Håkan Rehnberg

With his new paintings, Håkan Rehnberg continues along the narrow path he embarked on three years ago. But instead of plates of lead or steel, he now uses acrylic sheets as support—a rather “dead” or banal material that has the advantage of being relatively unencumbered, art-historically speaking. The character diptych, which during the ’80s was to some extent Rehnberg’s trademark, is replaced by an “abstraction” rich in color and texture. Yet one can still sense the form of the diptych by a middle axis sometimes faintly outlined.

For Rehnberg, who has never been particularly interested in either purity or essence, “abstraction” and “craft” mean something quite specific. Abstraction is not part of a process of purifying painting of its representational elements, but a kind of no-man’s-land between representation and nonrepresentation. For Rehnberg, abstraction is no more and no less than the narrow zone (or unstable border) between the appearance and disappearance of painting.

These new paintings are, furthermore, quite gestural. The “irrationally” applied paint displays traces of the work of the hand. Yet I think that Rehnberg’s art, now as before, has nothing whatsoever to do with Expressionism. For he is no more concerned than Robert Ryman, for instance, with giving the “inner life” an external, visual form. In spite of their “gesturality,” Rehnberg’s paintings remain a rather sober examination of the fundamental oppositions and differences that make something appear or disappear. If Rehnberg’s paintings can be said to be “about” anything at all, they seem to be about the uncontrollable, Orphic desire to see, which eventually destroys the coveted object.

How formless can a form become? Rehnberg’s colors—sometimes straggling and thin, sometimes massive and thick—both conceal and uncover an abyss. Or, to put it more exactly, the “braided” multi-layered paint strives toward a point where emergence turns into extinction, experience into nonexperience, muteness into voice.

In order to dedicate oneself to this kind of painterly project, I assume, one has to be attracted to the idea of falling, of precipitating into a void. Rehnberg is attracted to this idea, but he doesn’t fall. Somehow, he is able to keep his balance.

Lars O. Ericsson