Installation view, Konstruktiv Tendens 1997
No Reply, 2001, oil on plexiglass, 160 x 100 cm
Come Together, 2001, oil on plexiglass, 140 x 70 cm
Hans Gothlin is a painter whom has always relied on the past to be his trusted guide to future ventures, a cultured and brooding loner who invariably has gone his own way. He grew up in Borås a town that although dominated by the textile industry, is surrounded by the forests and gentle countryside of southern Sweden. After having completed his professional training in Gothenburg during the 1980's, he chose to return to his home town to foster and refine his artistic ambitions.
It was thus in a somewhat geographically peripheral environment that he threw himself into the creation of rich edifices of colour that were in stark contrast to both the traditions of the Swedish West Coast school and the exhortations of contemporary conceptual artistic thought. For his part, Gothlin generated a rigorous international dialogue that was elegantly expressed in elegant and monumental swells of blue, red and black hues. Almost from the very beginning his painting evinced a strikingly poetic vein and increasingly his individualistic harmonies of colour added valuable building blocks to the modernist movement.
Gothlin might have remained within his beautifully crafted world of colour and thereafter pursued a successful international career. However, he who creates art that captivates knows when all is not well. This artist had the courage to realise when work becomes disquietingly mundane and pigments no longer respond to his inner demands that he has reached the inevitable point where his painting finally tells him enough is enough.
Gothlin possessed this singular quality and during the 1990's it was in contraction, in almost colourless experiments on Plexiglas and iron, that he found an escape from this superficially pleasant existence. This was painting that abandoned the seduction of a sumptuous palette for groups of black and white surfaces that had been meticulously polished and burnished. These opposing pairs of defiant squares offered the onlooker visual breathing-space. They provided fixed resting points but equally were challenging, albeit pleasurable, implanted comments that questioned perceptions of time and spatiality.
So it was that Gothlin successfully promoted a type of stable expansion vessel that in the most delicate manner allowed the eye time to slowly peel the outer message from the main body. It is hardly surprising that when working on these visually demanding black and white monochromes that Gothin unearthed his own particular form of light. This was painting reduced to a level in which it was not possible to hide. It was the ultimate artistic confrontation, with the artist harnessing nothing less than anti-colour, an endless all-absorbing darkness, to allow him to embark on an inner voyage of discovery. At the end of the 1990's Gothlin's references in his work to the heroes of modernism became increasingly pointed and one senses both the artist's contrary respect for Robert Ryman's work in white and his spiritual kinship with the geometric forms of early Russian Supremacists such as Kazimir Malevich.
During this period his black surfaces conveyed a wry greeting to Ad Reinhardt whilst his painting uncovered an unexpected pathway back to Borås and the painter and graphic artist Roland Kempe (1907-1991). Like Gothlin, Kempe had exploited stern, stringent forms in an artistic metaphor heavy with symbolic undertones to break away from the prevalent conventions of lyrical colour and expressionism.
For some years in the 1990's Gothlin worked in Kempe's studio where in spite of his apparent asceticism, his work was not so severe as might have been expected. Nonetheless, this was painting that called for the deftest touch and an extraordinarily sensitive use of colour. Layer was applied to layer, layers now acting with, now being in opposition to each other, and this was in truth Gothlin the austere and disciplined poet.
It is with his careful wanderings through these fields of colour, his heralds, that by 2001 Gothlin had demarcated his own fertile territory. It is here that his perceptive postmodernist awareness led him to the understanding that belonging to a tradition is inevitably both an encumbrance and a source of knowledge and enlightenment.
Born 1949 in Borås, Sweden.
Lives and works in Gothenburg, Sweden.