Olav Christopher Jenssen

By Valjakka, Timo | Artforum International, April 1993 | Go to article overview

Olav Christopher Jenssen


Valjakka, Timo, Artforum International


Olav Christopher Jenssen's series of works entitled "Lack of Memory," 1990-92, shows this Berlin-based Norwegian artist to be an endlessly inventive and imaginative painter. At first sight this exhibition of 40 identically sized paintings--selected from the 42 works that comprise the series--looks almost like a group show of a small school of painters. It actually represents an encyclopedic summing-up of the variety of techniques at the command of the abstract painter, whose work patently has no place within any geometric language.

Jenssen pours, squeezes, stains, and splashes paint onto his large-format canvases. He covers them with organic forms and patterns, adding smears, blotches, and scribbles. His palette ranges from ethereal grays to severe black and white, and on to unusual combinations of secondary colors--orange, green, and purple. A typical feature of Jenssen's paintings are the microscopelike images, multiplying and evaporating like chemical or biological processes of growth and dissolution. As a result, the paintings give more the impression of just coming into being than of having reached their final, permanent form.

Yet, Jenssen's works do not seem to be linked with nature so much as with artistic discourse. These often copiously layered, painted surfaces conceal references to a substantial portion of the recent history of abstract art. As a result, seen in its entirety, this series of paintings becomes virtually a parody of "cultural nomadism," taking the idea of the artist's stylistic wanderings through the landscape of culture--in this case painting--to its logical extreme.

The title, "Lack of Memory," suggests a conscious desire to find a way out of the regions normally accessible to (art-historical) memory and into the open field of play that lies between languages. …

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