An explorerer of colour

Trond Borgen

Stavanger Aftenblad, 3 March 2003


Galleri Brandstrup
Roar Werner Eriksen paintings
Through 23 March 2003

What remains hanging in the air after everything has been said. The impressions deposited in the mind after a meeting with another person. The memories and feelings left at the end.

This is what Roar Werner Eriksen is attempting to fix to canvas in his non-figurative paintings now on show at Galleri Brandstrup. This might seem a like hopeless and, not least, paradoxical task: attempting to pin down the transitory, the intangible. And it is precisely the impossibility of this project that has allowed Eriksen to succeed, because he is prepared to risk everything in each picture. Not just his own humanist, naked openness – his dissection of his own states of mind – he also gambles the raison d’être of painting itself. These pictures are created spontaneously, and Eriksen has nothing to fall back on but his long experience as a painter and his highly developed sensitivity to colour.

The result, which is both beautiful and profoundly moving, is paintings that accommodate questions of life and death. We see an existential struggle on a quiet, but intense scale, with Eriksen opening up an inner landscape of vast dimensions, using a palette that is confined mostly to white, grey and black, with smatterings of other colours. In doing so, he becomes an explorer of colour, a seismologist of the mind, registering not only the major tremors, but also the smallest and most subtle changes and nuances.

It is as if in his paintings Eriksen is drawing veil after veil over fragments of memories, traces of feelings. In all these paintings he exposes the fundamental loneliness of man: alone with feelings and experiences that can be communicated only on different level, that of the painting. This transforms them to an aesthetic category, where concrete, personal memories and feelings disappear behind the many veiled layers and in the eruptive outbreaks of contrasting colours.

A surprising transformation occurs: his intense sensitivity to colour and spontaneous approach to the painting give Eriksen the power to generalise his own personal experiences and perceptions. The viewer must fine-tune to the same wavelength as the artist and in doing so discovers the strength of this exhibition: that the deeply melancholy and intensely tragic aspect of our existence – the impossibility of communicating our inner feelings directly and the reality of man’s sense of abandonment after any meeting with other people – can nevertheless be communicated in such a way that we experience it both viscerally and through our own eye for beauty, in the immediate aesthetic expression that a painting is still capable of transmitting.

What we see in this exhibition is the use of painting as a vital medium for fundamental humanist values and as a communicator of life experience. Furthermore, we see the exquisite staging of the exhibition space, where lead-grey and white canvases are juxtaposed with two large paintings which present violent explosions of yellow. Aggressive and jubilatory at one and the same time, with an energy that makes the whole room vibrate.

Translation Robert Lovering MITI