Olafur Eliasson: An Early Painting

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Untitled, 1993, 70 x 190 cm, image: bruun-rasmussen.dk

Olafur Eliasson painted this in 1993. It's apparently one of six roughly door-sized paintings in a series or group. I've seen a couple of early Olafur paintings, and I am puzzled by them.

olafur_comp_painting_1993_bruun-rasmussen.jpg

This is another painting from 1993, which apparently did not sell at B-R in 2011. It also has atmospheric and landscape-ish fields of color behind traced elements of domestic architecture.

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Beauty, 1993, installed at the Long Museum Shanghai in 2016, image: olafureliasson.net

1993 was also the year he made Beauty, which he first showed in a garage, I believe. I'd say he was exploring a lot of different directions in 1993 and chose one.

olafur_frakkastigur_nielsborchjensen.jpg
Frakkastigur, 1996, from a suite of five photogravures produced by Niels Borch Jensen

But then, that painting also reminds me of a couple of collaged image photogravures Olafur made with Niels Borch Jensen, which have always puzzled me, too, and those are from 1996.

olafur_1996_photogravures_nbj.jpg
the rest, image via nbj

Other prints from the suite have probably gotten more attention for how they seem to map out Eliasson's project going forward, but I keep wondering about the collagey ones.

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Vestmannaeyjer street covered with ash with lava fountains behind, 1973, image: usgs

A few years ago I found some stunning and very similar-looking photos of a January 1973 volcanic eruption on Heimaey, an Icelandic island where a third of the fishing village Vestmannaeyjer was buried in lava and ash.

heimaey_hoses_1973.jpg
image via heybehappy

The USGS published a booklet about how the destruction was minimized by fire fighters hosing down the face of the wall of lava with seawater as it advanced through the town, slowing it down. Olafur would have been 6, and I imagined the incident would have been formative. And I started re-considering his work through an unexpectedly autobiographical lens. When I proposed this to him, though, he didn't buy it.

olafur_riverbed_louisiana_berg.jpg
completely unrelated: Riverbed, 2014-15, installed at Louisiana Museum, DK, image: Anders Sune Berg via olafureliasson.net

I still wonder, though. And I do wonder about Olafur's early work, including those paintings. If no one's gonna look into it, maybe I will.

Mar 7, 2017, 870/​752
Olafur Eliasson: Untitled, 1993, est. 200-300,000 kr
[bruun-rasmussen.dk]

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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