Works by Marie Søndergaard Lolk, Sigrid Sandström and Hulda Stefánsdóttir.
One of the main attributes of non-representational painting in modern art could be called the absence of a recognizable picture or image. Non-representational works have been described as silent or empty: emptied of any obvious narrative and any stable meaning of color or form; emptied to the point of zero. That point may open up the possibility of creating meaning – not least through an active reception – a possibility that revolves around the properties and materiality of the painted work and the perception, creative process and methods of the painter. Another way of thinking about such processes, is to focus on the dynamic relationship between the picture plane and the negative pictorial space. This approach reveals that the picture – the recognizable image – is only absent in the sense that its traces are active within one‘s consciousness and in the construction of meaning that its absence sparks. It is the negative space that lends meaning to the “positive“, i.e. the shapes that appear on the picture plane. In figurative artworks, we tend to read negative pictorial space as the background of the work‘s imagery. As a key element in abstract works, on the other hand, it requires an active interpretation of the inconclusive intersection between the picture plane and the negative space, on the border between an image and its absence. This also reveals the complexity of the phenomenon sometimes called “depth“ in painting.
The exhibition Event Horizon presents dialogues between abstract works by three artists:, Hulda Stefánsdóttir, Sigrid Sandström and Marie Søndergaard Lolk. The term “event horizon“ refers us to the surface element of black holes, the liminal field where the gravity pull of black holes enables them to devour light. The term captures the event when visible matter (matter emanating light) disappears; the vanishing point when material is transformed as it merges with the void of the black hole. Event Horizon also alludes to a research project that recently lead to the publication of the first photograph of a black hole. How is it possible to picture a void? The image turns out to be a technically assembled product from numerous telescopes and it shows the liminal field as a slightly blurred, orange-hued ring around a gap that can also be perceived as a large, black dot. The visibility of the black hole derives from the visible phenomena (probably including so-called “dark matter“) that have passed into its gravitational grasp. The photograph, therefore, is double-edged: the luminous circle can be viewed as the negative space that enables us to see “the picture“, that is, the black hole itself. On the other hand, we tend to observe this ring – the surface of the black hole – as a positive figure on black ground and the black hole itself as its opposite, the negative space. This convoluted function of the photograph feeds directly into the subject matter that Stefánsdóttir, Sandström and Søndergaard Lolk are grappling with in this exhibition.
In their works, the three artists tackle an event horizon in the sense that the imagery dwells on the edge of visibility, on the boundaries of image and its disappearance. Their methods involve deferred meaning, withdrawal, resistance, displacement and inversion. Repetition and mirroring propel imagery out into the exhibition space. The boundaries between image, picture plane and background/foundation, between original and copy, between a work and its surrounding space are vague and intricate. Figuratively speaking, one could think of the black hole as point zero, the void that pulls, the ultimate negative space that lends meaning to everything, although it is ultimately the spectator‘s task to „figure out“ what that meaning is or could be. The artists‘ work takes place at the event horizon, where visible signs affirm their fragmentary existence, even as they are on the verge of disappearing.
Courtesy of the artists and BERG Contemporary, Reykjavík