Fredrik Værslev’s exhibition at Bergen Kunsthall is his largest solo show to date and comprises two distinct series of new paintings. One group of works will be integrated into Bergen Kunsthall’s modernist gallery spaces as a meticulously planned architectural installation of painted canvases. For the other, Værslev will collaborate with several international artists, including Matias Faldbakken, Stewart Uoo, Josh Smith and Allison Katz, on his ongoing series of “shelf-paintings.”
When encountering a new exhibition by Fredrik Værslev, there is by now an established expectation towards his work: a distanced painterly practice where the action—painting—is constantly held at arm’s length. When exhibited, his works can often appear as if on a stage, performing or acting a role, or taking on the part of an architectural or functional object, deployed in direct response to their environment. For his exhibition at Bergen Kunsthall, however, these new works occupy what at first appears a more traditional display format.
Værslev has created a group of works based on images of sunsets that he has photographed on his iPhone from aeroplane windows. These banal but seductive images provide a starting point for a series of new multi-canvas paintings that address the condition, production and status of painting today, as well as the ongoing legacies of Greenbergian modernism and ideas of abstraction, figuration and the painterly sublime. Through their mechanistic, serial production—employing industrial spray paint and trolleys normally used for road marking and sports fields—they complicate ideas of surface, gesture and originality, whilst at the same time alluding to a more functional language of municipal murals, urban graffiti or painted hoardings. Installed in a bespoke architectural intervention in the galleries of Bergen Kunsthall, they at once evoke the works of artists as diverse as Mark Rothko, Edvard Munch and Michael Asher, as well as a kind of theatrical scenography or civic decoration.
The “shelf-paintings” are part of an ongoing series Værslev began whilst still a student at the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main in 2008–09. Initially developed after a conversation with the artist’s mother, and her desire to find a way to incorporate Værslev’s work into the environment of her home, the works attempt to accommodate painting as both artwork and object. Addressing issues of display, authorship, appropriation and domesticity, the shelf-paintings are produced in collaboration with Værslev’s friends and peers. Værslev provides a simple wooden shelf structure, which the collaborating artist is free to intervene with as they wish.
In all of Værslev’s work he can be seen to navigate between various different painterly traditions, as well as the wider legacies of conceptual art and institutional critique. He demonstrates how painting continues to offer the potential for personal expression, as well as conceptual and intellectual investigation. He treats the painting as an object in line with other objects, and his works are often created through more or less laborious, serial, collaborative and deterministic processes, where time itself, as well as external factors including site, space and even the weather, become active co-creators in the making of the work.
Including collaborative works with Matias Faldbakken, Allison Katz, Stewart Uoo and Josh Smith
Curated by Martin Clark and Steinar Sekkingstad.
Fredrik Værslev - All Around Amateur
Bergen Kunsthall, May 26 - August 14