The title Fredrik Værslev originally proposed for this exhibition was I like my women like I like my wine—red and full of alcohol. A quote attributed to the character Fez from the US sitcom That 70s Show. Værslev’s other galleries were hesitant though: either they didn’t feel it or were concerned it might be perceived as slightly sexist. Disregarding the potential misogynies (there really aren’t any) and whatever personal reasons Fredrik Værslev might have had to pick this somewhat oddball and idiosyncratic quote it still activates some fruitful points of departure for considering the visual strategies deployed and let loose in these works.
Let us, for the time being, propose a few prolegomenous points:
There is a de-fleshing, a de-incarnating of the pictorial plane at work here. Maurice Blanchot once infamously stated (with subsequent accusations of misogyny (and perhaps of a more sinister kind than that the one directed at Fez)) that in order to be able to say “’This woman’ […] I must somehow take her flesh-and-blood reality away from her, cause her to be absent, annihilate her.”1
Værslev’s “bird paintings” rely on similar architectural ruptures, dis-architectured principles of support, far-reaching acts of subtraction and a dismembered, synecdochical proximity to the flesh and the pigment of the blood. The radical removal of both paint and his own brush strokes: left out in the garden, these wooden boards got partially covered by hawthorn berries and henceforth the target of birds. While pecking at the wooden boards to get at the berries the birds also unleashed the pigment of their targeted berries as well as stippling the wooden surface already saturated with the juices from the punctuated hawthorn berries as well as the water from occasionally fierce rain showers. Thus, what occurs on the matrices of color, surface and pictorality is a doubled activity of both subtraction and addition: There occurs a draining of the berries for nutrition, a de-composition of the surroundings cum painterly vectors; and simultaneously a saturation of the wooden surface, texture and depth with deep reddish-pink pigments. The “paintings” first appear when the surface gets saturated and “given” to an “event” of chromatic life and creation—and in the same movement stippled, depleted, and literally wrought of seed and potential life.
Yet, they may be pure traces of life, becoming-painting of painting, chance, contingency, living abstraction, an inconceivable-intangible violence, and a somewhat conflictual mastery of the latter. A flattened, living heraldic retina of the World, brimming with pure potentiality.
Perhaps the kind of painting Fredrik Værslev is aiming for does not re-present an alreadyUrpsrung-y frame or cut-outs of the world. It’s not some mirror held up against the world, nor a magnetic surface registering and crystallizing its movements. Perhaps rather instances of pure perception tracing and instantiating—pending their own singular tensions and tenors.
In a way we are dealing with crude photo “prints” of sorts, a simultaneous refraction and conflation of/on/from/in the mere matter that painting both posits, consummates, and emerges from. This would be the activity of fleshing out mere matter and simultaneously de-fleshing it with a force of irregularity interrupting and rupturing its surfaces.
These paintings hint at, in what would be a yet to be explored fashion—and herein lies also some of their pre-nascent, effervescent beauty of sorts—an in-themselves tracing of photo-genetic painterly occasion. They are approaching their own occurrence, the flesh of painting incarnate or de-incarnate. Occurrences incarnate or de-incarnate—a contingent angularity that traverses the lacks, saturations, and residues of our embodied percepto-pictorial and animal lives.
In the “shelf-paintings”—also “un-touched” by the artist, given to be “embellished”, perhaps even “travestied”, by artist friend Nicolas Ceccaldi—there might as well be similar traversals taking (up) place. And ones that perhaps are also more explicitly, anthropomorphically “communal.” One could, and should, go on, if time permitted, to consider the re-emergence of the human figure via disconnected assemblages of female forms, dolls or mannequins. The still absent brush strokes of the painter-signee could pressure instantiations and inventions of the artist’s excessive withdrawal as well as his extreme proximity.
1 Marice Blanchot, The Work of Fire, translated by Charlotte Mandell (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995(1949)), 323
Peter J. Amdam