“A way a lone a last a loved a long the – riverrun”1
Reflections on Kasper Andreasen’s Panels
A grey-blue, cloud-like swipe, black imprinted spheres, nervous brown lines in a striped pattern and a waving green border. The setting sun, a ripple in a pond, a moss-clad brick wall. Sunlight falling through the glass on the table in the house just around the corner. A letter, a note, an idea. The Alps seen from an airplane window. A book, wild flowers, coffee circles on the tablecloth. I look and start counting: one, two, three, five, eight… My gaze moves on and explores the brush strokes, the prints, the pencil lines and the splashes. Kasper Andreasen’s panels greet me with a surprising diversity of colours, patterns, materials and references. They are not large, but they are many.
I ask the artist what it is I see, but I know that he is unable and reluctant to respond, for the question has already generated the answer: I see. As my eyes glance over the panels installed in a well-arranged grid on the wall or on paper or my laptop screen, I become aware of the two balls blinking and rotating mechanically back and forth, up and down in my skull. I look up, find the horizon and my balance and think of John Berger pointing to his own eye in front of a sky-blue screen background, teaching us: “Perspective makes the eye the centre of the visible world, but the human eye can only be in one place at a time. It takes its visible world with it as it walks.”2
Andreasen’s studio is indeed of a mobile nature. Every week he travels hundreds of kilometres back and forth, trading Ghent’s tables, chairs and beds for Berlin’s and vice versa. He keeps track of all traces of these relocations – receipts, tickets, letters, paper bags – an archive that swings behind him like a cloud of dust. The order in which all these seemingly trivial fragments are arranged is of astonishing precision and dedication. I recognize the same attempt at meticulous organization in Andreasen’s panels. They seem to be snapshots of his physical movements through urban and natural landscapes, instantly cut out of reality during a train ride. They might be an attempt to capture the ever-fluctuating and fleeting dimensions of time and space. How does one know for sure whether it is the train that is moving or rather the landscape that is passing us by?
Lucius Burckhardt describes the landscape as a construction that arises in the mind of the viewer. Seeing is a creative act. What we see in the distance is what we call a landscape.3 Yet nowhere during our walk were things exactly as we might later describe them.4 Raoul De Keyser painted canvases full of contours, fields and colours in his studio with a view of the back garden and nearby football field. They are echoes of his intimate, low-moving environment. He crawled into the moment and captured it fragmentarily on the canvas. His images were distinctly two-dimensional, but his canvases were not: bulky, self-assembled, sometimes a bit crude frames hung on or leaned against the wall. At a certain point, he even transformed them into a sculptural object, casually positioned on the lawn.
That was painting for the sake of the experiment, much in the way Andreasen’s cardboard panels did not necessarily evolve as a deliberate choice to paint a well-defined series. On the contrary, he was using paint without a clear goal in mind and recycled a piece of cardboard into a painter’s palette. The surfaces, stripes and motifs came together in an involuntary choreography that over time began to show regenerating patterns.
According to Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Paul Cézanne tried to completely absorb his surroundings by spending hours reflecting on the shapes, colours and motifs he observed. “The meaning of the gaze is not behind the eyes, but in them,” said the painter, who subsequently created the shapes from the colours and not vice versa. Although in the best case, a painting presents itself as a synesthetic object – with the viewer even conjuring the smell of the painted landscape – it is impossible to know whether the viewer is having exactly the same experience as the artist.5 Is Andreasen attempting to communicate and share his observations with us? Or is our viewing experience a mere projection of highly personal associations? Still, I catch myself connecting and counting the patterns, and I recognize the cautious, pseudo-invisible order of the artist, giving me directions.
A taxonomy can be derived that seems to relate to the creative act itself, whereby Andreasen works on several pieces at the same time. I recognize suggestions of architectural elements, fragments of the natural landscape, but also handwritten letters, frames and grids. What has become clear to me is that the visual representations are subordinate to painting itself. Above all, what these panels convey are the contrasts between the expressive use of the paint in thick layers and restless brush strokes, on the one hand, and the minimalist stains and traces of paint on the raw, bare substratum, on the other.
The panels – once finished – were each given a number according to the chronology of their creation. They now exist in a fixed place within the physical, as well as mental and even digitized, archive. Each panel was provided with a detailed technical description and the dates of manufacture and modification. It is an unfolding system, just as Niele Toroni has built an entire oeuvre over five decades using only his no. 50  brush. Those imprints, the very backbone of Toroni’s artistic universe, seem to structure all of reality in their simplicity, like a web that spreads over the urban landscape. Stanley Brouwn also developed his own methodological strategy to comprise time and space. Every day, he counted the steps that took him from point A to point B, then ticked them out on an index card and classified them in a file cabinet. Brouwn never signed – he stamped.
Can one recognize the painter’s handwriting in his brushstroke? The commas, capital letters, vowels and hyphens: can we detect them in the clouds, the black spheres or the abstract green fields? I imagine the wrist of the artist dancing on the blank sheet or panel. The hand that searches, moves back and forth, stops and starts again. “Drawing is discovery,” writes John Berger. “If one forgets circumstantial details, technical means, kinds of paper, and so on, such drawings do not date.”6 Filling an empty sheet requires mental freedom. Andreasen’s entire artistic practice fluctuates between a rational pattern based on a self-imposed method and unlimited experimentation with and free use of media. The end point for the series of panels is just as much in question as their original inception. When and why will he stop – when reason catches up to the experiment? Or does that just mean starting over?
Melanie Deboutte, Summer 2019
1 James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, Flamingo Modern Classics, London, 1994, p 628, p 3.
2 John Berger & Mike Dibb, “Episode 1,” in: Ways of Seeing, BBC Two, 1972, 1:37 – 1:48.
3 Lucius Burckhardt, “Why is Landscape Beautiful? (1979),” in: Markus Ritter & Martin Schmitz (eds.), Why Is Landscape Beautiful? The Science of Strollology, Birkhaüser, Basel, 2015, p 31.
4 Lucius Burckhardt, “Aesthetics of the Landscape (1991),” in: Markus Ritter & Martin Schmitz (eds.), Why Is Landscape Beautiful? The Science of Strollology, Birkhaüser, Basel, 2015, p 74.
5 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, translated by Colin Smith, Routledge and Kegan Paul, Abingdon-on-Thames, 1962, p 322.
6 John Berger, “To Take Paper, to Draw,” in: Tom Overton (ed.), LANDSCAPES: John Berger on Art, Verso, London / New York, 2016, p 23.