Olav Christopher Jenssen
The Letharia Paintings
12 Apr – 18 May 2013
In titles and in subject matter, The Letharia Paintings relate to nature, and more specifically to a type of lichen in the letharia-family known as the wolf-lichen, which grows on the bark of living and dead trees in western and continental Europe. The ”poisonous” green color and highly branched structure of wolf-lichen is reflected in the green webs that cover the surface of the paintings. Besides this association to lichen, the new paintings by Olav Christopher Jenssen also contain elements of a more non-illusionistic and concrete type, which bring them closer to the tradition of abstract-gestural painting. According to Jenssen himself, the paintings have not literally been painted after nature, but the affinity to lichen suggested itself through the working process, and this led to the title.
The shrubby, lichen-like structure on the surface of the paintings is created by means of oilpaint and a palet knife. Because of its high tactility, the structure differs from the underlying layers of paint, which are wholly or partly covered by it. The web of lines leads one’s sight into the depth of the paintings, while it simultaneously pushes sight back to the surface. In this way, it becomes analogous to the yellow-green pigment of the wolf-lichen, which is also visually fascinating to look at, but in reality poisonous for the body to eat. Nature depicted in the paintings is not romantic nature that we move into to lose ourselves. We are instead confronted with a vision of nature that has its own agency and its own strange life. Maybe like art.
Olav Christopher Jenssen (b. 1954) lives and works in Berlin. After many years as a professor in Hamburg, he has since 2007 held a professorship at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig in Germany. He is represented in several important collections, including Museum of Modern Art, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Centre Pompidou, Paris and The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo. He has had major museum exhibitions at Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany, and in 2012-13 at Marta Herford, Germany. Presently, Jenssen also exhibits at Henie Onstad Art Center, Høvikodden, with the retrospective exhibition ”Journal – works on paper 1979-2012”.