvideret dels til genstand for metateoretiske undersøgelser af sin rolle som fokusskabende, som grænse, strukturelement etc.  Se nærmere Carsten Thau: ”Murder Incorporated – Rammen i billedværker fra Matisse til Microsoft Windows”, in: Rammen i Kunsten, red. Henrik Bjerre og Jannie H. Linnemann, Statens Museum for Kunst, København 2008.
  7. El Lissitzsky, der fik tætte kopntakter til både lærere på bauhaus og til medlemmer af den hollandske De Stijl gruppe (van Doesburg, van det Leck og ikke mindst til Piet Mondrian), arbejdede ihærdigt på at sprænge billedkunstens akademiske isolation gennem at udpege en helt ny rumkust, rum mennesker kan færdes i. Han kaldte en række af sine værker for Proun-kunst, dvs. en kunsten for det der skal komme.
  8. Leon Battista Alberti: De re Aedificatoria,xxxx
  9. Jvf. Carsten Thau, op. cit. s. 220 ff.
  10. Se Carsten Thau: ”Arkitekturen i tegningens medium”, in: samme: Arkitekturens som Tidsmaskine, Kunstakademiets Arkitektskole 2011.


By Jørgen Dehs

In Timaios, his dialogue on the formation of the universe, Plato talks about three fundamental things that have always existed: being, becoming and space. On space (chora), he writes that it ‘admits not of destruction and provides a home for all created things, and is apprehended without the help of sense, by a kind of spurious reason, and is hardly real ; which we beholding as in a dream, say of all existence that it must of necessity be in some place and occupy a space’. Space has to be there, but as a precondition for something to happen it is difficult to envisage. It has to be thought of as a necessity.

Thinking in an architectural context is different. Here space is a constituent of the three-dimensional visibility of a building. When something happens, it happens in one of the rooms of the building. But what happens does not necessarily observe the specificity of the architecture.  It can, for example, be our thoughts, which have a tendency to move beyond the space we occupy physically.

In the artist Anette H Flensburg’s book We live inside one another we see a series of images of empty, unfurnished rooms. The images do not stand alone, but are accompanied by short prose poems. Together, the two perform the moving process of grieving for the loss of someone close. The series of images forms part of a process of memory and reflection where the boundary between material and immaterial reality, between the manifest graphics and the mental images generated by the texts, shifts back and forth. Unoccupied by objects or people, the rooms in the images present us with one sole human action: the construction of a room. Anything else that the rooms contains – and protects – appears as the open possibility of that which has yet to occur. Just as the texts point to that which no longer is, the images appear to point to life that has yet to begin. 

Most of the small, condensed images of imaginary interiors are bathed in a light that is more of a haze or a soft, transparent darkness reminiscent of Vilhelm Hammershøi and his exploration of the interior’s visual and painterly potential. In his essential monograph on Hammershøi, Poul Vad closes with a few words on ‘the melancholy that colours [his] entire oeuvre’. As he writes, the paintings ‘generate a sense of the viewer’s isolation, the viewer’s distance and alienation in relationship to what is seen. Wherever the artist turns his gaze, it meets boundaries, obstacles: the obstacle of the empty room, the boundary of walls.’ 

Theories of melancholia often prioritise space above time. But melancholia as a space severed from time is something else and more than mental confinement, which perhaps more accurately describes depression. Instead of confinement, the room of melancholia can be understood as a room one can construct or enter and inhabit for a longer or shorter period of time, as if renting an as yet unknown space with equally unknown possibilities. It is these kind of interim spaces that accompany the process of memory in Anette H Flensburg’s book. The German word Erinnerung has a stronger sense of the inner protected against the outer than its Danish translation erindring. Just like Hammerhøi’s larger-scale interiors, the small-scale interiors in the book are able to bring the disquieting harmony between the beautiful and the bleak to the fore.

In the case of Hammershøi there are grounds to emphasise the works’ affiliation to a phenomenon that art shares with poetry and music, especially in Germany and England during the 1800s: that examples of beauty can also be seen as examples of the performance of a melancholic mode. The aesthetic reconciliation with the dark and sorrowful, which here seems to be central to manifestations of beauty, can also be read into the work of Anette H Flensburg. Despite the fact that it may seem a long time ago that beauty ranked high on the list of concepts that stimulate our interest in art.   

The darkness of the images in We live inside one another is not representative of the imaginary structures in her other works. Neither is the way the book develops as a whole. Towards the end the colours become clearer, just as we can also catch a glimpse of a fragment of reality beyond the interior – marking the boundary of the room and maybe also the possibility of leaving it.




Af Jørgen Dehs

I sin dialog om verdens tilblivelse, Timaios, taler Platon om tre grundlæggende ting, der altid har eksisteret: væren, tilblivelse og rum. Om rummet (chora) hedder det, at ”det kan ikke tilintetgøres, det giver plads til alt det, der fødes, men selv begribes det uden sansning ved et slags uægte ræsonnement og er vanskelig at tro på. På det ser vi som i drømme og siger, at alt eksisterende nødvendigvis må være et eller andet sted og optage et eller andet rum.” Rum skal der være, men denne forudsætning for at noget finder sted er det svært at se for sig. Den må tænkes som en nødvendighed.

I arkitektursammenhæng tænkes der anderledes. Her gælder rum som en konstituent i bygningens tredimensionale synlighed. Når noget finder sted, sker det i et af bygningens rum. Men det, der finder sted, behøver ikke at overholde arkitekturens stedbundethed. Det kan fx være den tanke, der befinder sig andre steder, som når et rum danner rammen om en erindrende og forstillende aktivitet.

I billedkunsteren Anette H Flensburgs bog vi bor i hinanden kan vi betragte en serie billeder af tomme, uindrettede rum. Serien står ikke alene, men er i selskab  med et forløb af korte prosadigte. Tilsammen udfører de to medier et bevægende sorgarbejde over tabet af en nærtstående person. Billedseriens række indgår i en erindrings- og refleksionsproces, hvor grænsen skubbes frem og tilbage mellem materiel og immateriel virkelighed, mellem manifest anskuelighed og de mentale billeder, som teksterne producerer. Ved ikke at være indtaget af hverken ting eller mennesker præsenterer billedseriens mange rum os kun for én eneste menneskelig handling: den at konstruere et rum. Alt hvad rummet ellers rummer - og beskytter - fremstår som åben mulighed for det, der endnu ikke har fundet sted. Lige så rettet teksterne er mod det, der ikke længere er, fremstår billederne rettet mod en tilblivelse af liv, der endnu ikke er begyndt.

De små fortættede billeder af konstruerede interiøre er indsvøbt i et lys, der i de fleste tilfælde snarere er en dis, eller et blødt, transparent mørke, der leder tanken hen på Vilhelm Hammershøi og hans udforskning af interiørets visuelle og maleriske potentialer. I sin store monografi om Hammershøi ender Poul Vad med at give “den melankoli, som farver hele (hans) værk” et par ord med på vejen. Det hedder om billederne, at “fremkalder indtrykket af betragterens isolation,  betragterens afstand til og fremmedhed over for det sete. Hvor end kunstneren vender blikket hen, støder det på grænser, på forhindringer: det tomme rums forhindring, den planparallelle vægs eller murens grænse.”

I teorier om melankoli fastslås gerne rummets forrang i forhold til tid. Men melankolien som et rum revet ud af tiden er andet og mere end den mentale indespærring, der bedst kan gælde som beskrivelse af en depression.  I stedet for indespærring kan melankoliens rum forstås som et, man kan opføre eller søge ind i og bebo i kortere eller længere tid, som hvis man har lejet sig ind et sted, man endnu ikke kender og hvis muligheder er tilsvarende ubestemte. Det er sådanne intermistisk konstruerede rum, der i  Anette H Flensburgs bog akkompagnerer teksternes erindringsforløb. Det tyske ord Erinnerung anslår tydeligere end det danske ord et indre, der skærmer sig mod et ydre. Ligesom i Hammerhøis større skala er interiørene i bogens lille i stand til at få en foruroligende harmoni mellem hvad der er smukt og hvad der er mørkt til stå frem.

I Hammershøjs tilfælde er der grund til at betone værkernes tilhørsforhold til et fænomen, som billedkunst, ikke mindst i Tyskland og England gennem 1800-tallet, har fælles med lyrik og musik: at eksempler på skønhed ofte med samme ret kan gælde som eksempler på en udformning af melankoliens stemningsleje. Den form for æstetisk forsoning med det mørke og tyngende, der her synes at blive en fast opgave for skønhedens gestaltninger, kan også læses ind i Anette  H Flensburgs værk. Også selv om det føles som længe siden, at skønhed har stået højt på listen over begreber, der stimulerer vores opmærksomhed over for kunst.    

Mørket i den visuelle del af vi bor i hinanden er ikke repræsentativt for de  mange interiørkonstruktioner i hendes øvrige arbejder. Det samme gælder for bogens samlede forløb. Mod slutningen bliver farverne mere klare, ligesom et stykke virkelighed uden for interiøret til sidst kan skimtes - som en markør for rummets grænse og måske også for muligheden for at forlade det.



Interview with Anette Harboe Flensburg and Bjørn Poulsen

By Anna Krogh

AK: To begin with, I would like to talk about the collaboration between the two of you in preparation for this exhibition. What considerations went into your decisions about the selection of works, how to install them, and the overall structure of the show?

BP: We had an exhibition at Galleri Leger in Malmø which became a sort of rehearsal for this one. There we became aware of certain points of correspondence between our works. I exhibited a number of showcase-sculptures, either enclosed or just placed behind a screen – a sort of space within a space. The works Anette had brought were paintings of miniature room models made of coloured acrylic sheets, like my showcases. There was thus a degree of correspondence on a concrete level. More generally speaking, both our projects are about rooms – how we encounter rooms, how we enter them, or are cut off from them. My works involve a screen between the object and the observer, a screen that makes the sculpture stand out, but also hides it, depending on how you position yourself in relation to it inside the room. Anette’s pictures are likewise about moving inside rooms, about entering rooms, and about the fact that there is always something behind things, something you don’t see.

AK: How did you go about selecting the works and adjusting them to each other?

BP: I chose to show many of my acrylic showcase-sculptures which take up a dialogue with Anette’s pictures in a very direct way. Furthermore, I’m exhibiting some large pieces that explore the fact that it is impossible to see the whole sculpture from any one point inside the room. One sculpture stretches through an entire room, from wall to wall. Another creates a sort of barricade, blocking the observer’s view and further progress. The room is really too narrow for these sculptures, and this forces them into a dialogue with Anette’s room models which are likewise concerned with scale.

AHF: The most obvious and concrete adjustment I’ve made is that I’ve created a series of life-size paintings to match Bjørn’s physically very insistent works. Moreover, the tone and feeling of these paintings are perhaps somewhat ”harder” than usual, once again influenced by Bjørn’s both artful and at times almost aggressive expression. Another of my main ideas was to build smaller spaces within the gallery space, partly to physically create a labyrinthine atmosphere, partly to create a more intimate sphere around some smaller paintings. And finally, I have actually painted a picture that incorporates a sort of portrait of Bjørn.
Both of us have worked extensively with space as a theme before, but we approach it from different angles and with different temperaments. The actual installation of the works therefore became important in order to ensure that there was sufficient space around the objects to allow them to throw light on each other, and not just drown each other out. 

BP: My selection of works should be seen in the light of where I am artistically at the moment. Ordinarily, my sculptures are very compact, but here I was interested in inserting a transparent layer between object and observer. This makes the works more mysterious. It also makes them change completely, depending on your point of view within the room.

AHF: One thing we have in common is that both of us are oriented toward the individual work. We like to work in series, but as a rule each of the works is quite able to stand on its own. And this is where the major, paradoxical challenge of a dialogue exhibition lies, since the individual work must be able to function on its own, but at the same time be sufficiently open to allow new meanings and facets to unfold in the encounter with other works.
We carry on a continuous dialogue about our art on an everyday basis, primarily making use of each other as acute critics. The interesting thing about our collaboration on this project is that here we have placed our works in direct confrontation with each other. Some can be seen as an extension of our many talks, while others can be seen as an extension of ourselves, but also very much as independent objects – whose meaning is not entirely under control. And to a great extent, of course, this is true of the statement made by the exhibition as a whole.

BP: We’re interested in the feeling evoked, the emotional element in art - something that is usually associated with superficial romanticism. What mainly concerns both of us is how the emotional becomes formalized, how it can be made concrete without ending in clichés and sentimentality. So in a way our approach to art is formal, but both of us want the finished work not to appear emotionally neutral, but instead awaken something in the observer. 

AK: Looking at your rooms makes me think of the concept of ”das unheimliche” as central to your works. I’m referring to the fact that they contain elements of something disturbing, that the familiar – that which in principle is well-known - is made alien and transformed into something else. How do you go about creating such a room?

BP: I smash the objects into pieces and put them back together in a different way. The more I break them up, the more fragmented they become, and the further away from their original state. What I look for is the point of intersection at which the original state and the new image become equally strong and achieve a balance. The greater the contrast between the original objects and the new image, the stronger the sculpture becomes. Some of the images I work with carry associations to science fiction and bodybuilding, but their form is constructed from broken kitchen bowls of coloured plastic. The familiar is made alien.

AHF: I build scenographic, miniature room models as the starting point for my paintings. But while Bjørn physically breaks down known forms, the deconstruction in my work consists of small, but significant shifts - for example, that the furniture is too large for the rooms, that the wallpaper pattern swells up, that the lighting is strange, or that there is a discrepancy between inside and outside.
While Bjørn’s art may carry associations to science fiction, my works point back in time as much as forward, and thus to memories and dreams. On the other hand, I’m also interested in the virtual layers of my work. They are layers that defy unequivocal interpretations, but have the potential – on other levels, or in another time – of making sense. Who knows, perhaps not until 100 years from now, when the present has become history, can we begin to see signs and patterns which we are unable to see as long as we are in the midst of them.
This, incidentally, is another interest I believe we share, as is our fascination with the classic, the timeless. The fact that our work points backward in time as well as forward, but is primarily in correspondence with our own time.


A Metaphysical Possibility?

AK: Can art establish a space other than the one in which we exist physically?

AHF: In a certain sense, yes. In the same way that you can sometimes say more with words than is actually said… because you succeed in refering to that which really cannot be stated in words at all. In my paintings I try to refer to the invisible, the unique, and the virtual, but I must articulate it by means of the visible, of course, and within a frame of reference that is contemporary, ordinary and shared. This is a constantly challenging paradox.

BP: In modernist sculpture one speaks of the core of the work, the idea being that through simplification, through the elimination of superfluous elements, you can arrive at the essence, the core. Obviously, when I try to bring body and physical presence into my sculptures, I also come up against the core concept. But by making use of cheap plastic and other mundane materials, I try to rid sculpture of the portentous and religious notions associated with this concept.

With respect to form, we do have one thing in common, namely that both of us believe that form can make an independent statement - that it doesn’t just illustrate an idea, but can be meaningful by itself. Our approach to form is not about defining it in relation to what lies behind, to the metaphysical, but about the fact that there are many layers present simultaneously. The metaphysical is thus understood in a very concrete sense, as a formal problem that has its starting point in observation and experience, but at the same time reaches beyond it.



AK: Although Bjørn’s sculptures are very physical and refer to body fragments, they still dissociate themselves from figuration, and in Anette’s paintings human beings are completely absent. Despite this, the human body seems omnipresent; the rooms seems defined by how the observer orients him- or herself in them physically, how the dimensions of the rooms are experienced.

AHF: I work with traces of people, but in my paintings the human body exists only on the level of reference. As an observer of my work, one must make use of one’s own body and imagination, for on the surface of it, nothing happens. There is emptiness and silence, no compelling movement. This, on the other hand, is a rather important point - the fact that one must take one’s time to enter the pictorial space, that one must feel how these rooms are. Get a feel for what has taken place or is about to happen. If one can also come close to sensing sounds, smells etc., then that’s even better, of course. But again, I present it more as a possibility than as an spelled-out drama.

BP: In this respect, I’m quite the opposite. My works are more expressive. I try in various ways to make my sculptures physically aggressive. I’m also concerned with the idea of frontality. This lends a certain vigour to the sculptures. The energy they possess is given direction – out into the room and towards the observer. But I also break with frontality, the idea that the front is more important than the back. My sculptures hold many secrets, and far from all are revealed by a frontal view. In fact, the front often conceals more than it reveals. 

AHF: It is characteristic of Bjørn’s work that the sculpture is a physical body that the observer meets in a very direct and powerful way with his or her own body. This will probably always be the case, but in his recent sculptures it is nevertheless as if something is held back in this encounter. Something mysterious that can only be uncovered over time. A long time.

BP: Yes, an obvious difference, which Anette touches on here, is the physical aspect, the sense of presence. It is absolutely central to my work that there is an insistent, concrete, physical presence in the room. Anette’s rooms, on the contrary, are empty. They are marked by the absence of human beings, so here I see a dialectic at work in the exhibition, a contrast between our works. 

AHF: On the other hand, my paintings unfold in the tension between light and darkness in the same way that Bjørn’s sculptures unfold in the tension between concave and convex movements in an ”overly plastic” space, and with respect to common references, there are several Baroque artists that we’re both – each in our own way – interested in, Caravaggio being one of them. 


Longing to Be in the Same World

AK: What kind of a world is the title of the exhibition referring to?

AHF: It is meant to be an open title. It has a romantic dimension, of course, of being about the longing to understand each other, being able to exchange things, feel that we live in the same world – and also in the same world as those who may have left us, or have simply died. But I hope it can also be understood in a larger, cultural and almost political context. 

BP: Longing is a romantic concept. You long for something, but it’s difficult to define precisely what it is. Longing is different from wanting or desiring something. In the latter case you can work out a plan to achieve the fulfillment of your needs. Longing is highly irrational. It is more a state. Perhaps a sort of maladjustment. Somehow the practice of art is related to longing. If you felt that everything was okay, you probably wouldn’t feel motivated to try your hand at it, and if you were able to define precisely what it was you wanted to change, you probably would choose a more efficient and rational solution than creating art.

AK: The public will perhaps see this exhibition as one great collaborative work, as a world unto itself.

AHF: Or as both. I think they will probably perceive an overall attitude, a wish to give form to something intangible in life. But they will probably also be aware that our way of expressing ourselves as artists is different. And this, of course, is what makes art interesting in a general sense - that it is about being human in a fragmented, changing world, without an inclusive, coherent history. But art is also about the fact that in spite of this, everything is interconnected, if only in the most peripheral way, or on a very subtle, mental level. Much of contemporary art is informed by this double movement between breaches and connections. For art, after all, is not direct communication, but more an attempt to make contact. And that’s important.





Interview med Anette Harboe Flensburg og Bjørn Poulsen 

Af Anna Krogh


AK: Indledningsvis vil jeg gerne tale om jeres samarbejde omkring udstillingen – hvilke overvejelser har I gjort jer mht. placeringen af værkerne, selve værkudvalget og opbygningen? 

BP: Vi havde en udstilling i Galleri Leger i Malmø, som blev en slags generalprøve på denne udstilling. Der kunne vi se at vores værker på bestemte punkter korresponderer. Jeg viste nogle montre-skulpturer, enten lukkede eller blot med skærm foran. Altså en slags rum i rummet. De værker Anette havde med var billeder af modelrum opbygget af bl.a. farvede akrylplader, ligesom mine montrer. Så på et konkret plan var der nogle sammenfald. Mere overordnet handler begge vore projekter om rum, om hvordan man møder rum, kommer ind i disse rum eller bliver afskåret fra dem. Mine værker handler om, at der er en skærm imellem objekt og betragter, der både fremhæver og skjuler skulpturen, alt efter hvordan man placerer sig i rummet i forhold til den. Anettes billeder handler også om at bevæge sig i rum, at komme ind i rum og at der hele tiden er noget bagved, noget man ikke ser. 

AK: Hvordan har I justeret jeres værkudvalg efter hinanden? 

BP: Jeg har valgt at vise mange af mine akrylmontreskulpturer, der på en meget direkte måde går i dialog med Anettes billeder. Derudover viser jeg nogle store værker, som handler om det forhold, at der ikke er noget punkt i rummet, hvorfra man kan overskue hele skulpturen. Den ene skulptur strækker sig gennem hele rummet fra væg til væg. Den anden bliver som en barrikade, der blokerer udsyn og videre fremfærd. Rummet er egentligt for snævert til skulpturerne. Derved kommer de i dialog med Anettes modelrum, der også arbejder med skalaforhold. 

AHF: Den mest synlige og konkrete justering jeg har foretaget er, at jeg har fremstillet en serie af kropsstore værker for at matche Bjørns fysisk meget pågående værker. Tonen og udstrålingen i disse malerier er desuden muligvis en anelse ’hårdere’ end sædvanlig, igen under påvirkning af Bjørns på en gang underfundige, men til tider nærmest aggressive udtryk. Dernæst var det nok primært min idé at bygge mindre rum i udstillingsrummet, for at skabe en labyrintagtig atmosfære og ind imellem mere intim atmosfære. I forvejen kredser vi jo begge meget om rum-temaet, men vi angriber det fra forskellige vinkler, og med et forskelligt temperament og derfor er de installatoriske greb vigtige for at der bliver etableret, ja, rum omkring tingene, så de belyser hinanden og ikke bare råber i munden på hinanden. 

BP: Mit værkudvalg skal primært ses i lyset af hvor jeg kunstnerisk set befinder mig. Mine skulpturer er ellers ofte meget kompakte, men jeg har været interesseret i at skyde et transparent lag ind mellem beskuer og objekt. De bliver på den måde mere uudgrundelige. Og så forandrer de sig fuldstændigt, alt efter hvor i rummet man ser dem fra. 

AHF: En ting vi har til fælles er, at vi begge er rimeligt værk-orienterede. Vi arbejder gerne i serier, men de enkelte værker står som regel rimeligt afrundede. Heri ligger jo så den store paradoksale udfordring i forhold til at indgå i en dialogudstilling, hvor værkerne skal kunne bære i sig selv, men samtidig være så åbne, at der kan foldes nye betydninger og facetter ud i mødet med hinanden. Til hverdag har vi en løbende dialog om vores kunst, hvor vi primært bruger hinanden som skarpe kritikere. Det interessante ved det her samarbejde er, at vi nu konfronterer værkerne direkte med hinanden. Værker der kan ses som en slags forlængelse af de mange samtaler, og værker der kan ses som en forlængelse af os selv, men i høj grad også som selvstændige objekter – ting hvis betydning ikke er helt under kontrol. Det gælder jo i høj grad også for selve udstillingens udsagn. 

BP: Vi er interesseret i følelsen, det emotionelle i kunsten. Som måske nok har været forbundet med pladderromantik. Det punkt vi begge er optaget af er hvordan det følelsesmæssige formaliseres, konkretiseres uden at ende i klichéer og sentimentalitet. Så på en måde har vi en formel indfaldsvinkel til kunsten, men vi er begge optaget af at det færdige værk ikke fremstår emotionelt neutralt, men vækker noget i beskueren. 

AK: Når man ser på jeres rum synes jeg at begrebet det ’unheimliche’ siger noget centralt om jeres værker. Dét, at de rummer elementer af noget foruroligende, at det velkendte som vi i princippet er fortrolige med gøres fremmedartet og omdannes til noget andet. Hvordan etablerer man et sådant rum? 

BP: Jeg slår objekterne i stykker og sætter dem sammen igen på en anden måde. Jo mere jeg slår dem i stykker jo mere fragmenteret bliver de, og jo længere er de fra det oprindelige. Dét jeg søger er det punkt hvor oprindelsen og det nye billede er lige stærke og balancerer i et skæringspunkt. Jo større kontrast der er mellem de oprindelige objekter og det nye billede, jo stærkere bliver skulpturen. Nogle af de billeder jeg arbejder med associerer science fiction eller bodybuilding, men formen er opbygget af knuste margretheskåle. Det hjemlige bliver fremmed. 

AHF: Som udgangspunkt for mine malerier bygger jeg scenografiske modelrum, men hvor Bjørn konkret nedbryder de kendte former, ligger dekonstruktionen for mit vedkommende snarere i små, men betydningsfulde forskydninger. F.eks. at møblerne er for store til for små rum, at tapetmønstre svulmer op, at der er en mærkelig belysning eller et ’inde og ude’ ikke rigtigt hænger sammen. 
Hvor Bjørns kunst måske associerer science fiction, peger jeg lige så meget tilbage i tiden, og dermed også på erindringen, drømmen. Omvendt er jeg også optaget af de virtuelle lag i mit arbejde. Lag som unddrager sig entydige udlægninger, men som rummer mulighed for – på andre planer eller i en anden tid – at give mening. Hvem ved, måske først om 100 år når nutiden er blevet historie, og man kan få øje på tegn og mønstre vi ikke kan se mens vi er midt i det. 
Det er i øvrigt en interesse jeg tror vi er fælles om, ligesom vores optagethed af det klassiske, det tidløse. At vores arbejde både peger tilbage i tiden og frem, men at vi selvfølgelig primært korresponderer med vores samtid. 


En metafysisk mulighed?

AK: Kan kunsten etablere et andet rum end det vi fysisk er i? 

AHF: Ja i en eller anden forstand. På samme måde som man til tider kan sige mere med sproget end det der egentlig bliver sagt......fordi det lykkes at henvise til det, der egentlig slet ikke kan siges. I mine billeder forsøger jeg at referere til det usynlige, det enestående, og det virtuelle, men er jo henvist til at formulere det i det synlige og i en betydningsramme der er nutidig, almen og fælles. Deri ligger et evigt udfordrende paradoks. 

BP: Inden for modernistisk skulptur taler man om værkets kerne, hvor idéen er at 
man gennem forenkling, gennem en bortrensning af overfladiske elementer kan nå ind til det egentlige, kernen. Det er klart, at når jeg arbejder med at få krop og fysisk nærvær ind i mine skulpturer, så kommer jeg også til at støde ind i kernebegrebet. Men ved at betjene mig af billig plastik og andre verdslige materialer forsøger jeg at få de selvhøjtidelige og religiøse associationer, som er forbundet med kernebegrebet, ud af skulpturen.

I forhold til form har vi et fælles punkt, idet vi nok begge tror på at formen kan fortælle noget i sig selv. At den ikke blot er en illustration af en idé, men at den selv kan skabe mening. Vores tilgang til det formelle handler ikke om at definere det i forhold til det bagvedliggende, det metafysiske, men om at der er mange lag til stede simultant. Det metafysiske bliver forstået i meget konkret forstand, som et formelt spørgsmål, der tager udgangspunkt i noget observeret og erfaret, men samtidig rækker ud over det. 


Det kropslige

AK: Selvom Bjørns skulpturer er meget fysiske, og har referencer til kropsfragmenter undsiger de sig alligevel det figurative, og mennesket er helt fraværende i Anettes malerier. Alligevel synes kroppen at være allestedsnærværende, rummet synes bestemt af hvordan beskueren orienterer sig kropsligt, oplever rummets dimensioner. 

AHF: Jeg arbejder med spor af mennesker, men det er kun på henvisningsplanet at kroppen eksisterer i mine billeder. Man må som beskuer selv investere med krop og indlevelsesevne. For umiddelbart sker der ikke noget. Der er tomt og stille, ingen pågående bevægelser. Det er så til gengæld en ret vigtig pointe, altså at man tager sig tid til at gå ind i billedrummet, at man fornemmer hvordan der er i disse rum. Får fornemmelse af hvad der har fundet sted eller er på vej til at ske. Hvis man også nærmest kan fornemme lyde, bestemte lugte osv. er det selvfølgelig endnu bedre. Men igen, jeg lægger det op mere som en mulighed end som et udtalt drama. 

BP: Der er jeg klart modsat. Mine værker er mere ekspressive. Jeg forsøger på forskellig måde at gøre skulpturerne fysisk udfarende. Jeg er også optaget af begrebet frontalitet. Det forlener skulpturerne med en særlig insisterende kraft. Den energi de besidder får en retning, ud i rummet og ud mod beskueren. Men jeg bryder også med frontaliteten, idéen om at forsiden er vigtigere end bagsiden. Mine skulpturer rummer mange hemmeligheder og langtfra alt bliver afsløret fra forsiden. Faktisk skjuler forsiden ofte mere end den viser. 

AHF: Det der er karakteristisk for Bjørns værker er at skulpturen er krop, som beskueren møder meget direkte og temmelig voldsomt med sin egen krop. Det vil nok altid være aktuelt, men i de senere skulpturer er det alligevel som om, at der også bliver holdt noget tilbage i dette møde. Noget uudgrundeligt, der kun lader sig afdække over tid. Lang tid. 

BP: Ja, en oplagt forskel som Anette også er inde på, er det fysiske, nærværet. Det er helt centralt i mit arbejde, at der kommer en påtrængende konkret fysik i rummet. Anettes rum er derimod tømt for mennesker. De er markeret af fravær af mennesker, så her ser jeg en dialektik i udstillingen, en kontrast mellem vores værker. 

AHF: Til gengæld er mine malerier spændt ud mellem lys og mørke på samme måde som Bjørns skulpturer er spændt ud mellem konkave og konvekse bevægelser i et ”overplastisk” rum, og når du spørger til en fælles reference så der feks. en del kunstnere fra Barokken vi begge - på hver sin måde - er optagede af. Caravaggio er en af dem.


Longing to be in the same world

AK: Hvad er det for en verden titlen refererer til? 

AHF: Det er ment som en åben titel. Selvfølgelig har den en romantisk dimension, hvor det handler om længslen mod at forstå hinanden, at kunne udveksle, føle at vi befinder os i den samme verden. Også med dem der måske har forladt os, eller simpelthen er døde. Men jeg håber også at den kan forstås i en større kulturel og næsten politisk sammenhæng. 

BP: Længsel er et romantisk begreb. Man kan længes efter et eller andet, men man har vanskelligt ved at definere præcist, hvad det er. Det er noget andet end at ønske eller at begære. Der kan man lægge en plan for, hvordan man opnår sin behovsopfyldelse. Længsel er dybt irrationel. Den er mere som en tilstand. Måske en slags utilpassethed. På en eller anden måde er det at lave kunst også knyttet til længsel. Hvis man synes alt er okay vil man næppe føle sig motiveret til at forsøge sig, og kunne man præcist definere, hvad man ønskede at ændre ville man nok vælge mere effektive og rationelle løsninger end at lave kunst. 

AK: Publikum vil måske opfatte denne udstilling som et stort fælles værk, som en særlig verden for sig. 

AHF: Både og. Jeg tror måske de kan få øje på en gennemgående holdning, et ønske om at give noget eksistentielt uhåndgribeligt form. Men at de også vil være meget opmærksomme på at udtrykket er forskelligt. Og det er jo også det, der generelt er interessant ved kunsten: At den handler om at være menneske i en fragmenteret verden i opbrud, uden samlende historie. Men den handler også om at alt alligevel griber ind i hinanden om end i yderste fingerled, eller på et subtilt, mentalt plan. Meget af samtidskunsten er båret af denne dobbeltbevægelse mellem brud og forbindelse. Kunst er jo ikke direkte kommunikation, men mere et forsøg på at skabe kontakt. Og det er vigtigt. 

THE WORLD IS (STILL) PROFOUND - Niels Boe Hauggaard-Nielsen - 2008


Aspects of an Invisible Dialogue
By Niels Boe Hauggaard-Nielsen

In the widely ramified history of modern art, far-reaching lines of connection cutting across time and place can be drawn between artists, pointing to common inspirations, aspirations, or ways of thinking. In this age of globalization, to use an already well-worn phrase, when even the farthest perspective is just a click away, only a small minority of artists – those who really insist on it – are narrowly based in their most immediate and specific environment. The idea of artistic kinship has long ago lost any necessary connection to actual human proximity – to being and moving within the same physical space. On the contemporary-art scene there is little to be gained by tying the interpretation of artworks to national, regional or other even more limited contexts. Modernism in art is very much an area of recognition, or a parallel language, without boundaries. It unfolds in relation to an art establishment that is both omnipresent and independent of place, with special traditions and ways of creating meaning that the observer must necessarily be acquainted with.


Life and Art

Despite wide-spread tendencies to do so, it is rarely possible – or desirable – to completely brush aside the creative significance of an artist’s intimate, personal environment with the broad paintbrush of a self-referential and worldwide modernism. This is especially true of the few cases in which intimacy, togetherness and a creative dialogue between artists is far from evident in their work, but rather precedes it. Sculptor Bjørn Poulsen and painter Anette Harboe Flensburg present such a ”case”. Since the late 1980s, they have pursued different and highly individual courses in their art. Few would immediately be aware, based on the appearance of their work alone, that a mutual relationship exists. Nevertheless, the artists form a couple privately and as such have carried on an intense, in-depth dialogue on art for approximately twenty years.

Given the idea that art constitutes a special category of experience - at a certain remove from, but in constant interplay with the world - a close relationship in life does not automatically entail a close relationship in art. In the case of Flensburg and Poulsen, however, the shutters are anything but watertight, as pointed out in the title which they themselves chose for the exhibition: Longing to be in the same world. It makes sense to interpret their work as a very local, suggestive and sophisticated, creative dialogue cutting across ”similarities”. It is a dialogue that has little to do with the exterior of their works, their specific gestalt or appearance; instead, it is about themes, atmosphere, or, if you will, philosophy. Anette Harboe Flensburg and Bjørn Poulsen are an excellent example of the fact that a qualified partner in a dialogue is not one who humours you or serves as a mirror. In their case the partner is exceptionally close, but at the same time in an entirely different place.

One could point to other, more obvious sources of inspiration for the works of these two artists than their partner, not least because they work in completely different media. Both of them are extremely reflective and conscious of tradition and of the giants in painting and sculpture on whose shoulders they stand. It is a question, however, whether it is possible to point to any more relevant artistic kinship than that of the other.
Flensburg’s paintings have been placed in relation to such artists as Vilhelm Hammershøj, Ola Billgren and Gerhard Richter,1 while Poulsen, who started out at Willy Ørskov’s school of sculpture at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in the 1980s, has recently been compared to such British sculptors as Richard Deacon, Tony Cragg and Bill Woodrow.2 In the following, I shall deliberately set aside art-historical contexts and instead direct the searchlight towards an inner, altogether local space, towards a special sensibility and a view of the world and art that Bjørn Poulsen and Anette Harboe Flensburg’s art seems to have in common.


The Language and Dialects of Art

The language of art, like languages in general, rests on an undergrowth of dialects, and dialects are by necessity tied to specific, demarcated territories. In this connection, dialects may serve as an apt symbol of a familiar, congenial space that is even more intimate and exclusive than the language as a whole. That which connects Bjørn Poulsen and Anette Flensburg’s art could be called a shared dialect, or perhaps a special tone of voice. At the same time, it seems to me that their creative dialogue has grown stronger and more distinct as the years have passed, without the artists for that reason becoming more alike.

The exhibition at Kunsthallen Brandts is the first major staging of Bjørn Poulsen’s and Anette Harboe Flensburg’s art, even though they have shown their works together in a gallery context on several previous occasions. It is not a retrospective, however, and can in no way do justice to all the nuances in their individual development. The exhibition consists primarily of new works, supplemented by a selection of works dating from recent years, and should thus be seen more as a presentation of the ”state of their art”.


Anette Harboe Flensburg

Anette Harboe Flensburg broke through to a wider public in 2003, when she was awarded second prize at the prestigious Carnegie Art Awards for Nordic artists for a series of paintings entitled Reception Room. This suite of works - and not least Flensburg’s ongoing dialogue with the photographic image, apparent throughout her oeuvre3 – serve in many ways as a basis for the paintings presented in this exhibition. With her series of interiors, Flensburg adopted a set of motifs – the depiction of simultaneously diffuse and concrete rooms – that has since become an extremely rewarding pivotal point for her as a painter, as well as a resource and a very personal signature.

Flensburg’s often panoramic paintings offer views into seemingly real architectonic localities that are in fact thoroughly constructed. The images are - literally - based on three-dimensional miniature models created by the artist in her studio, photographed, and later used as models for paintings. Rooms open into rooms in largely correct perspective foreshortening. Through the openings of doors and windows we are given suggestive glimpses of an outside nature that typically dissolves in a shimmer of colours. Light enters and is reflected from floors and ceilings. Some rooms are sparsely furnished, with a few pieces of furniture or lamps, others have wallpaper or carpets with oriental patterns, while still others feature ”paintings within a painting”. The rooms are always empty of people and enveloped in an all-embracing optical softness, due above all to the absence of a dominant focal or vanishing point. The physiological condition of sight that we ourselves unconsciously experience every day – the fact that everything at the periphery of the eye’s focal point appears strangely indeterminate, with soft contours – is in Flensburg’s paintings elevated to a permanent state of fluid spatiality.

In addition to thus challenging our habitual way of being in the world, Flensburg’s brilliant artistic feat is that she succeeds in keeping her works balanced delicately and to great effect on a thin line between art as depiction and art for the sake of art. Her works appear strikingly realistic, but at the same time tend towards a sort of abstract colour-field painting in which colour, forms and planes come together and break apart in their own right. Her paintings refer to the real world, while at the same time creating a world entirely of their own. They are transitional universes existing in a simultaneity of hardness and softness that makes the observer experience a sense of recognition and alienation at the same time.


Bjørn Poulsen

Over the years, Bjørn Poulsen has incorporated all kinds of materials, in numerous combinations, in an extremely consistent and controlled sculptural practice that includes works designed for museums as well as decorative assignments for large-scale urban spaces. The artist’s oeuvre is without exaggeration marked by an overwhelming material diversity ranging from traditional bronze, granite and plaster to concrete, iron, aluminium, steel, wood, stoneware and ceramics, rubber and much more. The common denominator of Poulsen’s work – making his experiments with materials quite different from experiments merely for the sake of materials – is an ongoing interest in collisions of form. His works typically establish a field of tension between the recognizability of the individual sculptural elements and the emergence of the unified sculpture as something new and entirely different. 4 Commenting on Poulsen’s works of the 1990s, art historian Anne Ring Petersen has pointed to further relevant contrasts such as constructivism versus classicism, and the human body versus architecture.5

In recent years, however, Poulsen has increasingly based his work on mass-produced plastic objects and has succeeded in bringing out an astounding formal potential lying dormant in our most immediate surroundings – in kitchen cabinets, bathrooms, toolsheds and basements. The exhibition offers a rich encounter with these recent works which - in view of the physical and associative lightness of their materials – may seem like a break with the artist’s previous practice, but in fact represent a powerfully sensual and appealing extension of it.

In home improvement stores, on IKEA’s shelves, in office supplies stores and in kitchen departments, the artist has discovered a copious vocabulary of prefabricated objects that lends great impact to his project and in many ways succeeds in making it as self-evident as their often strong signal colours. Poulsen builds sculptures out of smashed-up, destroyed and subsequently screwed-together kitchen bowls, strainers, ninepins, funnels, storage crates, trays, work helmets, cups, spoons, etc. Things which in their new artistic context completely lose their connection to reality, their recognizability, and all relationship to their original, prosaic purpose. In the encounter with these works, the observer experiences a simultaneity of contrasts constantly overlaying and superimposing themselves on each other. Remnants of specific objects turn into pure image. That which is banal, familiar and quotidian is made distant and fantastic. Forms that in everyday life are (literally) smothered in serviceability, emerge, at the demise of functionality, in their useless visibility with an entirely different potential. 

So where is the postulated dialogue or common resonance chamber to be found in these very obviously different artistic expressions? Without wanting to draw up any schematic or exhaustive list of answers, and being extremely conscious of the fact that focusing on similarities runs the risk of obliterating equally important differences, my main point is that it resides in the ambition – and ability – to subvert any comfortably secure notion of an objective or one-dimensional reality.


Contemporary Symbolism

Under the slogan ”The world is profound. Only shallow spirits do not understand this”, Danish symbolists of the 1890s, led by the writer Johannes Jørgensen (1866-1956), waged war against naturalism in art and the desire of scientific enlightenment thinking to call a spade a spade.6 The symbolists emphasized feelings, imagination and the intuitive in art, but in Jørgensen’s case this position later became very difficult to distinguish from a spiritual or even religious outlook. Historically, symbolism was above all characterized by the wish to bring enchantment and mystery into art and the life of the spirit which, it was felt, had become far too positivistic. According to symbolist thinking, mimetic or representational art confirms our belief in a certain rational perception of the world, and therefore is not much use. Symbolist art is not out to mimic the external world, but rather to depict several possible ways of experiencing it. Thus the perspective on reality itself – the discussion of what reality really is – becomes a central symbolist concern.7

I am in no way suggesting that there is a religious tone underlying Flensburg’s and Poulsen’s art, but I definitely think that they share what might be called an up-dated symbolist vein. There is a fantasizing, dreamy, poetic, or even romantic atmosphere in their work that seems to negate the positive or ”in natura” existence of anything. Both Bjørn Poulsen’s and Annette Harboe Flensburg’s art points to rifts in our familiar, objective reality by bringing into play a whole range of contrasts and perceived dimensions of the real. Objects and interiors are thus invested with additional values and associations. The recognizable undergoes a sort of magical transformation or animation which makes it susceptible to multiple interpretations.

The work of both artists mediates between a strict formalism – an aesthetic art for art’s sake – and subtly intimated stories that encourage personal and psychological identification. Abstraction and figuration. On the one hand, everything is recognizable on a concrete, literal level, but at the same time is more than what it looks like on the surface. Bjørn Poulsen does nothing to hide his constructive principles or the screws and skeletal structures that tie lifeless, everyday banalities together into compact, unknown figures. In Anette Harboe Flensburg’s paintings the illusion works, even though the essential flatness of the painterly medium is clearly stated. In the work of both artists, there is a contrast between what we can adequately name and something indeterminate that our utilitarian everyday language has trouble encompassing. The paintings and sculptures both unite a state of being with a state of coming into being which we as observers must enter and contribute to with our own personal, mental bagage. I say contribute to – not complete – since the latter, as is true of all good art, cannot be done.

The narrative potential of these works – the concrete level opening towards a metaphysical dimension – reaches beyond the specific here and now, inviting both retrospective memories and future-oriented longings. The memory aspect is more pronounced in Anette Harboe Flensburg’s work. This is perhaps because her paintings, by incorporating photographic images, invariably bring associations to the past, to absences, or a sense of ”having been there”.8 Bjørn Poulsen’s perspective seems instead to point to future states, perhaps because his medium is worlds away from photographic recognizability.

Neither is a spade just a spade today. A kitchen bowl is not just a kitchen bowl. A room is not just a room. Behind the habitual lurks the unknown.



Niels Boe Hauggaard-Nielsen, MA, is an expert art valuer at Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers, The Modern Art Department, Copenhagen.

1) The cited models for Anette Harboe Flensburg’s art are discussed by Lisbeth Bonde in an interview, ”Det flydende stof”, in the exhibition catalogue for Reception Room at Museumsbygningen, Copenhagen 2003, and by Hanne Kolind Poulsen in an essay, ”Maleriet og det usynlige”, in House of Night and Day, Galleri Christina Wilson, Copenhagen 2006.
2) See Lisbeth Bonde’s interview with the artist, ”Et stød i luften – en værkstedssamtale med billedkunstneren Bjørn Poulsen” in Bjørn Poulsen – Skulptur 2002-05, Galerie MøllerWitt, Aarhus 2005.
3) A central theme which cannot be described in depth here. See, for instance, the exhibition catalogues for Byens Lys, Gentofte Kunstbibliotek 1992, and The Saturated Image, Kastrupgårdsamlingen 1998, with texts by Lars Grambye, the artist herself, and Ola Billgren.
4) Here, and in the following, I draw on my own review of Bjørn Poulsen’s exhibition Longing for a Space Travel at Overgaden Institut for Samtidskunst, Copenhagen August-September 2006, in the newspaper Information 28 August 2006, p. 17.
5) See Anne Ring Petersen, Bjørn Poulsen: Brudte helheder, udvalgte skulpturer, Galerie MøllerWitt, Århus 2002.
6) This sentence is from Johannes Jørgensen’s programmatic article, ”Symbolism”, first published in the second issue of the journal Taarnet (1983).
See Johannes Jørgensen, Essays om den tidlige modernisme, Århus 2001.
7) The outline of the main features of symbolism are based on Iben Holk’s article ”Symbolism” in the Danish libraries’online literature journal, published on the net 1998 (updated 2005).
8) Photographic effects described in a poetical and deeply personal way by Roland Barthes in Det lyse kammer: bemærkninger om fotografiet, Copenhagen 1983 (1980). [English version: Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography].





Aspekter af en usynlig dialog
af Niels Boe Haugaard-Nielsen

I den moderne kunsts mangestrengede historie kan der trækkes vidtgående forbin-delseslinjer på tværs af tid og rum mellem kunstnere for at pege på fælles inspiratio-ner, aspirationer eller tankesæt. I den efterhånden fortærskede globaliserings tidsal-der, hvor selv det fjerneste perspektiv kan tilnærmes med et klik, er kun de færre-ste kunstnere – dem der virkelig insisterer på dét – snævert forankrede i deres aller-nærmeste og specifikke omgivelser. Begrebet kunstnerisk slægtskab har for længst mistet al nødvendig sammenhæng med egentlig menneskelig nærhed – dét at være og færdes i de samme fysiske rum. På samtidskunstscenen giver det generelt lille udbytte at ville binde tolkningen af kunstværker op på nationale, regionale eller andre endog endnu mindre kontekster. Modernisme i kunsten er i høj grad et grænseløst erkendelsesrum eller parallelsprog. Det udfolder sig i forhold til en på én gang alle-stedsnærværende og steds-uafhængig kunstinstitution med særegne traditioner og former for betydningsdannelse, som beskueren nødvendigvis må være bekendt med.



Brede tendenser til trods er det alligevel sjældent muligt – eller ønskeligt - helt at af-feje det intime og personlige miljøs betydning for skabelsen af kunst med en selvbe-roende og verdensomspændende modernismes brede malerkost. Og slet ikke i de ganske særlige tilfælde hvor nærhed, fællesskab og dialog mellem kunstnere langt fra lyser ud af værkerne men rettere går forud for dem. Billedhuggeren Bjørn Poulsen og maleren Anette Harboe Flensburg udgør et sådant 'tilfælde'. Siden slutningen af 1980'erne har de forfulgt meget forskellige, og stærkt individuelle, kunstneriske spor. Ud fra deres værkers udseender vil de færreste formentlig straks identificere en ind-byrdes relation. Ikke desto mindre har de to kunstnere dannet par i privaten, og følgelig ført en på- og indgående dialog om kunst, igennem omkring 20 år.

Givet idéen om kunst som en særlig erfaringskategori, på afstand af, men dog i kon-stant vekselvirkning med, verden, medfører en nær relation i livet ikke automatisk en nær relation i kunsten. Skotterne er dog alt andet end vandtætte, hvilket Flensburgs og Poulsens egen udstillingstitel Longing to be in the same world præcis peger på. Deres værker kan meningsfuldt udlægges som en stærkt lokal, anelsesfuld og raffineret kunstnerisk dialog på tværs af 'lighed'. En dialog der ikke har ret meget at gøre med værkernes ydersider, ikke angår deres konkrete gestaltning og udseende, men har tematisk, stemningsmæssig eller om man vil filosofisk karakter. Anette Har-boe Flensburg og Bjørn Poulsen er et fremragende eksempel på, at den kvalificerende samtalepartner ikke er den, der taler efter munden eller spejler. I dette tilfælde befinder samtalepartneren sig ualmindelig tæt på men samtidig i en helt anden grøft.

I de to kunstneres respektive værker kan der udmærket peges på andre, me-re indlysende, inspirationskilder end netop partneren - ikke mindst fordi de arbejder i helt forskellige medier. De er begge yderst reflekterede og bevidste om de henholds-vis maleriske og skulpturelle giganter eller traditioner de står på skuldrene af. Det er dog i allerhøjeste grad et spørgsmål værd, om der kan peges på mere relevante be-slægtede end netop den anden.

Flensburgs maleri er tidligere sat i relation til kunstnere som Vilhelm Hammershøi, Ola Billgren og Gerhard Richter (1), mens Poulsens kunst, der har sit udspring på Willy Ørskovs billedhuggerskole ved Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi i 1980'erne, på det seneste bl.a. er blevet sammenlignet med engelske skulptører som Richard Deacon, Tony Cragg og Bill Woodrow (2). Jeg vil i det følgende bevidst sæt-te parentes om den store kunsthistoriske sammenhæng og rette røntgenlyset mod et indre rum, et helt lokalt sted, en særlig sensibilitet, en verdens- og kunstanskuelse, som Bjørn Poulsens og Anette Harboe Flensburgs kunst synes at dele.



Som sprog i almindelighed bygger også kunstens sprog på en underskov af dialekter, og netop dialekter må nødvendigvis være bundet til bestemte, afgrænsede steder. En dialekt er et godt billede på et fortroligt og indforstået rum, der naturligt er endnu mere intimt og eksklusivt end sproget som helhed. Min fornemmelse er, at forbindel-sen mellem Bjørn Poulsens og Anette Harboe Flensburgs kunst meget vel kan siges at være en fælles dialekt eller måske et særligt tonefald. Samtidig er det min for-nemmelse, at dialogen mellem kunstnernes værker er blevet stærkere og mere mar-kant som årene er gået, uden at de derfor er kommet til at ligne hinanden mere.

Udstillingen på Kunsthallen Brandts er den første større fælles iscenesættelse af Bjørn Poulsens og Anette Harboe Flensburgs kunst, selvom de ved flere tidligere lejligheder har udstillet sammen i gallerisammenhæng. Der er ikke tale om en retro-spektiv udstilling, og heller ikke denne fremstilling kan på nogen måde yde nuancer-ne i deres individuelle udviklinger retfærdighed. Udstillingen består overvejende af nyproducerede værker suppleret med udvalgte værker fra de senere år og er på den måde mere at opfatte som en slags 'state of their art'.



Anette Harboe Flensburg brød for alvor igennem til et større kunstpublikum, da hun i 2003 på baggrund af billedserien Modtagelserum blev tildelt andenpræmien i den prestigefyldte nordiske maleripris Carnegie Art Award. Denne suite af værker og ik-ke mindst en varig dialog med det fotografiske billede, der løber som en rød tråd gennem Flensburgs samlede værk (3), er på mange måder pejlemærke og grundlag for de malerier, hun præsenterer på denne udstilling. Med serien af inte-riører bevægede Flensburg sig ind i en motivverden – skildringen af på én gang dif-fuse og konkrete rumlige forløb – der siden er blevet hendes yderst frugtbare maleri-ske omdrejningspunkt, ressource og stærkt personlige signatur.

Flensburgs ofte panoramiske værker er blik ind i tilsyneladende virkelige arkitektoni-ske lokaliteter, der reelt er gennemkonstruerede. Billederne bygger – bogstavelig talt – på tredimensionelle skalamodeller i miniature, som kunstneren skaber i atelieret, fotograferer og siden benytter som maleriske forlæg. Rum åbner sig imod rum i over-vejende korrekt perspektivisk forkortning. Gennem dør- og vinduesåbninger gives til tider anelsesfulde glimt af en ydre natur, der dog typisk fortoner sig i opløst farve-flimmer. Lys trænger ind og reflekteres i gulve og lofter. Nogle rum er sparsomt ud-styrede med enkelte møbler eller lamper, nogle har ornamentalt mønstrede tapeter eller gulvtæpper, i andre igen findes der 'billeder i billedet'. Altid er rum-mene mennesketomme og indhyllet i en altomfattende optisk blødhed, der ik-ke mindst skyldes fraværet af et absolut dominerende fokus- eller forsvindingspunkt. Dét fysiologisk betingede vilkår for synet, som vi hver dag ubevidst føler på egen krop – at alt i periferien af vore øjnes brændpunkt fremstår anelsesfuldt og med blø-de konturer – er i malerierne ophævet til en permanent tilstand af flydende rumlighed.

Udover at malerierne på den måde udfordrer vores vanemæssige væren i verden består Flensburgs suveræne kunstneriske greb i, at hun formår at få sine værker til balancere dirrende og uhyre virkningsfuldt på en papirtynd linje, der går mellem kunst som afbildning og kunst for kunstens egen skyld. Værkerne har slående realismeef-fekt, men tenderer samtidig et abstrakt Colour-Field maleri, hvor farver, former og planer mødes og brydes i egen ret. Malerierne henviser til verden og skaber sam-tidig deres helt egen selv samme. De er overgangsuniverser i en simultanitet af hårdhed og blødhed. De indgyder på samme tid en fornemmelse af genkendelse og fremmedgørelse hos beskueren.



Bjørn Poulsen har gennem årene inddraget alskens materialer, og talrige materiale-kombinationer, i en yderst konsistent og stram skulpturel praksis, der omfatter såvel værker tiltænkt det museale rum som flere udsmykningsopgaver i byrummets store skala. Kunstnerens værk er uden overdrivelse præget af et stofligt væld fra traditions-tung bronze, granit, gips over beton, jern, aluminium, stål, træ, stentøj og keramik til gummi med meget mere. Fællesnævneren i Poulsens værk som helhed – dét der gør materialeeksperimenterne til noget ganske andet end eksperimenter for materialer-nes skyld – er en gennemgående interesse for formkollisioner. Mange værker etable-rer spændingsfelter mellem enkelte skulpturleds genkendelighed som et og helhedens opståen som noget nyt og andet (4). I Poulsens værker fra 1990'erne har kunsthistorikeren Anne Ring Petersen peget på yderligere og relevante modsæt-ninger som konstruktivisme kontra klassicisme samt kropslighed kontra arkitektur (5).

I de seneste år har Poulsen dog i stadig højere grad taget sit udgangspunkt i masse-producerede plastgenstande og formået at vække et forunderligt formpotentiale, som sover rævesøvn i vores alle sammens allernærmeste omgivelser – i køkkenskabene, på badeværelset, i redskabsskure og i kældre. Udstillingen tilbyder et righoldigt ind-blik i disse nyere arbejder, der i materialernes lethed - såvel fysisk som associativt - kan virke som et brud med den tidligere praksis men reelt er en stærkt sanselig og appellerende forlængelse. 

I byggemarkedet, på IKEAs hylder, hos kontorforsyningen og i køkkenafdelingen har kunstneren fundet et sandt vokabular af præfabrikerede genstande, der virkelig giver hans projekt gennemslagskraft og på mange måder gør det lige så indlysende som de ofte kraftige signalfarver. Poulsen bygger skulpturer af smadrede, nedbrudte og på ny sammenskruede margretheskåle, dørslag, kegler, tragte, opbevaringskasser, bakker, arbejdshjelme, drikkekopper, skeer med videre. Ting som i den nye kunstne-riske sammenhæng fuldstændig mister jordforbindelsen, genkendeligheden og relati-onen til deres oprindelige, meget prosaiske, formål. I mødet med værkerne befin-der man sig i en samtidighed af modsætninger, der konstant overblænder og overlejrer hinanden. Rester af konkrete ting bliver til rene billeder. Det banale, næ-re og hverdagslige gøres fjernt og fantastisk. Former der i dagligdagen (bogstavelig talt) er sovset ind i formålstjenlighed træder ved funktionens død frem i al deres ubrugelige synlighed med helt andre potentialer.

Hvori ligger dialogen eller den postulerede fælles klangbund i disse så åbenlyst for-skellige udtryk så nærmere bestemt? Uden at ville opstille en hverken skematisk eller udtømmende facitliste, og i klar bevidsthed om at fokus på lighed risikerer at udrade-re mindst lige så afgørende forskelle, mener jeg helt overordnet den ligger i ambitio-nen om - og evnen til - at undergrave enhver komfortabel forestilling om en objektiv eller endimensional virkelighed.



Under parolen "Verden er dyb. Kun de flade Aander fatter det ikke" blæste 1890'ernes symbolister, med forfatteren Johannes Jørgensen (1866-1956) i spidsen, til kamp mod naturalismen i kunsten og den naturvidenskabelige oplysningstankes ønske om at kalde en spade for en spade (6). Bestræbelsen samlede sig om at fremhæve følelsen, fantasien og det intuitive i kunsten men blev, for speci-elt Jørgensens vedkommende, siden meget svær at skelne fra et sjæleligt eller deci-deret religiøst verdenssyn. Ikke desto mindre er den historiske symbolisme helt over-ordnet karakteriseret ved ønsket om at genfortrylle og mystificere et kunst- og ånds-liv, man fandt, var blevet for positivistisk. Ifølge den symbolistiske tanke er mime-tisk gengivende kunst, en kunst der bekræfter os i en bestemt ratio-nel verdensopfattelse, derfor ikke meget bevendt. Den symbolistiske kunst vil ikke efterligne den ydre verden men gengive flere potentielle oplevelser af den. Dermed bliver selve perspektivet på virkeligheden – diskussionen af hvad virkelighed overho-vedet er for en størrelse, et centralt symbolistisk spørgsmål (7).

Jeg er ikke i nærheden af at ville antyde en religiøs grundstemning i Anette Harboe Flensburgs og Bjørn Poulsens kunst, men jeg synes afgjort de deler det, der kan kaldes en ajourført symbolistisk åre. Der er en sværmerisk, drømmende, poetisk eller ligefrem romantisk stemning over de to kunstneres værker, der synes at undsi-ge, at noget eksisterer positivt eller "in natura". Både Bjørn Poulsens og Anette Har-boe Flensburgs værker påpeger sprækker i den fortrolige og objektive virkelighed ved at sætte et helt spektrum af kontraster og virkelighedsdimensioner i spil. Hermed forlenes ting og rum med yderligere værdier og associationer end de umiddelbart pålydende. Det genkendelige undergår hos begge en form for fortryllelse eller besjæ-ling, hvormed det bliver mangetydigt.

Begge kunstneres værker medierer mellem streng formalisme – æstetisk kunst for kunstens egen skyld – og disket antydede fortællinger med appel til personlig, psyko-logisk indlevelse. Abstraktion og figuration. Alt i værkerne er på én side blotlagt til genkendelse på et konkret, bogstaveligt niveau, men alt er samtidig mere end blot det, det ligner på overfladen. Bjørn Poulsen gør intet for at skjule sine konstruktive principper, de metalliske skruer og skeletkonstruktioner, der binder døde hverdags-banaliteter sammen til fortættede, ukendte figurer. I Anette Harboe Flensburgs male-rier fungerer illusionen samtidig med en klar markering af det maleriske medies es-sentielle fladhed. Hos begge trives kontrasten mellem det vi kan sætte fyldestgøren-de navne på og noget anelsesfuldt, som det formålsrettede hverdagssprog har van-skeligt ved at omfavne. Malerier som skulpturer forener væren med en tilstand af uafsluttet tilbliven man som betragter, med egen personlig mental bagage, må gå ind og bidrage til. Jeg skriver bidrage til – ikke færdiggøre – fordi det sidste, som i al god kunst, ikke lader sig gøre.

Værkernes fortællepotentiale, åbningerne fra det konkrete mod en metafysisk dimen-sion, rækker udover det stedslige nu og her og kan både give anledning til bagud-vendte erindringer eller mere fremadrettede længsler. Det erindringsmæssige aspekt er mest markant hos Anette Harboe Flensburg. Måske fordi hendes malerier, i de-res inddragelse af det fotografiske billede, uvægerligt associerer til fortid, fravær eller en "haven været der" (8). Bjørn Poulsens perspektiv synes i højere grad at pege mod fremtidige tilstande, måske fordi hans medie ligger verdensfjernt fra fotografisk gen-kendelighed.

Heller ikke i dag er en spade bare en spade. En margretheskål er ikke bare en margretheskål. Et rum er ikke bare et rum. Bagom vanerne lurer det ukendte.



Niels Boe Hauggaard-Nielsen er mag. art. i kunsthistorie og vurderingssagkyndig hos Bruun Rasmussen Kunstauktioner, Afdelingen for moderne kunst, København.


(1) De nævnte forbilleder for Anette Harboe Flensburgs kunst diskuteres bl.a. af Lis-beth Bonde i interviewet "Det flydende stof" i kataloget til udstillingen Modtagelses-rum i Museumsbygningen, København 2003 og af Hanne Kolind Poulsen i artiklen "Maleriet og det usynlige" i bogen House of Night and Day, Galleri Christina Wil-son, København 2006.
(2) Se Lisbeth Bondes interview med kunstneren "Et stød i luften – en værksteds-samtale med billedkunstneren Bjørn Poulsen" i bogen Bjørn Poulsen - Skulptur 2002 - 05, Galerie MøllerWitt, Aarhus 2005.
(3) En central tematik, som ikke kan uddybes nærmere her. Se bl.a. katalogerne til udstillingerne Byens Lys, Gentofte Kunstbibliotek 1992, og The Saturated Ima-ge, Kastrupgårdsamlingen 1998, med tekster af henholdsvis Lars Gram-bye, kunstneren og Ola Billgren.
(4) Jeg trækker her og i det følgende på min egen anmeldelse af Bjørn Poulsens ud-stilling Longing for a Space Travel på Overgaden Institut for Samtidskunst, Køben-havn, august-september 2006. Dagbladet Information den 28. august 2006, p. 17.
(5) Se Anne Ring Petersen: Bjørn Poulsen: Brudte helheder, udvalgte skulpturer, Ga-lerie MøllerWitt, Aarhus 2002.
(6) Sætningen stammer fra Johannes Jørgensens programmatiske artikel "Symbo-lisme", først udgivet i andet nummer af tidsskriftet Taarnet (1893). Se Johannes Jør-gensen: Essays om den tidlige modernisme, Aarhus 2001.
(7) Skitseringen af hovedtræk i symbolismen bygger på Iben Holks temaartikel Sym-bolismen, Bibliotekernes netmagasin om skønlitteratur,, udgi-vet på nettet 1998 (opdateret 2005).
(8) Effekter ved fotografiet som poetisk og dybt personligt er beskrevet af Roland Barthes i bogen Det lyse kammer: bemærkninger om fotografiet, København 1983 (1980).




by Hanne Kolind Poulsen


Annette Harboe Flensburg (b. 1961) is one of the younger artists who in recent years have made a serious name for themselves on the domestic art scene. Especially since being awarded the Second Prize in the 2003 Carnegie Art Rewards for a series of paintings entitled Reception Rooms, Flensburg has become familiar to the art-loving public, primarily as “painter of interiors”. However, ever since 2001, when she started working with rooms as her motifs, Flensburg has been construed by the media as a “modern Hammershøi”. And the clichés habitually applied to Hammershøi’s paintings have been used again for those by Flensburg – without further reflection. It might almost be believed that her work is obviously really no more than a kind of modernisation of Hammershøi’s “quiet rooms”, “silent rooms” “lonely interiors” etc. etc. But what the deeper themes are in Hammershøi’s work, and what the up-dating on which Flensburg is engaged really consists of, has never really been given serious consideration. 

Flensburg certainly admits that she is fascinated by Hammershøi. “It is perfectly clear that the paintings fit into a tradition of interiors in which […] Hammershøi is probably the most obvious exponent”, she says of her paintings in an interview with Lisbeth Bonde from 2003. “And I am quite happy with that. But at the same time this is also an attempt to bring this tradition to a level that can be appreciated by my own time”. On another occasion, she says: “I love his [Hammershøi’s] paintings. This is a character that interests me, but I keep the melancholy tone at
arm’s length. It must not be too tasteful. We need a bit of Irma or Tivoli as well. You have to air the place. The way in which you relate to tradition is important, and you have to do so in a dialogue with our life as it is today”. So Hammershøi is of interest to Flensburg – as probably to most painters – but she is aiming at somewhere else, which, I maintain, might well not immediately have very much to do with Hammershøi after all.

What are Flensburg’s paintings about, then? They are naturally about several things, but a constant theme in her production is the relationship between reality – or the surrounding objects that we generally conceive of as reality – and the image. In these works, she discusses what images are when they are not merely
defined as physical objects. What is going on when we “see” an “image” and how (and why) is “the real” represented?

On her web site, Flensburg has published a short, but in the present context very important text, signed August 2004, about the sources by which she has been influenced. “Models of Reality (Influences)” is the title she gives it. “If I am to point to some interesting representations of reality that have helped to expand my own view, there are especially two, very different ones, I would like to emphasise.” The first, she writes, is the so-called superstring theory, which attempted to explain that reality consists of many more dimensions than the three we normally perceive and operate in. We can only register these other dimensions if we expose things to a different optic (or other questions/methods of answering) than the one/ones we usually employ. “Perhaps this is one of the reasons why I am so keen in my painting to get some planes into position, to establish a perspectivist space. As a kind of recognition that there is obviously a meaning in our experiencing things on these few levels, but at the same time a reflection on the fact that this is perhaps a kind of cover for more immanent planes. That three-dimensional space is the model of reality which we are obliged to accept. The meanings that are implicit in this complex interplay between the visible and the invisible can of course not immediately be visualised; that is something one can well reflect on and then simply try to make a (good) painting which nevertheless always and quite untheoretically centres on these theories, meanings, planes and spaces” (my italics). The other source of influence to which Flensburg refers is the paintings of Francis Bacon – briefly and without further comment. Interestingly enough, she makes no mention whatever of Hammershøi! 

To be interested in the dimensions that are outside visible, “ordinary” reality, that is what we experience as reality in our everyday lives, is of course, as Flensburg points out, a bit of a problem for an artist. But we can say that she really has caught hold of some fundamental questions, for it is in fact a quite classic problem. Surely, on one level or another in their works, artists have always, certainly since antiquity, been interested in investigating and visualising “the invisible”, the invisible part of reality – and have realised that reality is both more than and different from what we perceive in ordinary everyday life.

This “invisible” element is of course a historical entity that has been construed differently at different times. It has been many different things over the ages, and has been projected in different ways in both words and images. The entire religious dimension, for instance, that was a central feature of art for many centuries, belonged to this category. When artists interpret the world, research into it and lay before us their suggestions as to how it “is” and what it means – they must of necessity also introduce these invisible dimensions. In pictorial art this has given rise to the question of how best to convey this “entire”, “actual” reality they have thought they could detect or at least have believed to exist. How does one capture it in an image? What does this reality look like – behind our “superficial experience”? And how can it and the image relate to each other?

I believe that Flensburg provides a modern suggestion for an answer to these classic questions that permeate the visual art of our civilisation. An instance of this is the cycle entitled Reception Rooms, which as said above led to the award of the Carnegie Foundation Second Prize. The series consists of a lengthy sequence of paintings (the precise number is slightly unclear) that were made between 2001 and 2003. In them – and in general – Flensburg works in a quite traditional manner both in terms of technique and motif. She paints according to a classical technique, oil on canvas, in the traditional manner building up her figures via thin layers of paint. And as for motif, she works within a framework of figuration. We can recognise the motifs from our everyday lives: rooms, furniture, windows,
chandeliers etc. In terms of both motif and space, what we immediately see is a probable world – at least when we regard it at a distance from the painting. At close quarters, however, the figuration is to some extent dissolved. The world we
immediately were able to recognise now turns into signs referring to what we thought we were seeing at a distance! The room becomes misty, so to speak. The motifs are veiled or completely dissolved. The trees outside the windows turn into a green that now merely signalises nature – they no longer “are” nature. And
chandeliers simply turn into radiant splashes on the painting. Abstraction threatens, but still never effectively asserts itself.

The fluid condition between figuration and abstraction is used in the first instance, I believe, to dismantle our customary view, our everyday perception of the world around us. Or at any event to question it more closely. What is it that happens when we perceive something? What is it we see – and what do we not see? How do we create meaning in our perception? In the world as well as in the painting. In our everyday lives we can of course not go around all the time asking ourselves what it “really” is we are seeing. Here, the customary view is a survival tool with which we of necessity must operate.

In the second instance Flensburg uses the unstable figuration to smuggle in shifts in the reality effect, tiny modifications by which we can only be puzzled as we gradually note them. On the one hand, she imitates our visible reality so that (at a distance) it emerges with a convincing effect of reality, but on the other
hand, she contradicts this statement at the same time by nevertheless not completing the naturalist code. The paintings in the Reception Rooms series, with their apparently very natural, though complicated, spatial relationships, become unclear and strange on closer examination. How are these rooms connected?
Where do the shadows come from? And the light? What takes place in them? Why do they seem so strange, so alien, despite their natural appearance? And so on.

Bonde writes of them that they “stand menacing and rather ghost-like, waiting to be taken into use by [the viewer’s] roving eye. We ourselves fill the rooms with presence”. This is not quite precise in my view. The images are not in fact menacing. They are signs that we well understand how to decode and relate to “objectively” as images – even if we can also allow them to seduce us. But they are also something more, or something different. They do not come out right. We can simply not translate this “more or other” into a (verbal) language. Language does not have the right word for the shifts that take place on the visual plane, for this quality that makes them strange. Moreover, we do not fill the rooms with “presence” by our “roving eye”. That is not what happens. Flensburg is not asking existential questions – not asking about the presence (or lack of presence) of an individual in the image. We have long ago given up “believing” in the rooms as reality – in spite of the reality effect. We (might) still do with Hammershøi’s paintings, even though their relationship to reality is not 1:1 either. Flensburg’s paintings are not about presence or absence (in an existential sense), but about shifts, distortions, processes that are intended to make us sense a reality we cannot see: the invisible. But she operates within a visual idiom produced by visible reality. Despite this “dispute with reality”, as she calls it, it is nevertheless important to Flensburg to emphasis the sign quality of her works. She is happy to talk about their genesis, so that the viewer is not really led astray and seduced by the effect of reality into believing that these are traditional interiors. She starts by building models of rooms (empty or with wallpapers, carpets, chandeliers etc), of which she then makes photomontages, finally completing them on the canvas. So it is a model of nature that becomes a model for the photograph, which becomes a model for the painting. 

Flensburg herself says that she “seeks to reach a point between an almost constructively formal space and a significantly condensed space, in which patterns and lights perforate the more stable, stationary architecture and perhaps also [the more stable, stationary] horizon of understanding”. This attempt to perforate the stability of the physical world and our horizon of understanding of it is central to her work as such. The paintings convey cracks in the stable, habitual, everyday world, through which some of the many other dimensions – invisible to us – of which reality (presumably) also consists, can be sensed, can become present – can be seen? This ambition also dominates in the series Red Rooms from 2004 but the situation is here put in more concrete terms – as for instance in Red
Rooms # 2, where the circular mirror on the wall is reflected as a square on the blank floor! And reflections of light, reflected images, colours, spatial relationships etc. have become insistently inconceivable – and fascinating – in their apparent


Merleau-Ponty and Reality

What Flensburg is looking at, I think, are the problems concerned with the treatment of reality in painting – whatever this reality then “is”. She problematises our understanding of reality as such, with the ambition of involving other dimensions than what is immediately visible in her descriptions/interpretations of it.

The French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961) produced some of the most important contributions in the 20th century to our understanding of reality, contributions on which large parts of post-modern philosophy rest. So it will be an obvious course in connection with an interpretation of Flensburg’s
works to look more closely at his writings – all the more so as he was particularly interested in the relationship between art and reality, and in this how the “invisible” can be visualised, how it can become visible in pictorial art.

One of the great problems in Western philosophy has been the conflict between subject and object. The starting point has been a conflict between the consciousness and the world, and the traditional question has been how the subjective consciousness makes contact with the objective world. Merleau-Ponty solves the ancient problem of the surrounding world in a new and radical manner. He starts out in Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), the “father” of phenomenology, whose ambition had been to devise a theory-free, pure description of what comes into view, of the phenomena – hence the name. In the 17th century, Descartes had defined a cogito, a thinking consciousness. Husserl wanted to discover the preconditions for this thinking awareness, to find the absolute source of all experience and thus to provide an account of the pre-reflexive, which all knowledge, and thus science, builds on – and forgets! He progressed (or perhaps more correctly regressed) to a so-called Transcendental Ego, a slightly foggy idea that nevertheless was again outside the world (as Merleau-Ponty pointed out and criticised) and thus ended in the same contradiction and conflict between subject and object as Descartes’ cogito.

For Merleau-Ponty, too, it was a matter of pinning down a world before reflection (before cognition, theories, etc), a world on which the whole of cognition rests. Meanwhile, Merleau-Ponty believed that the foundation for any experience had to rest on an original, pre-conscious unity between subject and object, consciousness and the world. This original unity was due to the fact that we are corporeal beings. We are not only subjects (consciousnesses), but also objects (bodies). Subject and object are mingled in the body, and – as corporeal subjects – we become part of the world. We are a special kind of excrescence on the surface of the world – more or less like plants.

This unity between body and the world turned out to have various far-reaching consequences. Partly because we are part of the world we cannot place ourselves outside it, not see it “from the outside”. And because there cannot be an absolute position outside the world, neither can there be any objective cognition.
There is only a world “for us” (the phenomenal field), not a world “that exists in itself” – at least, not one we can recognise. Furthermore, it is not consciousness (reflection) that imbues the world with meaning, as Husserl and Descartes believed. On the one hand, the surrounding world already has meaning before the consciousness encounters it. Typically it has received this during our childhood, when the body learns to operate in the world. And on the other hand, the very perception of the world stylises. The sense influences have to be interpreted in the brain before they can create meaning. Thus, meaning is thus not something that cognitional subjects find out in the world, but something that corporeal subjects construct – and find again in phenomena.

In 1948, Merleau-Ponty wrote an article on the French post-impressionist Paul Cézanne, in which he reads his philosophy into Cézanne’s work. He interprets Cézanne’s paintings and texts (letters, notes etc.) with his phenomenology as the pivotal point so that the images come to visualise the points in the philosophy. In “The Painter and the Philosopher” from 1960, Merleau-Ponty specifies the points from the Cézanne text and gives them general validity. It is no longer particularly
about Cézanne, but about the essence of painting as such.
Cézanne’s overriding project was to describe reality, maintains Merleau-Ponty. But not only to reproduce the visible exterior of the world, not only to paint a translation of an already finished thought! He wanted to describe the essence of the visible, to portray his material as it takes form, to catch the motif “alive” – and thereby to describe the original, pre-reflectory world. For, according to Merleau-Ponty, there exists behind the visible surface an invisible dimension, which is an inexhaustible depth. The invisible is the relief and depth of the visible – it is that
which means that we see more and different from what we see. It is this invisible element that (according to Merleau-Ponty) Cézanne wanted to make visible in and with painting. For the fundamental principle of painting is by means of the visible to give visible existence to the invisible. 

The difference between the painter and the rest of us, meanwhile, is that we as seeing beings operate according to habit through “historical density”. We are not conscious of the conditions and potentials of sight. “We forget what is vague and
ambiguous in visible impressions and go straight through them to the objects they represent for us.” We believe we see the world clearly/correctly/finally – but how is it possible for us to do this when we can only perceive it “from the inside”? Painters, on the other hand, maintains Merleau-Ponty, possess a special kind of gift – a plastic gift – that enables them to ask the same questions about existence as the philosopher (i.e. Merleau-Ponty himself), but in a different, that is to say a visual, way. The painter is able to see the genesis of the vision and to portray it in this dimension. So, for ordinary vision, in its historical density, a mountain is a mountain. For the painter, the project is to examine and portray how it becomes a mountain, how it is at all possible to see it as a mountain. “The visible in an ordinary sense forgets its preconditions. It is based in reality on full
visibility, which is created anew [e.g. by the painter] and gives freedom to the ghosts that are captives in general visibility”, writes Merleau-Ponty. 

So the painter teaches us in his works to see the “full visibility” behind habit, that is to say to become aware of the existence of invisible dimensions to visibility. But the painter’s project is endless. “The language of painting is not ‘determined by nature’ [the visible]: one must work it out and invent it again and again” – that was why Cézanne tirelessly repeated his motifs, for instance the Mont St. Victoire. He could not paint the mountain once and for all. He could not so to speak hit the bull’s eye and then have done with it. The invisible only becomes visible in brief glimpses at each attempt – if at all. And it constantly changes because it is being seen from inside. So the painter’s work is endless, like that of the philosopher, and that of cognition in general. And furthermore, by transforming the invisible into the visible, the painter creates an alien element in the picture. Things/the world become alien in Cézanne’s paintings, Merleau-Ponty believes, even if all the rules of the naturalistic code are observed. Cézanne brings out the non-human nature in which humanity has ensconced itself. 


Visualising the Incomprehensible

Whether Merleau-Ponty is right in maintaining that painting as such is always involved in these problems, is something that is open to discussion, just as is his rather romantic vision of the artist, which makes the artist into a person who from the hand of nature has been equipped with a special gift. This view of the
artist actually also legitimises his tendency to stage Cézanne as a “true/genuine” painter (in contrast to so many others) and himself as the “true/genuine” philosopher (in contrast to his opponents).

Despite these objections, I believe that Merleau-Ponty’s modern suggestion of what the invisible really ”is”, and how “complete visibility” could become present in a painting, is a suggestion that very clearly finds a response in Flensburg’s works. In particular, his ideas can help verbalise the quality here present that is otherwise difficult to articulate. However, it is difficult in the paintings to point to the place or places where the shifts take place, where the invisible dimensions materialise and become visible. Nor does Merleau-Ponty do this in Cézanne’s
paintings. For it is not really anything truly figurative that can be pinned down. It is rather an element of inexplicability in the painting that makes viewers sense it, or at least allow themselves to be seduced into believing it. Repetition of the motif – all these largely identical rooms – militates in the same direction. Something is being searched for here, which justifies this triviality. And likewise the alien element. They “resemble” our reality – and yet they do not. We know where we are – and
yet everything is different from what it ought to be.

The painter’s precedence over the rest of us – including the non-phenomenological philosopher – consists in the fact, writes Merleau-Ponty, that he (Merleau-Ponty, according to tradition, always refers to “the painter” as “he”) perceives the world as “the world for us”, as constituted, as created by us (in our perception of it). Consequently, he always approaches the world in a constant “poetical construction” of it. It is the same kind of construction or description I believe Flensburg is engaged on when she talks of her desire in her paintings to perforate the stability of habitual reality and hint at “more immanent planes” than the model of reality that we are referred to, cf. the above quotation from Flensburg’s web site. 

Flensburg has relatively recently (2003-04) executed altarpieces for various Danish churches. They are scarcely distinguishable from her other room pictures. The church context might seem surprising at first, for the paintings ought also to convey some specific theological message, that of the Lutheran Church, and a specific understanding of the invisible dimensions of reality, that is to say a metaphysics pointing to the Christian dogma. However, there is nothing in the paintings that explicitly refers to anything of this kind. But if Flensburg allows her paintings to be used, and if they can be used at all, in such a concrete and definable religious context as a Danish church – even if, it must be said, they were only to be there temporarily, as a kind of experiment – I believe it is precisely because they are concerned with the mystical, the fundamentally incomprehensible factor in the world – that which is fundamental to any religion before its more practically applicable, but fixed version, one that predates theology, so to speak.

Merleau-Ponty, too, points to “the mystical” as the essence of the world. It fuels constant wonderment, but can never be completely encompassed – because it is always seen from the inside and thereby is always changed for us – but which in some inexplicable way nevertheless “is” here. “The link with the world such as it indefatigably expresses itself in us is not of such a kind that it can be made clearer through analysis: philosophy [and, it might be added: painting] can only present it to our gaze, only give it to us to note,” writes Merleau-Ponty in an explication of his phenomenological philosophy. And furthermore: ”The world and reason are unproblematical;  mysterious, if you like, but this mystery defines them and it cannot be imagined that it can be dispersed by virtue of some “solution”; it is more fundamental than any solution. Real philosophy teaches us to see the world afresh, and in fact a fictional account can tell more about the world and with the same “depth” as a philosophical dissertation”. Perhaps Flensburg is a modern Cézanne rather than a modern Hammershøi? Or perhaps Hammershøi’s and Cézanne’s projects (at any rate in a Merleau-Ponty interpretation) are not so far from each other – or from Flensburg?

Ola Billgren, with whom Flensburg feels an affinity as a painter, expresses himself in a slightly different way about what takes place in her paintings, but the point is in fact the same. “She combines in her pictures two conceptions or modalities of what is seen: one lingers at the linking boundary of communication, i.e. of language, and so constitutes a confirmation of what can be functionally conveyed, while the other in what is seen, by a kind of deviation of vision, establishes the subject in its uttermost isolation, its preoccupation with producing a solipsistic, phantasmagorical other image”. This very poetical statement presumably means, in a more prosaic version, something to the effect that Flensburg’s painting contains two modalities of what is seen, that is to say two ways of relating to what is seen and two ways of treating and conveying it. One can be talked about, defined and formulated precisely. That is for instance those things in the painting that we can recognise from our everyday world. The other cannot be precisely defined. Language ceases here. But it “is” there nevertheless, as an image. This is what Merleau-Ponty attempts to talk about in the case of Cézanne. It is this “other image” that the viewer produces “in what is seen, by a kind of deviation of the eye”, which could correspond to “the invisible”. And it is this dimension in the painting that works behind the viewer’s back – or rather behind the language. It is this that makes it fundamentally impossible to control; it was this for instance that made Luther and his followers afraid of the image – a fear that his church is gradually overcoming, as witness Flensburg’s altarpieces. But it is also this dimension that means that the image can give rise to understanding in a different way from science.





af Hanne Kolind Poulsen


Anette Harboe Flensburg (f. 1961) er én af de yngre kunstnere, der i de senere år for alvor er blevet eksponeret på den hjemlige kunstscene. Især efter tildelingen af Carnegie Art Rewards andenpris i 2003 for en serie billeder, Modtagelsesrum, blev Flensburg kendt i den kunstinteresserede offentlighed, først og fremmest som ”interiørmaler”.

Dog allerede fra omkring 2001, hvor Flensburg begyndte at arbejde med rum som motiv, er hun af pressen blevet konstrueret som en ”moderne Hammershøi”. Og de floskler, der almindeligvis bruges om Hammershøis billeder, er blevet genbrugt på Flensburgs – uden nævneværdig eftertanke. Hendes arbejde handler, skulle man tro, åbenbart kun om en slags modernisering af Hammershøis ”stille stuer”, ”tyste rum”, ”ensomme interiører”, af hans ”værkers karakter af hemmelighedsfuldhed”, ”hans dragende og foruroligende rumopfattelse”, osv., osv. Men hvad Hammershøis værker nærmere tematiserer, og hvad den opdatering, som Flensburg skulle være ude i, faktisk består i, er aldrig rigtigt blevet uddybet.

Flensburg vedgår bestemt en fascination af Hammershøi. ”Malerierne skriver sig med al mulig tydelighed ind i en interiørtradition, hvor […] Hammershøi nok er den mest oplagte eksponent”, siger hun om sine billeder i et interview med
Lisbeth Bonde fra 2003, ”og det har jeg det helt fint med. Men samtidig er det også et forsøg på at bringe denne tradition på øjenhøjde med min egen samtid”. En anden gang siger hun: ”Jeg elsker hans [Hammershøis] billeder. Det er et sindelag,
der optager mig, men jeg holder den melankolske tone ud i strakt arm. Det må ikke blive for smagfuldt. Der skal lidt Irma eller Tivoli ind over. Man må få luftet ud. Det er vigtigt, hvordan man forholder sig til traditionen, og at man går i dialog med vort liv i dag”. Altså, Hammershøi er interessant for Flensburg – som for de fleste malere velsagtens – men hun vil dog et andet sted hen, der, vil jeg hævde, måske ikke umiddelbart har så meget med Hammershøi at gøre, trods alt.

Hvad handler Flensburgs billeder så om? De handler selvfølgelig om flere ting, men et gennemløbende tema i hendes produktion er forholdet mellem virkeligheden – eller det omgivende stof, som vi almindeligvis forstår som virkelighed – og billedet. Hun diskuterer i værkerne, hvad billeder er, når de ikke blot defineres som fysiske objekter. Hvad er det, der er på færde, når vi ”ser” et ”billede”, og hvordan (og hvorfor) repræsenteres ”det virkelige”.

På sin hjemmeside har Flensburg publiceret en kort, men i denne forbindelse meget central tekst, underskrevet august 2004, om sine indflydelseskilder. ”Modeller af virkeligheden (indflydelser)”, kalder hun den. ”Skal jeg pege på nogle interessante fremstillinger af virkeligheden, der har haft udvidende indflydelse på mit eget syn, er der navnlig to, meget forskellige, jeg har lyst til at fremhæve”. Den første, skriver hun, er den såkaldte superstrengsteori, der forsøgte at anskueliggøre, at virkeligheden består af mange flere dimensioner, end de tre, vi normalt opfatter og opererer i. Vi kan kun registrere disse øvrige dimensioner, hvis vi udsætter tingene for en anden optik (eller andre spørgsmål/metoder at spørge på), end den/dem vi almindeligvis benytter os af. ”Måske er det en af grundene til, at jeg i maleriet er så optaget af at få stillet nogle planer i position, at gøre rede for et perspektivisk rum. Som en slags tilkendegivelse af, at der åbenbart er en mening med, at vi erfarer tingene i disse få niveauer, men samtidig en refleksion over, at det måske er en slags dækerfaring for mere immanente planer. At det tredimensionelle rum er den model af virkeligheden, som vi er henvist til. De betydninger, der ligger i dette komplekse spil mellem det synlige og det usynlige, kan jo ikke umiddelbart visualiseres, det kan man godt besinde sig på, og så bare forsøge at lave et (godt) maleri, der altid alligevel og helt uteoretisk kredser om disse teorier, betydninger, planer og rum” (mine fremhævelser). Den anden indflydelseskilde, Flensburg nævner, er Francis Bacons malerier – kort og godt og uden videre kommentarer. Interessant nok, nævner hun slet ikke Hammershøi! 

At interessere sig for de dimensioner, der ligger uden for den synlige, ”almindelige” virkelighed, dét vi i dagligdagen oplever som virkeligheden, er selvfølgelig, som Flensburg påpeger, lidt af et problem for en billedkunstner. Men man kan sige, at Flensburg her virkelig har fat i nogle fundamentale anliggender, for det er faktisk et ganske klassisk problem. Billedkunstnere har til alle tider, vel, og i hvert fald siden antikken, på et eller andet plan i deres værker beskæftiget sig med at undersøge og visualisere ”det usynlige”, den usynlige del af virkeligheden – og
har været klar over, at virkeligheden var både mere og andet, end hvad man perciperer af den i det almindelige hverdagsliv.
Dette ”usynlige” er selvfølgelig en historisk størrelse, der konstrueres forskelligt til forskellige tider. Det har været mange forskellige ting i tidernes løb, og er blevet itale- og iscenesat på forskellige måder. Hele den religiøse dimension, fx, der i
mange århundreder prægede kunsten, har hørt til her. Når billedkunstnere tolker verden, forsker i den og giver et bud på, hvordan den ”er”, og hvad det betyder – hvilket må siges grundlæggende at være, hvad billed- og andre slags kunstnere
gør – så må de nødvendigvis også inddrage disse usynlige dimensioner. I billedkunsten har det givet anledning til spørgsmål om, hvordan denne, ”hele”, ”egentlige” virkelighed, man har ment at kunne detektere, eller i det mindste har troet på eksisterede, bedst muligt har kunnet formidles. Hvordan griber man den i et billede? Hvordan ser denne virkelighed ud – bagom ”dækerfaringen”? Og hvordan kan dén og billedet forholde sig til hinanden?

Jeg mener, at Flensburg giver et tidssvarende bud på disse klassiske spørgsmål, der løber gennem vor kulturs billedkunst. For eksempel i serien Modtagelsesrum, der som sagt udløste Carnegie-fondens andenpris. Serien består af en længere
række malerier (det præcise antal er lidt uklart), der er lavet mellem 2001 og 2003. Flensburg arbejder i disse billeder – og i det hele taget – egentligt ganske traditionelt, både i teknisk og motivisk henseende. Hun maler i en klassisk teknik, olie på lærred, hvor hun oftest på traditionel vis bygger figurerne op i tynde lag. Og motivisk arbejder hun inden for figurationens rammer. Vi kan genkende motiverne fra vor dagligdag: rum, møbler, vinduer, lysekroner, osv. Motivisk og rumligt er det en sandsynlig verden, vi umiddelbart ser – i hvert fald når vi betragter den på afstand af billedet. På nærmere hold opløses figurationen imidlertid til dels. Den verden, vi umiddelbart kunne genkende, bliver nu tegn, der henviser til det vi mente at se på afstand! Rummet tåger til, så at sige. Motiverne sløres eller opløses helt. Træerne uden for vinduerne bliver til grøn farve, der nu blot signalerer natur – de ”er” det ikke længere. Og lysekroner bliver til lysende pletter på maleriet. Abstraktionen truer, men befæstes dog alligevel aldrig effektivt.

Den svævende tilstand mellem figuration og abstraktion bruges i første omgang, mener jeg, til at afmontere vort vanesyn, vor dagligdags perception af verden omkring os. Eller i hvert fald til at spørge nærmere til den. Hvad er det, der sker, når vi perciperer? Hvad er det vi ser – og hvad ser vi ikke? Hvordan skaber vi betydning i perceptionen? I verden såvel som i billedet. I hverdagen kan vi jo ikke gå rundt og hele tiden spørge os selv om, hvad det ”egentlig” er vi ser. Her er vanesynet et overlevelsesværktøj, vi nødvendigvis må operere med! 

I anden omgang bruger Flensburg den ustabile figuration til at indsmugle forskydninger i realismeeffekten, små skred, som vi må studse over, efterhånden som vi registrerer dem. Hun imiterer på den ene side vor synlige virkelighed, så den (på afstand) fremstår med overbevisende realitetseffekt, men modsiger på den anden side samtidigt dette udsagn ved alligevel ikke at fuldbyrde den naturalistiske kode. Modtagelsesrum- seriens billeder med deres tilsyneladende så
naturlige, om end indviklede, rumlige forhold, bliver uklare og mærkelige ved nærmere eftersyn. Hvordan hænger disse rum sammen? Hvor kommer skyggerne fra? Og lyset? Hvad foregår der i dem? Hvorfor virker de så underlige (så fremmede?) på trods af deres naturlighed? Osv.

Bonde skriver om dem, at de ”står unheimlich og lidt spøgelsesagtige og venter på at blive taget i brug af [betragterens] vandrende blik. Vi fylder selv rummene
med nærvær”. Dette er ikke helt præcist, efter min mening. Billederne er faktisk ikke uhyggelige. De er tegn, som vi udmærket forstår at afkode og forholde os ”sagligt” til som billeder – selv om vi også kan lade dem forføre os. Men de er også noget mere, eller noget andet. De går ikke op. Blot kan vi ikke omsætte dette ”mere eller andet” til (verbalt) sprog. Sproget har ikke rigtigt ord for de forskydninger, der foregår på det visuelle plan, for dét, der gør dem underlige. Endvidere fylder vi ikke rummene med ”nærvær” af vort ”vandrende blik”. Det er ikke det, der sker. Det er ikke eksistentielle spørgsmål, Flensburg stiller – ikke et spørgsmål om et jegs nærvær (eller manglende nærvær) i billedet. Vi har for længst opgivet at ”tro” på rummene som virkelighed – på trods af realitetseffekten. Det gør vi (muligvis) endnu i Hammershøis billeder, selv om deres forhold til virkeligheden heller ikke er 1:1. Flensburgs billeder handler ikke om nærvær eller fravær (i eksistentiel forstand), men om forskydninger, skred, processer, der skal lade en virkelighed ane, vi ikke kan se. Det usynlige. Men hun opererer inden for et visuelle sprog, som den synlige virkelighed leverer. På trods af dette ”mellemværende med virkeligheden”, som hun kalder det, er det dog vigtigt for Flensburg at fremhæve værkernes tegn-karakter. Hun fortæller gerne om deres tilblivelses-proces, så betragteren ikke for alvor ledes på vildspor og forføres af reallitetseffekten til at tro, at der er tale om traditionelt interiør-maleri. Hun starter med at bygge modeller af rum (tomme eller med tapeter, tæpper, lysekroner, etc.), som hun derefter laver fotomontager af og endelig bygger færdige på lærredet. Det er således en model af naturen, der bliver model for fotografiet, der bliver model for maleriet.

Flensburg siger selv, at hun ”søger at nå et punkt mellem et næsten konstruktivt formelt rum og et betydningsmæssigt fortættet rum, hvor mønstre og lys perforerer den mere stabile, stationære arkitektur og måske også [den mere stabile,
stationære] forståelseshorisont” Dette forsøg på en perforering af stabiliteten i den fysiske verden og i vor horisont for forståelsen af den er centralt for hendes værk som sådant. Malerierne formidler sprækker i den stabile dagligdags vaneverden, hvorigennem nogle af de mange andre, for os usynlige, dimensioner, som virkeligheden (formentligt) også består af, kan fornemmes, kan blive nærværende – kan ses? Også i serien Red Rooms fra 2004 dominerer denne ambition, men situationen er her mere håndfast trukket op – som fx i Red Rooms # 2, hvor det runde spejl på væggen er reflekteret som firkantet i det blanke gulv! Og lysreflekser, spejlinger, farver, rumlige forhold, etc. er i det hele taget blevet påtrængende ufattelige – og fascinerende – i al deres natur-lighed. 


Merleau-Ponty og virkeligheden

Det Flensburg er ude efter, mener jeg, er problemerne omkring håndteringen af virkeligheden i maleriet – hvad end denne virkelighed så ”er”. Flensburg problematiserer vor forståelse af virkeligheden som sådan, med ambitioner om at involvere andre dimensioner end de umiddelbart synlige i sine beskrivelser/tolkninger af den. 

Den franske filosof Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961) har givet nogle af de betydeligste bidrag i det 20. århundrede til vor forståelse af virkeligheden, bidrag som store dele af den postmoderne filosofi hviler på. Det vil derfor være oplagt i forbindelse med en tolkning af Flensburgs værker, at se nærmere på hans arbejde – så meget mere som han særskilt har beskæftiget sig med kunstens forhold til virkeligheden, og herunder hvordan det ”usynlige” kan visualiseres, kan blive synligt i billedkunsten. 

Et af de store problemer i vestlig filosofi har været konflikten mellem subjekt og objekt. Man er gået ud fra en modstilling mellem bevidstheden og verden, og det traditionelle spørgsmål har været, hvordan den subjektive bevidsthed kommer i kontakt med den objektive verden. Merleau-Ponty løser dette gamle omverdensproblem på en ny og radikal måde. Han tager udgangspunkt i Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), fænomenologiens ”fader”, hvis program havde været at udarbejde en teorifri, ren beskrivelse af det, der kommer til syne, af fænomenerne – deraf betegnelsen. Descartes havde i 1600-tallet indkredset et cogito, en tænkende bevidsthed. Husserl ville finde forudsætningen for denne tænkende bevidsthed, finde den absolutte kilde til al erfaring, og således gøre rede for det før-refleksive, som al viden, og dermed videnskab, bygger på – og glemmer! Han fandt frem (eller måske rettere tilbage) til et såkaldt Transcendentalt Ego, en lidt tåget instans, der dog igen stod uden for verden (påpegede og kritiserede Merleau-Ponty) og dermed havnede i samme modstilling og konflikt mellem subjekt og objekt, som Descartes’ cogito.

Også for Merleau-Ponty drejede det sig om at indkredse en verden før refleksionen (før erkendelsen, teorierne, etc.), en verden, som hele erkendelsen hviler på. Merleau-Ponty mente imidlertid, at grundlaget for enhver erfaring måtte hvile på
en oprindelig, før-bevidst enhed mellem subjekt og objekt, bevidsthed og verden. Denne oprindelige enhed skyldes det faktum, at vi er kropsvæsner. Vi er ikke kun subjekter (bevidstheder), men også objekter (kroppe). I kroppen sammenblandes subjekt og objekt, og vi bliver – som ”kropssubjekter” – en del af verden. Vi er en særlig slags udvækst på verdens overflade – nogenlunde ligesom planter.

Denne enhed mellem krop og verden har forskellige, vidtgående konsekvenser, viste det sig. Blandt andet kan vi ikke, fordi vi er en del af verden, sætte os ud over den, ikke se den ”ude fra”. Og fordi der ikke kan eksistere en absolut position uden for verden, så kan der heller ikke være nogen objektiv erkendelse. Der findes kun en verden ”for os” (det fænomenale felt), ikke en verden i-sig-selv-værende – i hvert fald ikke en vi kan erkende. Endvidere er det ikke bevidstheden (refleksionen), der giver verden betydning, som Husserl og Descartes mente. Dels har omverdenen allerede mening før bevidstheden møder den. Det har den fået i barndommen typisk, når kroppen lærer at operere i verden. Dels stiliserer selve perceptionen af verden. Sansepåvirkningerne skal tolkes i hjernen, før de kan skabe betydning. Betydning er således ikke noget erkendelsessubjekter finder ude i verden, men noget kropssubjekter sætter ud fra sig selv – og genfinder i fænomenerne.

I 1948 skriver Merleau-Ponty en artikel om den franske postimpressionist Paul Cezanne, i hvilken han læser sin filosofi ind i Cezannes værk. Han tolker Cezannes malerier og tekster (breve, optegnelser, etc.) med sin fænomenologi som omdrejningspunkt, således at billederne kommer til at visualisere pointerne i filosofien. I ”Maleren og filosoffen” fra 1960 præciserer Merleau-Ponty pointerne fra Cezanneteksten og gør dem alment gyldige. Det handler nu ikke specielt om Cezanne, men om maleriets væsen som sådant.

Cezannes altbeherskende projekt var at beskrive virkeligheden, hævder Merleau- Ponty. Men ikke kun gengive verdens synlige ydre, ikke kun male en oversættelse af en allerede færdig tanke! Han ville beskrive det synliges væsen, skildre materien mens den tager form, fange motivet ”levende” – og derved beskrive den oprindelige, præ-reflektoriske verden. For bag den synlige overflade findes, ifølge Merleau-Ponty, en usynlig dimension som er en uudtømmelig dybde. Det usynlige er det synliges relief og dybde – det, der gør, at vi ser mere/andet end det vi ser. Det er dette usynlige, som Cezanne (i Merleau-Pontys læsning) ville gøre synligt i og med maleriet. Maleriets grundprincip er nemlig at give noget usynligt ved det synlige synlig eksistens. 

Forskellen mellem maleren og os andre er imidlertid, at vi som seende opererer rent vanemæssigt gennem en ”historisk tæthed”. Vi er os ikke synets betingelser og muligheder bevidste. ”Vi glemmer det vage og tvetydige ved synsindtrykkene og går lige gennem dem til de genstande de fremstiller for os”. Vi tror vi ser verden klart/korrekt/endegyldigt – men hvordan skulle vi kunne det, når vi kun kan percipere den ”indefra”? Malerne derimod, hævder Merleau-Ponty, besidder en særlig form for begavelse – en plastisk begavelse – der gør dem i stand til at
stille de samme spørgsmål til væren som filosoffen (underforstået Merleau- Ponty selv), men på en anden, nemlig en visuel, måde. Maleren er i stand til at se synet blive til og fremstille det i denne dimension. Altså, for det almindelige syn,
i dets historiske tæthed, er et bjerg et bjerg. For maleren er det projektet at undersøge og fremstille, hvordan det bliver et bjerg, hvordan man overhovedet bærer sig ad med at se det som et bjerg. ”Det synlige i almindelig forstand glemmer sine forudsætninger. Det bygger i virkeligheden på en fuld synlighed, som på ny skabes [fx af maleren] og skal give friheden til de genfærd, der er fanger i en almindelig synlighed”, skriver Merleau-Ponty. 
Maleren lærer os altså i sine værker at se den ”fulde synlighed” bagom vanen, dvs. at blive opmærksomme på, at usynlige dimensioner eksistere i synligheden. Men malerens projekt er uendeligt. ”Malerkunstens sprog er ikke ”fastsat af naturen” [det synlige]: man skal udarbejde det og opfinde det igen og igen” – det var derfor Cezanne utrætteligt gentog sine motiver, fx Mont St. Victoire. Han kunne ikke én gang for alle male bjerget. Ramme plet, så at sige, og så færdig med det. Det usynlige kommer kun til syne glimtvist i hvert forsøg – hvis overhovedet. Og det ændrer sig hele tiden fordi det ses inde fra. Malerens arbejde er altså uendeligt, ligesom filosoffens, og erkendelsens i det hele taget. Og endvidere, ved at forvandle det usynlige til synligt, skaber maleren en fremmedhed i billedet. Tingene/-verden bliver fremmede i Cezannes værker, synes Merleau-Ponty, selv om den naturalistiske kodes spilleregler overholdes. Cezanne får den umenneskelige natur frem, i hvilken mennesket har indrettet sig. 


At visualisere det ufattelige

Om Merleau-Ponty har ret i, at malerkunsten som sådan altid er involveret i disse problemstillinger kan bestemt diskuteres ligesom hans temmeligt romantiserende kunstnersyn, som gør kunstneren til et menneske, der fra naturens side er udstyret
med en ganske særlig begavelse, også kan. Dette kunstnersyn legitimerer i øvrigt hans tilbøjelighed til at iscenesætte Cezanne som en ”rigtig/ægte” maler (i modsætning til så mange andre malere) og ham selv som den ”rigtige/ægte” filosof                  (i modsætning til hans modstandere). 

Trods disse indvendinger mener jeg, at Merleau-Pontys moderne bud på, hvad det usynlige i virkeligheden ”er”, og hvordan en ”fuld synlighed” kunne blive nærværende i et billede, er et bud, der i høj grad vinder genklang i Flensburgs værker. Hans tanker kan især hjælpe med at italesætte det ellers vanskeligt artikulerbare, der her er på færde. Det er dog svært direkte at pege i billederne på det sted, eller de steder, hvor skredene sker, hvor de usynlige dimensioner materialiserer sig, bliver synlige. Det gør Merleau-Ponty heller ikke i Cezannes billeder. For det er ikke noget egentligt figurativt, som kan indkredses. Det er snarere en uforklarlighed i billedet, der får betragteren til at fornemme det, eller i det mindste lade sig forføre til at tro på det. Gentagelsen af motivet – alle disse i vid udstrækning ens rum – virker i samme retning. Her søges efter noget, hvilket berettiger denne trivialitet. Og ligeledes fremmedheden. De ”ligner” vor virkelighed – og alligevel ikke. Vi ved, hvor vi er – og alligevel er alt anderledes, end det burde være.

Malerens forrang frem for alle os andre – inklusive den ikke-fænomenologiske filosof – består i, skriver Merleau-Ponty, at han (Merleau-Ponty omtaler altid på traditionel vis ”maleren” som ”han”) erkender verden som ”verden for os”, som konstitueret, som skabt af os (i vor perception af den). I konsekvens heraf kaster han sig vedvarende ind i verden i en stadig ”poetisk opbygning” af den. Det er samme slags opbygning eller beskrivelse, jeg mener Flensburg er i lag med, når hun taler om sin stræben i billederne efter at perforere vanevirkelighedens stabilitet og antyde ”mere immanente planer” end den model af virkeligheden, som vi i dagligdagen er henvist til, jfr. citatet ovenfor fra Flensburgs hjemmeside. 

Flensburg har for relativt nyligt (2003-04) leveret alterbilleder til forskellige danske folkekirker. Billederne ligner hendes øvrige rumbilleder til forveksling. Den kirkelige kontekst kan i første omgang overraske, for der skulle jo så være tale om en formidling af et meget bestemt teologisk budskab, det luthersk-evangeliske, og en bestemt forståelse af virkelighedens usynlige dimensioner, nemlig en metafysik, der peger på kristendommens dogmer. Der er dog intet i billederne, der
eksplicit henviser til sådant. Men når Flensburg lader sine billeder bruge, og når de overhovedet kan bruges, i en så konkret og definerbar religiøs sammenhæng som en dansk folkekirke – selv om, skal det siges, de kun skulle fungere midlertidigt, som en slags eksperiment – så mener jeg, det netop er fordi de kredser om, det mystiske, det fundamentalt ufattelige i verden; nemlig dét som ligger til grund for enhver religion før dens mere praktisk anvendelige, men fastfrosne udformning af det; dét der ligger før teologien, så at sige. 
Også Merleau-Ponty peger på ”det mystiske” som verdens kernepunkt. Det er brændstoffet til en vedvarende undren, men kan aldrig gribes endegyldigt – fordi det altid ses inde fra og dermed altid forandrer sig for os – men som alligevel på
uforklarlig vis ”er” her. ”Forbindelsen med verden, sådan som den utrætteligt udtaler sig i os, er ikke af en sådan art, at den kan gøres klarere gennem en analyse: filosofien [og maleriet, kan man så tilføje] kan kun stille den frem for vore øjne, give os den at konstatere”, skriver Merleau-Ponty i en redegørelse for hans fænomenologiske filosofi. Og videre ”Verden og fornuften er uproblematiske; mystiske, om man vil, men dette mysterium definerer dem, det kan ikke tænkes bortvejret i kraft af en eller anden ”løsning”, det er mere fundamentalt end nogen løsning. Den virkelige filosofi lærer os at se verden igen, og for så vidt kan en opdigtet fortælling vidne om verden med lige så stor ”dybde” som en filosofisk afhandling”. Måske er Flensburg en moderne Cezanne, snarere end en moderne Hammershøi? Eller måske er Hammershøis og Cezannes projekter (i hvert fald i Merleau-Ponty’ske læsninger) ikke så langt fra hinanden – og fra Flensburgs?

Ola Billgren, som Flensburg føler sig i slægt med som maler, udtrykker sig lidt på en anden måde, om hvad der foregår i hendes malerier, men pointen er faktisk den samme. ”Hun forener i billedet to konceptioner eller modaliteter af det sete:
den ene gør holdt ved kommunikationens, dvs. sprogets sammenbindende grænse, og udgør således en bekræftelse af det funktionelt meddelbare, mens den anden i det sete, ved en slags blikkets afdrift, opretter subjektet i dets yderste
isolerethed, optagethed af at producere et solipsistisk, fantasmagorisk andet billede”. Dette meget poetiske udsagn betyder i en mere prosaisk udgave formentligt noget i retning af, at Flensburgs maleri rummer to modaliteter af det sete, det vil sige to måder at forholde sig til det sete på og to måder at behandle og formidle det på. Den ene kan man tale om, definere, præcisere. Det er fx det i billedet, vi kan genkende fra vor dagligdags verden. Det er det, vi har sprog for. Den anden kan vi ikke præcisere. Her hører sproget op. Men det ”er” der alligevel, som billede. Det er det, som Merleau-Ponty forsøger at tale om i Cezannes tilfælde. Det er dette ”andet billede”, som betragteren producerer ”i det sete, ved en slags blikkets afdrift”, der kunne svare til ”det usynlige”. Og det er denne dimension af billedet, der virker bagom ryggen på betragteren – eller snarere bagom sproget. Det er den, der gør det fundamentalt ukontrollerbart, den der fx gjorde Luther og hans tilhængere bange for billedet – en angst, som hans kirke så efterhånden er ved at overvinde, jævnfør Flensburgs alterbilleder. Men det er også den dimension, der gør, at billedet kan producere erkendelse på en anden måde end videnskaben.

HOUSE OF MEMORY - Torben Sangild - 2006



by Torben Sangild


Anette Harboe Flensburg paints rooms. Several of the paintings in House of Night and Day are variations on the same two interlinked rooms, a light one on the left and a darker one on the right; they are almost empty, but there are openings giving sight of a vague, sunny green outside – nature as an indeterminate sign in the background. Indoors silence and memory reign.

In a way, the rooms resemble private rooms, sitting rooms in houses; but the furnishings and the inhabitants are not there. We feel alone in these rooms and have to ask ourselves what we are doing there. They can well become slightly unsettling once we look carefully. Perhaps it is a dream.


Credible – Incredible

The very first sight of one of Flensburg’s paintings is otherwise unproblematic. We see an illusion, a room. But then, on looking more closely, we start to wonder; the room is more ambiguous than at first sight; there are these strange qualities about it – the floor, the architecture, the emptiness. And finally, when we take a closer look, we can see the surface, the marks of the painting and its tricks, its signs for spaciousness, its abstract, perpendicular panels. So there are three elements, three phases or three levels in these paintings. If we want to emphasize one of them rather than the other two, we shall be violating this trinity, this indeterminacy, which is an important energy in Flensburg’s paintings. We can switch quickly between the three views, which are quite close to each other, even if they cannot be united at a single glance. To absorb all three of them is a process in time, implying a remembered awareness of the two approaches that are not relevant just at this moment and thereby an intensified sense of the way in which both spatial images and our perception apparatus work in a visual culture. Without the credible, the incredible would be pure fantasy. The duality between the two urges us to take a closer look.


Beads and Balls

The series House of Past and Future constitutes such ambiguous illusions of rooms. Strange things hang from the ceiling; glass beads or glass spheres such as are hung up at Christmas. They reflect the light or the room. They are fixed in the uncertain zone between the familiar and the unknown. On the one hand, the spheres hang where lamps could hang; like an echo of the spherical lamp that appears in the background of certain of Flensburg’s paintings. But they are not lamps. They do not give off light, but only reflect what is already there. They relate to lamps as the moon relates to the sun. They are foreign bodies and yet still strangely familiar.

The glass beads hang from the ceiling like gigantic raindrops, like vertical, dismantled chandeliers. They sometimes cover a whole room, which we would therefore not be able to go through without walking into them. The room is there for them, not for us. Glass is in itself already a diffuse material to the eye, and in these paintings there are still more airy echoes alongside the solid glass beads. A kind of bead ghosts, prisms of past and future, which again gently break the illusion that what we are seeing is possible.


Portraits on the Wall

In the House of Night and Day paintings, portrait photographs are hanging on the walls. In a normal, furnished and inhabited room, a portrait of this kind would only attract moderate attention. In Flensburg’s painted room they are far more assertive, although they are blurred and matt. For they are the only signs of human life. But they are not alive; the are in fact strikingly dead. A family photograph on the wall is not a celebration of the living, but a memory of what no longer is. The youth that disappeared, the loved ones who are dead. Vanished moments that one desperately attempts to keep hold of, well aware that it is impossible. The silence becomes almost painfully ghost-like in the company of these soundless, motionless portraits of frozen moments; of eternal grimaces.

But the portrait is indeed usually a lie. We all know that, even if we play along with it. Now we’ll have our picture taken, now we must all smile at the photographer, now we must pretend to be happy. In that sense, many portraits are probably an idyllicising fiction rather than a memory. The teenage girl in the coloured photograph gives an embarrassed smile because she is expected to. On the one hand, then, we can talk of an artificial, arranged pose, but on the other hand the fiction is not quite possible; the picture clearly brings out the embarrassment and so nevertheless represents the memory – not of a happy time, but of a staged situation. The portrait is part way between the private and the public. The public element is in the staging, which has been created so that the picture can be hung up and shown to others; the private element is in the motif, and here it is in the teenager’s revelation of her insecurity.

The woman who is portrayed in two of the other pictures does not seem to be embarrassed, but appears to have been caught by the camera at a dynamic moment of great presence. Even so, she partly disappears before our enquiring eyes. She is dim and blurred and her eyes are merely black shadows. She is lost in an
undefined past.

The blurring is complete in one of the portraits. It hangs in the same greenish white room as the unsmiling teenage boy. We sense there is a figure, but the face has completely disappeared. Yet another mystery is being exhibited. – Who is it? What is the relationship of this person to the boy? And to the other portraits in the series? Is this portrait the blind spot, the angle that is always invisible to itself? It always produces a certain feeling of unease when there is not a motif where there ought to be one. It is a spooky absence, like the insubstantial glass beads, but we are affected more by the portrait because there ought to have been a face there; because there is a face there, though we are simply not allowed to see it.

The past, memory, is emphasised by the carved ornaments out to the garde; by surfaces with flowered wallpaper; by the blurred quality of the pictures and the clear signs of the dress and hair of past time. The rooms can thus in part be seen as rooms of memory or actually palpating sepulchral monuments to something that is no more except in the silent, blurred memorial images.


Silent and Calm

Anette Harboe Flensburg’s paintings are silent. There is no sound to them. Paintings can be either silent or full of noise even though they are only pictures. In the case of a figurative painting, the acoustic element is created in the first instance by virtue of what it portrays. But in Flensburg’s rooms, nothing happens. All are deserted. There is only a presentiment left behind.

But silence is not only in the motif. A painting can be without a dynamic motif or even be abstract and still be full of noise. If the composition is restless or unbalanced; or if the brush strokes are visible and rough we also feel the painting to be full of noise. “Calm” has both a visual and an auditive sense, and this duality bears witness to the synaesthetic coincidence between compositional balance and a sense of silence. We know this from our everyday experience, in which the dynamic and chaotic often create noise, while something unmoving is usually silent. Like the surface of a lake when there is no wind. Flensburg’s paintings are just as calm. The restlessness that is nevertheless there is about tension, just a hint.

Silence is never something absolute. We cannot experience total silence. Even in a sound-proof room we still hear the sound of our own body. In Flensburg’s paintings we do not hear any body. The rooms are purged of the body and its importunate sounds. But perhaps we can hear the gentle rustling of leaves outside the house. Or we can hear the occasional chink of glass crystals. And this gentle trembling at the prospect of something about to happen.



The cliché and our reflex-like reactions tell us that a painting is a subjective thing, while a photograph is objective. The camera records via a mechanical lens, while the brush is wielded by a warm body. The camera documents, while the brush expresses. 

But these deep-rooted notions are problematic. Photographs arrange, stage, edit and select. The painter’s body and nerve system constitute an apparatus, a seismograph. We know this perfectly well, but we fool ourselves again and again into seeing the photograph as more trustworthy and the painting as more deeply felt. When, like Flensburg, an artist combines these two seductive visual media, we can suspend this reflex-like ideology to a certain extent and keep our gaze fixed on the tension between document and expression, between illusion and construction. The painting is set free from being seen as either detached documentation or emotional immediacy.

These are all codes. Vehement brush strokes can be extremely calculated and deliberate, but they are associated with something spontaneous. This is the code for the expressive. And vehement is warm, so non-vehement must be cool. It is thus automatically said that Flensburg’s paintings are cool. Like silence, coldness is a synaesthetic parallel. Cold is calm. Warmth is concerned with passion. But take another look at them now, or rather, take their temperature. They are certainly cold in the sense that they do not show traces of their genesis and that their surfaces are empty, but they are warm in other senses of this synaesthetic metaphor. The colours glow, quite simply, and are far from Vilhelm Hammershøi’s shades of grey and brown. And the slightly blurred transitions give the rooms a touch of warm, dreamy softness. But there are other things that fill the rooms with warmth and energy. The tension that each room is endowed with is warm in the same way as electricity is linked to heat. It is not the warmth of a stable or the heat from a crackling open fire; nor is it the pulsating blood of the subject that fills the canvas. It is rather the heat from the lightning that never strikes.


Objective sensibility

Anette Harboe Flensburg’s paintings are indeterminate paintings. They are both concrete rooms and rooms of memories; they are both narratives and enigmatic abstractions. The paintings are filled with tensions and a touch of nostalgia; they are both cold and warm and quite subdued. In ambiguous terms, they express all this and more than words can catch. They do so as objects, not as impressions of the artist’s interior emotional life. Nor are they impressions of your or my emotional life. They do so as objects, as paintings. They can only do this by entering into contact with an experiencing nervous system (the subject), which we willingly place at their disposal precisely in order to derive an experience. But it is neither the experiencing nor the creating subject that is the centre feature and pivotal point; it is the works and the experiences they offer to us. They display themselves as objects to be experienced.

A picture can evidently not feel. But it can express feelings if we allow it to do so. But we do not ourselves control what feelings the painting expresses. The painting does that. And all the historical and cultural baggage it carries around with it. Paintings express themselves as objects, filtered by social codes. But they do so nevertheless.


Translated by Glyn Jones






af Torben Sangild


Anette Harboe Flensburg maler rum. Flere af billederne i “House of Night and Day” er variationer over de samme to forbundne rum, et lyst venstre og et mørkere højre. Rummene er næsten tomme, men har huller ud til et vagt, solrigt, grønt udenfor – naturen som et gnidret tegn i baggrunden. Indenfor hersker stilheden og erindringen. 

Rummene ligner på sin vis private rum, dagligstuer i en-etages villaer; men interiøret og menneskene er borte. Man føler sig alene i disse rum og må spørge sig hvad man laver her. De kan godt være lidt foruroligende når man først kigger efter. Måske er det en drøm.



Det allerførste øjekast på et af Flensburgs billeder er ellers uproblematisk. Vi ser en illusion, et rum. Men så, ved nærmere eftersyn, begynder det at vakle, rummet er alligevel ikke så entydigt som ved første øjekast, der er disse mærkelige træk ved det – gulvet, arkitekturen, tomheden. Og endelig, når vi går tæt på, kan vi se fladen, maleriets afsæt og dets tricks, dets tegn for rumlighed, dets abstrakt lodrette felter. Der er altså tre momenter, tre faser eller tre niveauer i disse billeder. Vil man fremhæve ét af dem frem for de andre øver man vold mod denne trefoldighed, denne uafgjorthed, som er en vigtig energi i hendes billeder. Man kan skifte lynhurtigt mellem de tre indstillinger, som er ganske tæt på hinanden, selv om de er uforenelige i ét blik. At indoptage dem alle tre er en tidslig proces, der indebærer en erindret bevidsthed om dé to indstillinger som ikke lige nu er aktualiseret, og dermed en øget sans for virkemåden af såvel rumlige billeder som vores perceptionsapparat i en billedkultur.
Uden det sandsynlige ville det usandsynlige være ren fabulering. Dobbeltheden mellem det sandsynlige og det usandsynlige ansporer os til at kigge nærmere.


Perler og kugler

Serien ”House of Past and Future” er sådanne flertydige illusioner af rum. Der hænger mærkelige ting ned fra loftet; glasperler eller julekugler. De reflekterer lyset eller rummet. De lægger sig i den usikre zone mellem det velkendte og det ukendte. På den ene side hænger kuglerne dér hvor der kunne hænge lamper; som et ekko af den kugleformede lampe der på visse billeder optræder i baggrunden. Men de er ikke lamper. De skaber ikke lys, men reflekterer kun det som allerede er. De forholder sig til lamper som månen forholder sig til solen. De er fremmedlegemer og alligevel sært fortrolige.

Glasperlerne hænger ned fra loftet som kæmpe regndråber, som lodrette, demonterede lysekroner. De dækker nogle gange et helt rum, som man derfor ikke ville kunne gå igennem uden at gå ind i dem. Rummet er til for dem, ikke for os. Glas er i forvejen et diffust materiale for øjet, og i disse billeder er der endnu mere luftige ekkoer ved siden af de faste glasperler. En slags perlespøgelser, prismer af fortid og fremtid, der igen sagte bryder illusionen om at det vi ser er muligt. 


Portrætter på væggen

I “House of Night and Day”-billederne hænger der portræt-fotografier på væggene. I et normalt, møbleret og beboet rum ville et sådant portræt kun påkalde sig moderat opmærksomhed. I Flensburgs billedrum er de langt mere påtrængende, selv om de er slørede og matte. De er nemlig de eneste tegn på menneskeligt liv. Men de er ikke levende, de er faktisk påfaldende døde. Et familiefotografi på væggen er ikke en fejring af det nulevende, men en erindring om det som ikke længere er. Den ungdom som forsvandt, de kære som er døde. Svundne øjeblikke som man desperat forsøger at fastholde, vel vidende at det er umuligt. Stilheden bliver næsten smerteligt spøgelsesagtig i selskab med disse tavse, ubevægelige portrætter af stivnede øjeblikke; evige grimasser.

Men portrættet er som regel også en løgn. Det ved vi alle, selv om vi spiller med på den. Nu skal der tages et billede, nu skal vi smile til fotografen, nu skal vi lade som om vi er glade. I den forstand er mange portrætter måske snarere idylliserende
fiktion end erindring. Teenagepigen på farvefotoet smiler forlegent fordi hun bliver bedt om det. På den ene side er der altså tale om en opstillet, kunstig poseren, men fiktionen er på den anden side ikke helt mulig; billedet viser netop forlegenheden frem, og repræsenterer derfor alligevel erindringen – ikke om en lykkelig tid, men om en iscenesat situation. Portrætter er udspændt mellem det private og det offentlige. Det offentlige i iscenesættelsen, som er skabt for at billedet kan hænges op og vises frem; det private i motivet, og her i teenagerens blottelse af usikkerheden.

Kvinden som er portrætteret i to af de andre billeder virker ikke forlegen, men synes fanget af kameraet i et dynamisk øjeblik af stor udstråling. Alligevel forsvinder hun delvist fra vores granskende blik. Hun er gnidret og sløret, og hendes øjne er blot sorte skygger. Hun fortaber sig i en ubestemt fortid. Udviskningen er total på ét af portrætterne. Det hænger i samme grøn-hvide rum som den ikke spor smilende teenagedreng. Man aner at der er en skikkelse, men ansigtet er forsvundet i skygge. Endnu en gåde vises frem – hvem er det? Hvad er denne persons relation til drengen? Og til de andre portrætter i serien? Er dette portræt det blinde punkt, den synsvinkel som altid er usynlig for sig selv? Uanset hvad, så er det forbundet med en vis uhygge når der ikke er et motiv der hvor der burde være det. Det er en spooky forsvinding, ligesom de substansløse glasperler, men man berøres mere af portrættet fordi der skulle have været et ansigt; fordi der er et ansigt, men vi kan bare ikke få lov at se det. 

Fortiden, erindringen understreges af de udskårne ornamenter ud til haven, af flader med blomstertapet, af det slørede i billederne og de tydelige tegn på forgange tiders tøj og hår. Rummene kan derfor delvist ses som erindringsrum eller
ligefrem sitrende gravmonumenter over det som ikke er længere, bortset fra i erindringens stumme, udviskede billeder.


Tyst og rolig

Anette Harboe Flensburgs billeder er helt tyste. Der er ingen lyd på billederne. Billeder kan nemlig være stille eller larmende, selv om de bare er billeder. Når det gælder et figurativt billede sker det lydlige i første omgang i kraft af hvad det viser. I Flensburgs
rum sker der umiddelbart ingenting. Alt er forladt. Der er kun anelsen tilbage.

Men stilheden er ikke kun i motivet. Et billede kan være uden bevægeligt motiv eller endog abstrakt og alligevel være støjende. Hvis kompositionen er urolig eller i ubalance; eller hvis penselstrøgene er tydelige og gestiske, så opfatter vi også billedet som støjende. ”Rolig” er både et visuelt og et auditivt ord, og denne dobbelthed vidner om det synæstetiske sammenfald mellem kompositorisk balance og fornemmelsen af stilhed. Det kender vi også fra hverdagserfaringen, hvor det dynamiske og kaotiske ofte støjer, mens det ubevægelige gerne er lydløst. Som vandspejlet ved vindstille. Så rolige er Flensburgs billeder. Den uro som alligevel er der, handler om en spændthed, en anelse.

Stilhed er aldrig noget absolut. Man kan ikke som hørende opleve den absolutte stilhed. Selv i et lydtæt rum hører man stadig lyden af sin egen krop. I Flensburgs billeder hører man ikke nogen krop. Rummene er renset for kroppen og dens påtrængende lyde. Men man hører måske den sagte raslen af blade uden for huset. Eller man hører den sjældne klirren af glaskrystaller. Og denne sagte sitren af at noget skal ske.



Klichéen og de refleksmæssige reaktioner fortæller os at et maleri er noget subjektivt, mens et fotografi er noget objektivt. Kameraet registrerer gennem et mekanisk objektiv, mens penslen føres af en dampende krop. Kameraet dokumenterer,
mens penslen udtrykker. Men disse indgroede forestillinger er problematiske. Fotografer arrangerer, iscenesætter, redigerer og udvælger. Malerens krop og nervesystem er et apparatur, en seismograf. Vi ved det godt, men vi narrer igen og igen os selv til at opfatte fotografiet som mere troværdigt og maleriet som mere inderligt. Når man, som Flensburg, kombinerer disse to forførende billedmedier, kan man til en vis grad udsætte denne refleksmæssige ideologi og holde blikket udspændt mellem dokumentet og udtryk, mellem illusionen og konstruktion.

Billedet befries fra at blive opfattet som såvel registrerende som inderligt.
Det er alt sammen koder. Gestiske penselstrøg kan være uhyre kalkulerede og villede, men de bliver forbundet med noget spontant. Det er koden for det ekspressive. Gestisk er også varm, og ugestisk er derfor kølig. Derfor er Flensburgs
billeder kølige, siges det automatisk. Kølighed er ligesom tysthed en synæstetisk parallel. Det kolde er det rolige. Varme har med lidenskab at gøre.

Men kig nu på dem igen, eller rettere, mærk på deres temperatur. De er ganske vist cool i den forstand at de ikke viser sporene af deres tilblivelse, at deres overflade er blank, men de er varme i andre betydninger af denne synæstetiske metafor.
Farverne gløder, det er helt enkelt, langt fra den hammershøiske gråbrunlighed. Og de let slørede overgange giver rummene en anelse varm, drømmeagtig blødhed. Men der er andet og mere som fylder rummene med varmeenergi. Den spænding som hvert rum er ladet med er varm på samme måde som elektricitet er knyttet til varme. Det er ikke staldvarme eller varmen fra den knitrende pejs; det er heller ikke subjektets dunkende blod der fylder lærredet. Det er snarere varmen fra det lyn som aldrig slår ned.


Objektiv sensibilitet

Anette Harboe Flensburgs billeder er uafgjorte billeder. De er både konkrete rumog erindringsrum; de er både fortællinger og gådefulde abstraktioner. Billederne er ladet med spændinger og en let nostalgi, de er både kølige og varme og ganske dæmpede. De udtrykker mangetydigt alt dette og mere end ord kan fange. Det gør de som objekter, ikke som aftryk af kunstnerens indre følelsesliv. Heller ikke som aftryk af dit eller mit følelseliv. De gør det som objekter, som malerier. De kan kun gøre det ved at indgå i en kontakt med et erfarende nervesystem (subjektet), som vi villigt stiller til disposition for netop at få en erfaring. Men det er hverken det erfarende eller det skabende subjekt som er centrum og omdrejningspunkt, det er værkerne og de erfaringer de tilbyder os. De gør sig til, som objekter der kan erfares.

Et billede kan naturligvis ikke føle. Men det kan udtrykke følelser, hvis vi giver det lov. Men vi styrer ikke selv hvilke følelser billedet udtrykker. Det gør billedet. Og hele den historiske og kulturelle baggage det slæber rundt på. Billeder udtrykker sig som objekter, filtreret af samfundsmæssige koder. Men de gør det ikke desto mindre.

MODELS OF REALITY - Anette H. Flensburg - 2004




by Anette H. Flensburg, Copenhagen, 2004.


If I am asked to point toward a few certain interesting conceptions about reality that have exerted a decisive influence on expanding my own way of looking at the world, there are in fact two very different ones to which I would like to call attention. 

The first of these has its roots in natural science. It appeared in the 1980s, when there was a special focus on paradigm shifts in pictorial creation. One of the formative theories that was emerging at the time went by the name of "Superstring Theory". To put it succinctly, what it designated was an attempt to render intelligible the notion that reality consists of more dimensions than the three we are ordinarily capable of perceiving and operating within. It proposed that there is a quantity of dimensions (at least twelve) that exist, albeit folded inside the three we are capable of experiencing. These dimensions, however, possess a curvature that renders them inaccessible to our gaze and our perception – unless we expose the phenomena and the things to an alternate optics and to a method of inquiry that transgresses the metaphysical dialectic/mode of generating meaning from which our language originates. The physicists did manage to some extent to present new models of calculation enabling them to gain information about traces of these dimensions. Although Superstring Theory was never fully verified, it certainly generated new pictures on the retina. 

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that, in my paintings, I am so engaged with putting certain planes into position and with offering an account of a perspective space, as a kind of declaration that there plainly must be a purpose that we are restricted to experiencing the world on these few levels, while simultaneously offering a reflection on what might just be a kind of cover-experience for more immanent planes: an intimation that three-dimensional space is the model of reality inside of which we are necessarily obliged to live and act. 

The meanings that dwell within these complex interactions between the visible and the invisible cannot immediately be rendered visible. This is something that one might just as well accept and simply go about dedicating herself to creating a (good) painting, which nonetheless constantly circles around these theories, meanings, planes and spaces ... and with an entirely non-theoretical approach. 

Accordingly, my own paintings are entirely straightforward; they 
constitute a manner of thematicization in color of the drama that 
transpires when existing in the midst of a world space and that is bound up with trying to orient and define oneself in relation to the surrounding space: both the global spaces and the more intimate local ones. It is a way of demonstrating the sense of both possibility and vulnerable exposure. And I am always just as excited to know about what’s happening in the other room, which sometimes does not merely represent another room inside the house but rather represents an entirely other world inside the world. Or to say this another way, since the paintings are dealing so much with imaginable transitions between different spaces, they are also about borderlines and isolation. 

The second of the crucial influences turned up in my experience when I started to really see Francis Bacon’s paintings. It’s not so much that this constitutes an entirely different story, but this is another adventure that is equally as long and as irreversible as the rest of my life in general. 

Translated by Dan A. Marmorstein






Anette H. Flensburg, København, 2004.


Hvis jeg skal pege på nogle interessante fremstillinger af virkeligheden, der har haft udvidende indflydelse på mit eget syn, er der navnlig to, meget forskellige, jeg har lyst til at fremhæve.

Den ene har rod i naturvidenskaben, og fandt sted i 1980’erne, hvor der var særligt fokus på billedskabende paradigmeskift. En af de teoridannelser, der opstod, gik under navnet 'Superstrengeteorien', og den var meget kort fortalt et forsøg på at anskueliggøre at virkeligheden består af flere dimensioner end de 3 vi normalt er istand til at opfatte og operere i. At en mængde (mindst 12) dimensioner ligger foldet ind i disse kapable, med en krumning, der gør dem umulige for vores blik og perception - med mindre man udsætter tingene for en anden optik eller metode at spørge på, som overskrider den metafysiske dialektik/ måde at skabe mening på, som bla. vores sprog udspringer fra.

I et eller andet omfang lykkedes det fysikerne at opstille nogle nye beregningsmodeller. der satte dem istand til at erfare spor af disse dimensioner, omend teorien aldrig blev fuldt ud verificeret. Men den genererede til gengæld nye billeder på nethinden.

Måske er det en af grundene til at jeg i maleriet er så optaget af at få stillet nogle planer i position, at gøre rede for et perspektivisk rum. Som en slags tilkendegivelse af at der åbenbart er en mening med at vi erfarer tingene i disse få niveauer, men samtidigt en reflektion over at det måske er en slags dækerfaring for mere immanente planer. At det tredimensionelle rum er den model af virkeligheden som vi er henvist til.

De betydninger der ligger i dette komplekse spil mellem det synlige og det usynlige kan jo ikke umiddelbart visualiseres, det kan man lige så godt besinde sig på, og så bare forsøge at lave et (godt) maleri, der altid alligevel og helt uteoretisk kredser om disse teorier, betydninger, planer og rum.

Mine egne malerier er på den måde helt enkelt en slags farvens tematisering af det drama det altid er at stå midt i et verdensrum og forsøge at orientere sig, at definere sig i forhold til rummet omkring . Både det store og det helt intime. Det er en måde at håndgribeliggøre denne udsathed. Og mulighed. For jeg er jo altid selv lige så spændt på hvad der sker der i det andet rum, som til tider ikke blot repræsenterer et andet rum i huset, men en helt anden verden i verden. Eller sagt med andre ord; Fordi malerierne handler om tænkelige overgange mellem forskellige rum, så handler de også om grænser og isolation.

Den anden store indflydelse indfandt sig da jeg begyndte at kunne se Francis Bacons malerier. Og det er ikke fordi det er en helt anden historie, men den er både lige så lang og irreversibel som mit liv iøvrigt.

RECEPTION ROOM - The Fluid Substance - Lisbeth Bonde - 2003


The Fluid Substance

Interview by Lisbeth Bonde


Anette Harboe Flensburg’s art exists in a constant state of change. From one exhibition to the next, she transports her painting enterprise into ever-new eye-opening visual registers. There is, however, a unifying principle running through her oeuvre: she is a dialectical painter whose interest is turned toward antitheses - antitheses such as hard and soft, concave and convex, curved and cracked, perceived and recollected, image and after-image, appearance and disappearance. In much the same way, she is interested in the painting process’s tactile materiality and shifts between intensely incandescent and cool muted colors. 

Anette Harboe Flensburg masters the technical aspects of painting in a magnificent way. In her new pictures, she makes use of architecture for the purpose of challenging the surface as illusion. The architecture’s spatial divisions, the vertical and horizontal lines, the shadow and the light constitute the grid that partitions the motive into an interior and an exterior, into a here and a there. But there is an aperture that penetrates to the other side: through the windows’ membrane, the sight is led outside to a ramification of spring-green trees. Exactly what we are looking at is uncertain, however, since the contours are vibrating and the motive has been shaken, and it all seems – one way or another - a little spooky. Is this a dream, a field of presentiment or an after-image on the retina? This cannot be unequivocally determined. Is the motive in the process of vanishing or is it rather on its way toward gaining sharpness and assuming cha-racter? This is a question that we, as viewers, inevitably have to ask ourselves.

Anette Harboe Flensburg’s new paintings deal, among other things, with the perceptual act as such and with our overall capacity for forming pictures, What are we really looking at? In what does a motive consist? How is a picture related to reality, the painter inquires. 

The paintings are situated on the threshold of the abstract and the artist appears to be making use of the rooms, the light’s slantwise incursions, the shadows’ cool obscurity and the different surfaces’ varying color intensities as the occasion for abandoning herself to the act of painting. 


Are you consciously striving toward beauty?

Beauty is not the aim or the actual focus, but I am 
aware that my paintings can be perceived as being beautiful. And now I’m not really fighting so much against this anymore. For quite a few years, I have been somewhat keyed-up when it came to a question about beauty, because the beautiful can exist disconcertingly close to the decorative. But now I’ve come to some kind of agreement about it, since I am better able to differentiate and navigate my way between the two phenomena. As Søren Ulrik Thomsen says: "You can procure the terrible through the beautiful."


In what way are you using architecture as the starting point for your new paintings?
Previously, you often availed yourself of photographs as the point of origin for your motives which, to a great extent, revolved around recollection. Now you have shifted the focus.

Well, architecture is a motive that provides me with the opportunity for pursuing my own inclination towards what is more formal and stringent and also with continuing to work in a narrative way, albeit with yet another layer of fiction pushed in between reality and image. In this way, there is a kind of affinity with the latticework pa-
inting à la Mondrian and Newman’s stripe paintings on the one side and with Hammershøi’s understated dramas on the other. The really decisive reason for the fact that the pictures relinquish the formally abstract is that I am incorporating perspective. It tips over and becomes more psychological ... and suggestive, because you are being ushered into the room. And this affects the body in a different way than the formal flat painting, which does not possess this kind of depth. This is not to say that certain tensions and excitations cannot crop up in the confrontation with the concrete flat painting. But with the illusion about being able to come right into the room, an entirely different narrative play and drama come into existence. Moreover, I am still circling around recollection in a way and around emotion, for that matter, in the sense that the spaces can also be perceived as a kind of mental, successive order. But it is clear that with the interior paintings, I’ve been assaulting the material in a more indirect and metaphorical way than I have previously done.


Certainly, it is also an utopia about nature that is present out there, something with which most people yearn to be in contact, when you go about painting a beautiful face on the verdant forest?

You might say that, sure. But it’s really something of a somewhat peculiar, artificial nature that I am painting. Because even though I take my mark in genuine nature, as I have seen it through the house’s windows, it subsequently comes to be transformed – in the painting – into a signal or sign for the green that is out there. But you cannot see whether it’s a beech tree or a rhododendron that I’m painting, since the whole thing assumes a kind of smoldering amorphous character.The green color, on the other hand, is crucial because it launches a chain of associations and engenders a tension between outdoors and indoors, between nature and architecture, in which I’m very interested. As a contrast to Mondrian, very apropos, inasmuch as he put a ban on the color green, precisely because it referred to nature – and that’s exactly what he wanted to avoid doing.


Your rooms appear to be plausible. Are you playing any tricks on us with the perspective?

No, and if I am doing so, it’s only a little bit. I’m always very wary of the all too glaringly surreal, which can be a psychological trap that narrows the field rather than opening it up. In painting, of course, you can manipulate with everything, but I prefer the diminutive but significant displacement.


There was a time when you made use of your own biographical story. What are you using today?

I’m still making use of my own history, but where as I previously worked according to an almost archaeological principle about bringing the motive to light – and at one time, I even painted pictures from my childhood home – I have been working in a more staged way with the current paintings. To put this more specifically,I have been taking my point of departure in dollhouse models that I construct. At times, I let them remain completely empty, while on other occasions I put up different kinds of wallpaper, carpets, and so forth, after which I create photo-montages of the rooms and finally, finish building them in the painting.

The paintings inscribe themselves, with all possible legibility, into an interior tradition of which – as has been mentioned – Hammershøi is certainly the most irrefutable exponent. And I feel fine about this. At the same time, however, the paintings also articulate an attempt to bring this tradition on to an eye-level with my own time.There where the two projects most visibly and primarily differentiate themselves from one another (I would rather not penetrate further here into a discussion of the more in-depth intentions) is seated precisely in the fact that Hammershøi’s interiors take their point of origin in the artist’s own home. He was actually living inside his motive! My paintings take their point of departure in a model, an idea. For this reason, the proportions are not entirely correct. The organic patterns, the woods outside, the kaleidoscopic reflections and colors provide an almost monstrous counter-play to the more balanced regular linear elapses.I am attemp-t ing to attain a point between an almost construct-ively formal space and a significance-concentrated room, where patterns and light perforate the more stable, stationary architecture and maybe even the horizon of understanding. 

The new paintings that Anette Harboe Flensburg has painted for the exhibition at the Museumsbygningen are monumental spatial images of such a kind. They also offer a commentary on the beautiful classicist building’s flow of space, which continues in a suite of rooms. What we have here, then, is form of painting installation. The starting points, of course, are the dollhouses, which the artist herself fits up and subsequently photographs. The photographs constitute sketches of a kind that set the stage for the painting. What supervenes are a number of interesting displacements with relation to scale. For example, the chair might be too large for the room r the chandelier might lack details, because it is a miniature. The spaces are deserted. They stand there unheimlich and somehow spectral, just waiting to be seized into service by the wandering gaze; it is we ourselves who come to fill the rooms with pre-sence.


What is it that has to happen before you become incited to move into the process of working?

During the idea phase, when the actual motific sphere and the rules of the game are being defined, I ought to have the feeling of some degree of control. There has to be a certain course. But in addition to this, the field must simultaneously be kept open for new inroads. It ought to be unfolding itself along the way. I must have the sense that I started out at a phase that was full of presentiment and that the actual process of painting is carrying me nearer to something about which I did not previously know the nature but which, conversely, I certainly can recognize when I do spot it. It’s a question of making use of all one’s experience, of involving as many levels of oneself as possible and of simultaneously making oneself open for the experience of something new.


A result that one herself might not even understand?

Yes, in a manner of speaking. But it ought to feel as though the picture was falling into place and as though it preserves a relevant attachment to both its own point of origin and reality’s space, while making itself independent to a degree of meaningful fiction. Which is not tantamount to saying that one understands it. You might just as well get used to it and consider: you will never fully fathom yourself or the meanings that you generate along the way.


Can this be likened to research? Where you have a thesis that you investigate and substantiate?

No, not to exact scientific investigation. But it can be likened to humanistic inquiry, like philosophy. Even more than providing ultimate answers, you see, philosophy is actually an examination about the manner in which we can formulate the questions so that they make sense. In painting, one makes an attempt to figure out how she or he can create a meaningful impact. This is why I’m really most interested in the empty spaces, in reception rooms, where the very point is that there is nobody there, like some woman with a certain facial expression whose role we are compelled to interpret. On the contrary, it is a spot where the spec- tator can enter in and place her/himself.


You are offering us a scene across which we can project our own conceptions?

Yes, but at the same time I am setting up certain limits and certain playing rules for this projecting. I’m saying: You cannot put anything whatsoever into it. Of course, you can come up with many kinds of answers to the questions I’m posing. But you cannot just answer any old way.


Your contours are never completely sharp. They almost resemble what Renaissance terminology would be sfumato, where the lines, as it were, go up in smoke. In this way, you elevate your world up into in another world, which becomes spherical. What is the purpose with this?

In one way, there’s an entirely formal explanation for this. As a painter, it's extremely interesting to delineate the transitions from the one to the other; there are many bits of information embedded there. There’s a small gray zone in between the elements.You cannot distinguish between them with a ruler. I was very inspired about one such transition when I read about new paradigms in the field of physics. And this tugged at my notions about what is happening in the border region situated between the one and the other. So the very mediation of these transitions constitutes a motive in itself. To put this in a somewhat polemical way, there are a number of photo-realists who are good at portraying the individual elements, whereas they might not be all that skilled in delineating the transitions. The upshot is that we attain a universe where the elements remain isolated from each other. Of course, there might be a point to this! But if you do not have a clear idea where you’re going with this, all you achieve is that the picture falls to pieces and becomes very rigid. Recently, as a matter of fact, I've occasionally been using mas-king tape in order to fashion a demonstratively sharp line of demarcation and I've been doing so precisely for the purpose of securing some variance from the more modulated transitions. So you see, I've also had an aim in mind with this. But I have to admit that it almost hurts to do this, because it feels completely wrong. Crossing over the border, really! But otherwise, you're correct in saying that the exaggeratedly blurry transitions play a part in creating the sense of a dreaming filter.


Yes, it seems as if there were a membrane between the viewer and the motive, as if we were to find ourselves standing in the gray zone of recollection or as if we were looking at an after-image that feels like it’s on our retina.

In 1995, I created a comprehensive project at Clausens Kunsthandel which was entitled "The Far-away in the Near". Here, I was examining that point where the particulars are just about to disappear while still barely remaining something and not something else or nothing at all. But in any event, so indistinct that the ordinary conceptual universe comes, to a certain extent, to be put out of commission.


Of course, it's certainly a paradox that we can first 'speak' about the non-linguistic, namely the pictures, when we use language.

The difference between picture and word is, putting this in a rather simple way, that the language can be set; the alphabetical character has its fixed form. And there is a distinct difference between the individual words. Paint is, on the contrary, a fluid substance that stiffens into a form, albeit preserving reminiscences of having once been a fluid substance which has been combined irreversibly with other colors. Of course you can say some-thing about the pictures, but it only applies to something about them that lives up to the formal requirements which have been posed in order to establish linguistic significance. But then there is all that remains, which is not even pre-linguistic but is merely ‘picture’ to the extent that it will always elude language.


When one stands in front of your new paintings, he/she can see that you are quite preoccupied by what is textural in the rooms you are framing.

Well, I'm generally very absorbed in putting variances into play.


What is it about space that fascinates you?

In addition to what I've already mentioned, I dream – inconceivably often - about space. I dream about whatever bodily impressions I might have in connection with being inside one certain room. Sometimes, the rooms trigger associations which specific rooms I know. But more frequently, there is just something that my mind is inventing as I dream. It might even be a nightmare, where I experience a strong sense of discomfort about being in a particular place, with the result that it has a forcible physical and mental effect. I also have a great sensitivity to whatever space I find myself to be when I am awake. I still remember almost all the rooms I've been in - especially as a child.

You're painting with many layers of oil paint. What do you attain with this way of working? 
Well, I'm painting in the classical way with a ground color, which sets a kind of colorist agenda toward which - and away from which - one can play. Sometime I just let it be. But as a rule, I paint further on top of it and build up in thin layers. It's like constructing a room with fluid matter.


On the one side, you are making photographs and on the other, you're painting. Why is the painting process important to you? What can painting accomplish that photography cannot?

I actually think I'd be able to move quite far along with the aid of computer-graphic technology. So I'm not of the opinion that there is some romantic aura connected with painting. Nonetheless, there is something or other that is fruitful about the process of transforming a fluid into something solid. So many things can transpire in the course of the process that often yield something surprising and new. Also small mishaps, which will ultimately reveal themselves as adding something to the final process. The type of elaboration that is part and parcel of the layer-on-layer process has an encouraging effect on me and offers something completely special. There are also shades of color which you cannot deliberately mix up but which come into view when several layers interact. Paint is merely one material among many. But it's a really good material.


Your surfaces are very smooth. In contrast to the abstract-expressionist painters, for example, who have a conspicuous brush-script and often work with impasto and in a gesturing manner, your surfaces are almost as depersonalized and smooth as a photograph. Nonetheless, you carry this fascination for painting.

That's right, and every now and then I am told that I'm not a real painter, because I don't leave all the brush-trails there … and I really do appreciate other people's tenders with this kind of painting, but I do not have any original message to offer in this area. Moreover, there are a great many clichés connected with the painting process that I very consciously try to avoid. But as a matter of fact, I have made quite a few pictures that display trails or imprints. But then it has to do with a different kind of trail, such as the crocheted network that has been pressed down in the paint, consequently creating a new layer of indexical meaning. Then of course it seems obvious to set down the more direct trails of the body. Once again, it’s all about having a personal idea. Even if you refrain from pursuing this.


Can you tell us something about the artists who have served as an inspiration for you in your own process as a painter?

If you want to make an almost art historical review, I would start with my fascination with archaic sculpture, although I'm not a sculptor. But I adore that level of stylization - and fiction. From the Gothic period then, there is Giotto, for example. And from the Renaissance and the Baroque, I would name artists like Caravaggio, who is one of my most cherished ideals. Chardin is another. Then there's Vermeer, of course, whose aptitude for gestalting the transitions is, moreover, nothing short of modern!


Vermeer was certainly using the camera obscura for his interior studies.

Indeed, and his perspective is distinctly photographic. Moreover, you can see how blurry his pictures can be and then he's got such a pronounced sensibility, a tenderness and that imperceptibility in the rendering of the transitions: his way of building up these rooms so coherently cast in one piece.


What about Ola Billgren and Gerhard Richter?

Well, of course, it would certainly be difficult to bypass them with a project like mine. But we are talking about different kinds of influences here. As a painter, Richter is unquestionably a momentous figure, because he is so very innovative. He's done just about everything that can be done in painting. So you admire him and you study him from a comfortable distance – keeping him at an arm’s length. With Ola, it's a different kind of influence, primarily because he was in fact a friend of mine …and a colleague. Even though we talked a great deal about art, his influence was sort of indirect in a very special way, largely because he was so tactfully discreet and diplomatic whenever he expressed his opinion about anything. 

Nevertheless, he really did take on such an imposing character, as an artist and as an admirably generous person. So much so that even now, when I'm painting, I wonder about what Ola might have said, were he still alive … and then I have a clear supposition about this. And in this way, a dialogue continues. Naturally, it would be so much more fun if he were still really here. I guess I have to acknowledge that he was the closest I have come to having a genuine father figure as a painter. It's not that I'm aspiring to paint like him. As a matter of fact, we were very different. But it's because through a good many years, he followed the course of my development and supported me, also with the discreet criticism. And for this reason, the sense of loss cuts deep. And my project involving finding my own special place as a painter still prevails. This was also the way it always was for Ola himself - for example, in relation to Richter. Ola was in incessant motion, eternally searching. That's why it was always incredibly interesting to talk to him.


How can art make a difference?

Art can express something about the experiences that are universal, in one way, and current, while at the same time, there are fissures facing in toward something ineffable, unique and profoundly personal. Art can transgress the isolation and hone the sensitivity. It can make the world larger and sometimes even more beautiful. Art can engender certain condensations of meaning and infoldnings, that we can just keep right on unfolding. I don't know if it can do so much more than that, really. But that’s already quite a bit.


Translated by Dan A. Marmorstein

Lisbeth Bonde is an art critic and journalist





Det flydende stof

Interview af Lisbeth Bonde

Anette Harboe Flensburgs kunst er i konstant forvandling. Fra udstilling til udstilling flytter hun sit maleprojekt over i nye, øjenåbnende, visuelle registre. Men der løber en rød tråd gennem hendes værk: Hun er en dialektisk maler, der interesserer sig for modsætninger. Modsætninger som mellem blødt og hårdt, konkavt og konvekst, kurvet og knækket, sanset og erindret, billede og efterbillede, tilsynekomst og forsvinding, ligesom hun interesserer sig for maleprocessens taktile stoflighed og skifter mellem glødende intense farver og kølige, dæmpede farver. Anette Harboe Flensburg behersker maleriets tekniske sider suverænt, og i hendes nye billeder bruger hun arkitekturen til at udfordre fladen som illusion. 

Arkitekturens ruminddelinger, de lodrette og vandrette linjer, skyggen og lyset er det grid, der inddeler motivet i et indenfor og et udenfor, i et her og et der. Men der er hul igennem til den anden side: Gennem vinduernes membran ledes blikket ud til et grenværk af forårsgrønne træer. Det er imidlertid usikkert, hvad vi ser, for konturerne vibrerer, og motivet er rystet, og det hele forekommer på en eller anden måde lidt spooky. Er det en drøm, et anelsesfelt eller et efterbillede på nethinden? Det kan ikke afgøres entydigt. Er motivet på vej til at forsvinde, eller er det snarere på vej til at vinde skarphed og træde i karakter? Det spørgsmål må vi som betragtere uvægerlig stille os selv. Anette Harboe Flensburgs nye malerier handler bl.a. om selve synsakten og om vores generelle evne til at danne billeder. Hvad er det egentlig, vi ser? Hvori består et motiv? Hvordan forholder et billede sig til realiteten? spørger maleren. Malerierne står på tærsklen til det abstrakte, og kunstneren synes at bruge rummene, lysets skrå indfald, skyggernes kølige mørke og fladernes forskellige farveintensitet som anledning til at give sig hen til maleakten. 

Tilstræber du skønheden bevidst?
Skønheden er ikke målet eller det egentlige fokus, men jeg er godt klar over, at mine billeder også kan opleves som skønne, og nu kæmper jeg ikke længere så meget imod. I nogle år har jeg været lidt anspændt i forhold til det skønne, fordi det kan ligge foruroligende tæt på det dekorative. 

Men jeg er kommet mere overens med det nu, fordi jeg bedre selv kan sondre og navigere mellem de to fænomener. Som Søren Ulrik Thomsen siger: "Man kan formidle det grusomme gennem det skønne".

Hvorfor bruger du arkitekturen som afsæt for dine nye malerier? Før i tiden anvendte du ofte fotografier som udgangspunkt for dine motiver, som i høj grad kredsede om erindringen. Nu har du flyttet fokus.
Ja, arkitekturen er et motiv, som dels giver mig mulighed for at følge min tilbøjelighed til det mere formelle og stramme og dels til fortsat at arbejde narrativt, men med endnu et lag af fiktion skudt ind mellem virkelighed og billede. På den måde er der en slags slægtskab med gittermaleriet à la Mondrian og Newmans stribemaleri på den ene side, og Hammershøis lavstemte dramaer på den anden side. Den helt afgørende grund til at billederne slipper det formelt abstrakte er, at jeg indarbejder perspektivet. Det tipper over og bliver mere psykologisk, suggestivt fordi man bliver ført ind i rummet, og det påvirker kroppen på en anden måde end det formelle flademaleri, der ikke har denne dybde. Ikke at der ikke kan opstå spændinger og pirringer i mødet med det konkrete flademaleri, men med illusionen om at kunne komme ind i rummet opstår der et helt andet narrativt spil og drama. I øvrigt kredser jeg for så vidt stadig om erindringen, og følelsen for den sags skyld, på den måde forstået at rummene også kan opleves som en slags mental, successiv orden. Men det er klart, at jeg med interiørmalerierne har angrebet stoffet mere indirekte og metaforisk end tidligere.

Det er jo også en utopi om naturen, der findes derude, og som de fleste længes efter at være i kontakt med, når du sådan maler en smuk udsigt til den vårgrønne skov?
Ja, men det er jo sådan en lidt speciel, artificiel natur, jeg maler. For selv om jeg tager afsæt i den virkelige natur, som jeg har set gennem husets vinduer, så bliver det i maleriet forvandlet til et signal eller tegn om det grønne derude. Men man kan ikke se, om det er et bøgetræ eller en Rhododendron jeg maler, fordi det hele antager en slags ulmende, amorf karakter. Den grønne farve er derimod vigtig, fordi den starter en række associationer og skaber en spænding mellem ude og inde, natur og arkitektur feks., som jeg er interesseret i. I modsætning til Mondrian meget apropos, som bandlyste den grønne farve, fordi den refererede til naturen - og det ville han netop undgå.

Dine rum virker sandsynlige. Du driller ikke med perspektivet?
Nej, og hvis jeg gør, er det kun ganske lidt. Jeg er altid meget på vagt over for det alt for grelt surreelle, der kan være en psykologisk fælde, som snævrer feltet ind frem for at åbne det. I maleriet kan man jo manipulere med alt, men jeg foretrækker den lille, men signifikante forskydning.

Engang gjorde du brug af din egen biografiske historie. Hvad bruger du i dag?
Jeg gør stadig brug af min egen historie, men hvor jeg før arbejdede efter et næsten arkæologisk princip om at finde frem til motivet - jeg har også på et tidspunkt malet billeder fra mit barndomshjem - så har jeg med de aktuelle malerier arbejdet mere iscenesættende. Konkret har jeg taget udgangspunkt i dukkehusmodeller, som jeg bygger op. Til tider lader jeg dem være helt tomme, men andre gange sætter jeg diverse tapeter op, gulvtæpper osv., hvorefter jeg laver fotomontager af rummene og endelig bygger dem færdige i maleriet. Malerierne skriver sig med al mulig tydelighed ind i en interiørtradition, hvor som sagt Hammershøi nok er den mest oplagte eksponent, og det har jeg det helt fint med. Men samtidig er de også et forsøg på at bringe denne tradition på øjenhøjde med min egen samtid. Der hvor de to projekter mest synligt og primært adskiller sig (de mere dybtgående intentioner vil jeg ikke gå nærmere ind i en diskussion af) ligger netop i, at Hammershøis interiørmalerier tager sit udgangspunkt i hans eget hjem. Han boede simpelthen i sit motiv! Mine malerier tager udgangspunkt i en model, en ide. Proportionerne er derfor ikke korrekte, de organiske mønstre, skoven derude, de kalejdoskopiske spejlinger og farverne giver et næsten monstrøst modspil til de mere afbalancerede regelmæssige linieforløb. Jeg søger at nå et punkt mellem et næsten konstruktivt formelt rum og et betydningsmæssigt fortættet rum, hvor mønstre og lys perforerer den mere stabile, stationære arkitektur og måske også forståelseshorisont.

De nye malerier, som Anette Harboe Flensburg har malet til Museumsbygningen, er sådanne monumentale rumbilleder, der også kommenterer den smukke, klassicistiske bygnings flow af rum, der fortsætter en suite. Der bliver således tale om en form for maleriinstallation. Udgangspunktet er altså dukkehuse, som hun selv indretter og derefter fotograferer. Fotografierne er en slags skitse, der lægger op til maleriet. Der sker nogle interessante skalaagtige forskydninger. F.eks. kan stolen være for stor til rummet, ligesom lysekronen mangler detaljer, fordi den er en miniature. Rummene er menneskeforladt. De står unheimlich og lidt spøgelsesagtigt og venter på at blive taget i brug af det vandrende blik. Vi fylder selv rummene med nærvær.

Hvad skal der til før du bliver ægget i arbejdsprocessen?
I idefasen hvor selve motivkredsen og spillereglerne bliver defineret, skal jeg helst have fornemmelsen af nogenlunde kontrol. Der skal være en bestemt kurs, men derudover skal feltet samtidigt holdes åbent for nye indfald. Det skal helst folde sig ud undervejs. Jeg skal have fornemmelsen af, at jeg startede på et anelsesfyldt stadie, og at selve maleprocessen bringer mig tættere på noget, jeg ikke vidste, hvad var, men som jeg omvendt godt kan genkende, når jeg ser det. Det er et spørgsmål om at bruge al sin erfaring, at involvere så mange niveauer af sig selv som muligt og samtidig gøre sig åben over for at erfare noget nyt.

Et resultat, man måske ikke selv forstår?
Ja på en måde, men det skal føles, som om billedet falder på plads. At det bevarer en relevant tilknytning både til sit eget udgangspunkt og til virkelighedens rum, men at det selvstændiggør sig i en grad af meningsfuld fiktion. Hvilket ikke er det samme, som at man forstår det. Man kan lige så godt besinde sig på, at man aldrig kommer til bunds i hverken sig selv eller de betydninger, man genererer undervejs.

Kan det sammenlignes med forskning? At man har en tese, man udforsker og underbygger?
Ikke den eksakte, naturvidenskabelige forskning. Men det kan sammenlignes med humanistisk forskning, f.eks. filosofi. For filosofi er en undersøgelse af, hvordan vi kan formulere spørgsmålene, så det giver mening, mere end det er egentlige svar. I maleriet forsøger man at finde ud af, hvordan man kan lave et meningsfuldt anslag. Derfor er jeg også mest interesseret i de tomme rum, i modtagelsesrum, hvor pointen er, at der ikke er nogen til stede, f.eks. en kvinde med et bestemt ansigtsudtryk, hvis rolle vi skal tolke. Tværtimod er det et sted, hvor tilskuerne kan gå ind og placere sig selv.

Du giver os en scene, som vi selv kan projicere vores forestillinger over i?
Ja, men samtidigt sætter jeg nogle grænser og nogle spilleregler op for denne projicering. Jeg siger: Du kan ikke lægge hvad som helst i det. Du kan godt give mange typer svar på de spørgsmål, jeg stiller, men du kan ikke svare hvad som helst.

Dine konturer er aldrig helt skarpe. De ligner næsten det, man på renæssancesprog kalder sfumato, dvs. linjerne går ligesom op i røg. Dermed løfter du din verden ind i en anden verden, det bliver sfærisk. Hvad er formålet med det?
Der er dels en helt formel forklaring på det. Som maler er det uhyre interessant at skildre overgangene fra det ene til det andet, der ligger mange informationer indlejret. Der er en lille gråzone imellem tingene. Du kan ikke sondre mellem dem med en lineal. En overgang var jeg meget inspireret af at læse om nye paradigmer inden for fysikken, og det rykkede ved mine forestillinger om hvad der sker i grænselandet mellem det ene og det andet. Så selve formidlingen af disse overgange er et motiv i sig selv. Lidt polemisk sagt er der en del fotorealister, der er gode til at skildre de enkelte ting, men måske knap så gode til at skildre overgangene. Så får man et univers, hvor tingene står isoleret over for hinanden. Det kan selvfølgelig være en pointe. Men hvis ikke man har en klar ide med det, så opnår man blot, at billedet falder fra hinanden og bliver meget stift. Men på det seneste har jeg faktisk ind imellem ligefrem brugt tape for at lave en demonstativ skarp demarkationslinie, og det har netop været for at opnå en forskel fra de mere modulerede overgange. Jeg har altså haft en hensigt med det, men jeg må ind rømme, at det næsten gjorde ondt at gøre det, fordi det føles helt forkert. Faktisk grænseoverskridende. Men ellers har du ret i, at de overdrevent slørede overgange er med til at skabe fornemmelsen af et drømmende filter.

Ja, det virker, som om der er en membran mellem betragteren og motivet, som om vi befinder os i erindringens gråzone, eller som om vi ser på et efterbillede, der befinder os på vores nethinde.
I 1995 lavede jeg et helt projekt i Clausens Kunst- handel, der hed "Det fjerne ved det nære". Her undersøgte jeg det punkt, hvor tingene er tæt på at forsvinde, men stadig lige akkurat er noget og ikke noget andet eller ingenting. Men i alt fald så utydelig, at den normale begrebsverden i et vist omfang blev sat ud af spil.

Ja, det er jo et paradoks, at vi jo først kan tale om det ikke-sproglige, nemlig billederne, når vi anvender sproget.
Forskellen mellem billede og ord er helt banalt sagt, at sproget kan sættes. Bogstavet har sin faste form, og der er tydeligt forskel mellem de enkelte ord. Maling er derimod et flydende stof, der stivner i en form, men vil bevare reminiscenser af at være et flydende stof, som blander sig irreversibelt med andre farver. Man kan altså godt sige noget om billederne, men det er kun det ved billederne, der lever op til de formelle krav, der stilles for at kunne danne sproglig betydning. Men så er der resten, som ikke engang er førsprogligt, men bare i den grad billede, at det altid vil unddrage sig begreberne.

Når man står foran dine nye billeder, kan man se, at du er meget optaget af det stoflige i de rum, du gestalter.
Ja, jeg er generelt meget optaget af at sætte forskelle i spil.

Hvad er det ved rum, som fascinerer dig?
Ud over det, jeg har fortalt, så drømmer jeg ufattelig tit om rum. Det handler om, hvilken kropslig fornemmelse jeg har af at være i et bestemt rum. Nogle gange minder rummene om konkrete rum, jeg kender. Men ofte er det bare noget, min hjerne opfinder, når jeg drømmer. Det kan være mareridtsagtigt, hvor jeg oplever et stærkt ubehag ved at være et bestemt sted, så det har en voldsom fysisk og mental påvirkning. Også i vågen tilstand har jeg en stor sensibilitet over for rum, jeg befinder mig i. Jeg husker stadig næsten alle de rum, jeg har været i - ikke mindst som barn.

Du maler med mange lag oliemaling. Hvad opnår du derved?
Ja, jeg maler klassisk med en bundfarve, der sætter en slags koloristisk dagsorden, som man kan spille op til og op imod. Nogle gange lader jeg den stå. Men som regel maler jeg videre på den og bygger op i tynde lag. Det er som at bygge et rum med flydende materie.

På den ene side fotograferer du, og på den anden side maler du. Hvorfor er maleprocessen vigtig for dig? Hvad kan maleriet, som fotografiet ikke kan?
Jeg tror egentlig, at jeg kunne komme ganske langt med de computergrafiske teknikker, så jeg mener ikke, der knytter sig nogen romantisk aura til det at male. Alligevel er der et eller andet produktivt ved processen at transformere et fluidum til noget fast. Der kan ske så mange ting under processen, som giver noget overraskende nyt. Også små uheld, der til sidst vil vise sig at give noget i slutprocessen. Den type elaborering, der ligger i lag-på-lag-processen, virker befordrende for mig og giver noget helt specielt. Der er også farvenuancer, man ikke kunne blande sig til, men som opstår, når mange lag spiller sammen. Malingen er blot et materiale blandt mange, men det er et rigtig godt materiale.

Dine flader er meget jævne. I modsætning til f.eks. de abstrakte-ekspressive malere, der har en tydelig penselskrift og ofte arbejder pastost og gestisk, så er dine flader næsten depersonaliserede og jævne som et fotografi. Og alligevel har du denne fascination af maleriet?
Ja, og jeg får også til tider at vide, at jeg ikke er en rigtig maler, fordi jeg ikke har penselsporene med..... og jeg kan egentlig godt lide andres bud på den form for maleri, men jeg har ikke selv noget originalt bud på det. I øvrigt er der mange klichéer forbundet med maleprocessen, som jeg bevidst søger at undgå. Men faktisk har jeg lavet ikke så få billeder, der bærer spor eller aftryk, men så er det en anden slags spor. Som f.eks. hæklede netværk, som er trykt ned i malingen og på den måde skaber et nyt lag af indeksikal betydning. Så selvfølgelig kan det være oplagt at sætte mere direkte spor af kroppen. Det gælder igen om at have en personlig ide. Også hvis man undlader det.

Vil du fortælle om kunstnere, som har inspireret dig i din egen proces som maler?
Hvis man skal lave en næsten kunsthistorisk gennemgang, så kan jeg starte med min fascination af arkaisk skulptur, skønt jeg ikke er billedhugger. Men jeg elsker denne grad af stilisering - og fiktion. Fra gotikken er der f.eks. Giotto, og fra renæssancen og barokken kan jeg nævne kunstnere som Caravaggio, der er et af mine største forbilleder, Chardin et andet. Så er der Vermeer selvfølgelig, hvis evne til at gestalte overgange i øvrigt er meget moderne.

Vermeer brugte jo også camera obscura til sine interiørstudier.
Ja, hans perspektiv er tydeligvis fotografisk. Man kan i øvrigt se, hvor slørede hans billeder er, og så har han en udpræget sensibilitet, en blidhed og umærkelighed i skildringen af overgangene. Måden at bygge disse helstøbte rum på.

Hvad med Ola Billgren og Gerhard Richter?
Selvfølgelig, de er jo svære at komme uden om med et projekt som mit. Men det har været en forskellig slags indflydelse. Som maler er Richter jo en vigtig figur, fordi han er så innovativ, har gjort næsten alt, man kan med maleriet, så ham beundrer og studerer man på afstand - holder ud i strakt arm. Med Ola er det anderledes, primært fordi han jo var en personlig ven og kollega, og selv om vi talte meget om kunst, så var hans indflydelse næsten indirekte på en helt særlig måde, fordi han var så fintfølende diskret og diplomatisk, når han udtalte sig om noget. Alligevel trådte han jo meget i karakter, som kunstner og som et beundringsværdigt generøst menneske. Så meget, at jeg når jeg maler stadig tænker på, hvad Ola mon ville sige, hvis han stadig levede… og så har jeg en klar formodning om det, og kan på den måde fortsætte en dialog. Den ville selvfølgelig være meget sjovere, hvis han virkelig var her endnu. Jeg må nok erkende, at han var det tætteste, jeg har været på at have en egentlig faderfigur som maler. Ikke fordi jeg tilstræbte at male som ham, vi var faktisk meget forskellige, men fordi han igennem mange år fulgte min proces og støttede mig, også med den diskrete kritik. Og derfor er savnet dybt, og mit projekt med at finde mit særlige sted som maler, stadig nærværende. Det var det også altid for Ola selv, f.eks. i forhold til Richter. Han var i evig bevægelse, søgende, og derfor altid utrolig interessant at tale med.

Hvordan kan kunsten gøre en forskel?
Kunsten kan udtrykke noget om de erfaringer, der på en måde er almene og aktuelle, samtidig med at der er sprækker ind til noget usigeligt, enestående, dybt personligt. Den kan overskride isolationen, og skærpe sensibiliteten. Den kan få verden til at blive større, og nogen gange oveni købet smukkere. Den kan skabe nogle betydningsfortætninger og indfoldninger, som vi kan blive ved med at folde ud. Så ved jeg ikke om den kan så meget andet, men det er vel heller ikke så lidt.

Lisbeth Bonde er kunstkritiker og journalist