Björn Olsén

Red Beige Cat, oil on mdf, 56 x 56 cm

Björn Olsén - A Stubborn Painter

The status of painting has varied during the era of modernism. This art form has heroiserats more than any other medium but also questioned in our contemporaries. The debate on the death of painting took off at the end of the 60 and early 70, when more and more of the reductive tendencies of painting seemed to see the last phase of the development history of painting. In the United States where the movement was most widespread, this was called fundamental painting, Robert Rymans appeared as the main proponent of the movement with his white monochrome, where all the small details, from the size of the canvas to its texture, the thickness of the frame, and Suspension devices were a natural part of the inherent rule system of painting. All that was perceived as metaphysical was a mortal sin according to the modernist doctrine that advocated painting for the sake of painting.

During the end of the 70 century and the beginning of the 80 century came the reaction. Painting began to incorporate non-painterly phenomena within its framework, a complex iconography often with historical role models anchored in regional cultural history and with a symbolic content. Many artists in the 80 century applied to the roots of the Nordic tradition, but in contrast to many of the 80-century painters, it is not the landscape that is Björn Olséns painterly starting point.

Björn Olséns paintings appear to be brimming with organic formations like a tree crown, a snow crystal, a spider web, a piece of nature that is not so clearly definable. The complexity of the paintings also increases because they are often seen from an odd perspective oscillating between the very close and breathtaking spatial excursions as a nebula or dramatic prominences in the enlarged field.

The paintings are also not characterized by nature's colour scale. Nature is there like a keynote or a soundboard, but it is rather the afterimage that arises when you get dazzled by the sunlight or the snow crystals that give the colour scheme of the paintings and perhaps could be described as psychedelic or Sinnesutvidgande. In other words, a painting filled with tranquillity and contemplation.

Despite the organic complexity and the elaborerade colour scheme, Björn Olséns paintings are merged by his choice of a square format that is a värdeneutralt stance. With its formal rigour, spatiality is reduced to a matter of figure and background, which is the concrete starting point of all of modernism. The painting does not abandon the aesthetic field in favor of the surrounding reality. The square contrasts with the landscape format associated with the landscape, but also with the portrait style associated with the portrait.

Or perhaps you could say that the square is not neither, but both. In that case, the square is a portrait of the landscape, an inner nature. In Björn Olséns examination of the deep dimensions of painting it is clear that there is nothing called a pure concrete art. In his paintings, nature is the metaphysical dimension, although the artist keeps it within the framework of the modernist framework. Björn Olsen is not only a stubborn painter, but also a wise painter.

Bo Nilsson


Born 1951.
Lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden.

Selected Solo Exhibitions

  1. 2007
    1. Konstruktiv tendens, Stockholm
  2. 2005
    1. Galleri Konstepidemin, Göteborg
  3. 2004
    1. Galleri Paul Kleefeld, Köpenhamn
  4. 2003
    1. Studio 44, Stockholm
  5. 2002
    1. Konstnärshuset, Stockholm
  6. 2001
    1. G.A.D. Gallery, Stockholm
  7. 1998
    1. Galleri Konstepidemin, Göteborg
    2. Konstcentrum, Gävle
    3. Konstnärshuset, Stockholm
  8. 1997
    1. Konsthallen i Hishult
    2. Galerie Du Nord, Borås
  9. 1995
    1. Boibrino Gallery, Stockholm
  10. 1992
    1. Boibrino Gallery, Stockholm
  11. 1991
    1. Galleri Rostrum, Malmö
  12. 1988
    1. Galleri Argo, Stockholm

Public Works

  1. 2003
    1. Stadsarkivet, Stockholm
  2. 2000
    1. Huddinge Sjukhus
  3. 1998
    1. Akademiska Sjukhuset, Uppsala
  4. 1994
    1. Kärrtorps T-banestation