Magazine article Artforum International

Robert Lucander

Magazine article Artforum International

Robert Lucander

Article excerpt

CONTEMPORARY FINE ARTS

Among Europeans, Finnish culture stands for melancholy and despair, for the emotional awkwardness portrayed in the films of the Kaurismaki brothers. And for unrestrained drinking. In Robert Lucander's paintings, by contrast, one encounters an urbane, cool Finland, both youth- and style-conscious. His works are situated at the fault line where pop culture's shimmering surfaces dissolve into a peculiar emptiness as monochrome planes of color.

Lucander's earlier series "Up and Down and Back Again," 1994-95, was already concerned with the relationship between representation and the painting's material substrate. At the rime, Lucander applied his paint to standardized aluminum panels. The uniformity of the format pointed to the tension among the various motifs: finely painted checked patterns, the mark left by the bottom of a paint can, or a smeared footprint, for example. In this way the ground of the painting became visible as a limited but considerably variable space of the painter's creativity.

In an apparent contrast, Lucander's new works ("Knock on Wood," 1999-2000) are marked by an interest in figuration. But he reduces it in two directions: On one hand, he shows small details and extreme close-ups of bodies and faces; on the other, he often simply uses outlines to differentiate surfaces from an equally monochrome background. Thus it happens that only the area around the eyes and the fine lines of the mouth and lips appear on an otherwise untouched wood panel in a piece titled Nur die Wirklichkeit wirkt wirklicher (Only reality appears more real), 2000. Image becomes mere appearance, a phantasm of surface and reduction.

Lucander continues to work with standardized material in his new pieces. The wood comes from a single sawmill and is chosen according to its particular characteristics. One might say that Lucander proceeds in the manner of an old-fashioned stone sculptor: Observing the varied grain of the wood, he selects pieces whose specific texture suggests something to him. …

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