Truls Melin

Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art

Truls Melin’s painted, glossy sculptures have been “fertilized” by American Minimalism, Continental theory, and Danish classicism. But Melin’s relation to his sources is definitely impure. The elements he uses seem terribly familiar: a table, a fence, an airplane, a dog, a teapot, an engine, a submarine. They are, however, combined with abstract, geometric forms into fragmented wholes that defy every attempt at categorization. At once conceptually elusive and spatially assertive, Melin’s works create a paradoxical, slightly absurd impression.

Batyskaf (Bathyscaphe, 1992) is a submarine placed on top of a pedestal. Painted by hand, the submarine is equipped with two observation capsules, amateurishly attached to the hull by means of ankle irons. The color (identical in all sculptures) is a shiny, rather unpleasant bluish green; this hue functions as a connecting link between the disparate parts of the work. This remarkable vessel, which looks like something between a bathyscaphe à la Cousteau and a homemade submarine, negotiates “the reefs” of our conceptual system.

Melin’s sculptures are impossible to categorize. They are baffling and equivocal. Yet they are both visually distinct and physically tangible, all of which gives them an oxymoronic character. Their attraction to “in betweenness” appears on a number of levels. The commercially ready-made color is neither blue nor green, neither warm nor cold, neither subjective nor objective. A huge box looks like a bizarre cross between a minimalist sculpture and a fragment from a ventilation system—neither seductive nor repulsive. Melin’s works display (possibly as a “remnant sign” from Pop) a kind of deadpan attitude. They have “visual punch,” yet they waive any message or personal address. A further mark of “in betweenness” is the fact that two of the sculptures are placed on pedestals made of unpainted wood lathe. The result is neither the site-specificity of the monument nor the “homelessness” of the Modernist sculpture with its absorption of the pedestal into itself. Instead Melin’s works convey a provisional, nomadic impression. With a mischievous unexpressiveness—another oxymoronic feature—they occupy the space between the monument and the antimonument. Melin’s art is utterly unpredictable. Neither soothing nor comfortable it always “goes against the grain.”

Lars O. Ericsson