Friday, September 11, 2015

Nubben / Lars-Gunnar Nordström (an exhibition at EMMA)

Lars-Gunnar Nordström. Photo: Kalevi Hujanen.
Lars-Gunnar Nordström: Dimensional Formation, 1954, paint on board, 100x200 cm
Photo: Ari Karttunen / EMMA. Click to enlarge!
Nubben / Lars-Gunnar Nordström. An exhibition at EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art 17.6–13.9.2015. Viewed on 11 Sep 2015
    Curator: Henna Paunu. Exhibition architecture: Ilkka Suppanen.
    Exhibition catalogue: Nubben – Lars-Gunnar Nordström. Edited by Henna Paunu with contributions by Erik Kruskopf, Serge Lemoine, Mauri Niemi, Oscar Ortiz-Nieminen, and Henna Paunu. Hard cover, large format, 304 pages. Espoo: EMMA - Espoon modernin taiteen museon julkaisuja 42/2015

”I construct art mathematically, as happens in music, I make music for the eye, it has harmony and rhythm, which are based on the colours’ own innate mechanisms.” (Lars-Gunnar Nordström)

”The Nubben exhibition is part of EMMA’s series of classics presenting the work of the great names of Finnish Modernism. Lars-Gunnar Nordström (1924-2014) was one of the leading pioneers of non-representational art in Finland. His art, Concretism, is characterized by an extremely precise, finished, deliberate visual expression. Nordström is particularly known for his geometric paintings, in which angular and curved flat colour fields form clear, strong, dynamic compositions. His production consists mainly of graphic prints, paintings and sculptures. EMMA’s exhibition spaces will provide Nubben’s art − and especially his systematic series of paintings constructed out of geometric shapes – with a unique setting amid Aarno Ruusuvuori’s modernist architecture.”
(official exhibition introduction)

AA: Lars-Gunnar Nordström was a Finnish painter, graphic artist, sculptor, designer, and a jazz collector with a powerful and consistent body of work during seven decades.

Henna Paunu and Ilkka Suppanen at EMMA have devoted a huge exhibition space in tribute to the work of Nubben, as the artist was known. The sense of space is exhilarating: we can follow Nubben's exercises in colour and form in long stretches, sometimes dominated by green, sometimes by red, sometimes by blue. These series are like J. S. Bach's systematic studies in his Clavier-Übungen, methodical yet playful. Sometimes the connecting themes are hidden: the primary colours are linked via secondary colours.

Also many of Nubben's sculptural works are exhibited, as well as a cycle of his early works from the 1940s showing his development from figurative art to non-figurative art. Nubben himself saw himself as a Concretist. Sometimes he called his art abstract or non-figurative, but to him his art was a concrete study of colour and form. Sometimes his works come close to design, and of course, an important part of his body of work is design. In the exhibition there is a long row of lamps designed by Nubben.

Nubben's other side was his jazz passion, and he was a world class jazz record collector who donated his collection to the National Library of Finland. A room at the exhibition is dedicated to jazz.

There is also a case showcasing Nubben's designs for books (often poems) and records.

Worth studying is the exhibition catalogue with excellent introductions and essays and high quality reproductions which do justice to the art of Lars-Gunnar Nordström.

The exhibition and the catalogue provide a journey into a rigorous and stimulating body of work.


Austere form
A pioneer of Concretism

“Colour is an important factor in my pictures, not as some agreeable or gratifying compositional element, but as an essential part of the whole, as the fuel that keeps the engine (the form) running.” (1955)

Nordström began his career in the 1940s and, very early on, created his own distinctive Concretist mode of painting, founded on a whole made up solely of line, colour and surface. In the 1950s, he made a crucial contribution to the breakthrough of abstract art in Finland and, already then, also began making large mural paintings that reflected his interest in collaboration, in combining visual art and architecture. Nordström established his position in the 1970s, and enjoyed widespread admiration in Finnish art circles, where he was generally known by the nickname ‘Nubben’. He was also constantly active on an international level – travelling, making new contacts and holding exhibitions. His art has had a major impact, particularly in Sweden.
Spatiality and architectonicity form the foundations of Lars-Gunnar Nordström’s art. He grew up in an architect family, studied to be an interior architect at the Central School for Applied Arts and, in the early stages of his career, worked as a designer in architects’ offices. The EMMA exhibition puts the spotlight not only on Nordström’s paintings and graphic prints, but also on his sculptural production, and the sketches and working processes that underpinned his paintings and three-dimensional work.

Art and jazz

"If only people could one day be able to see colours and shapes in art in the same self-evident way as they listen to melodies and harmonies in music.”(1981)

A major role in Nordström’s life and art was played by his passionate relationship with jazz music. His collection of around 11,000 jazz albums was legendary. Music also had direct links with Nubben’s art. The EMMA exhibition sheds light on the artist’s character and personal profile, particularly through documentary material and music. Nordström not only worked as an artist, but also as an interior and stage designer, and as a writer, art critic and teacher.

The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive catalogue tracing Lars-Gunnar Nordström’s life and art. In his extensive research Oscar Ortiz-Nieminen reveals new viewpoints on the artist’s life and importance at the hub of Finnish Modernism from the 1950s up to the 2000s. Other writers in the catalogue include art critic Erik Kruskopf and art historian Serge Lemoine.

In 2011, the L-G Nordströmin Säätiö – L-G Nordströms Stiftelse – Foundation for Constructive Art deposited 100 of Lars-Gunnar Nordström’s works at EMMA. This was done on condition that a retrospective exhibition of the artist’s works be held at EMMA. Lars-Gunnar Nordström (b.19.8.1924) passed away on 10.8.2014, just a few weeks before his 90th birthday. This broad survey of his production, designed by EMMA, thus now has the status of a commemorative exhibition.

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