Book: A Journey towards Art - Reidun Aafløy Hansen - Kom Forlag, 160 pages
Reviewed by Tor Cederkvist
It may seem daring to call a book about an 80-year-old artist A Journey towards Art – most octogenarians have already passed the apex of their careers. Yet after studying this book, one must admit that the title is justified; Reidun Aafløy Hansen seems still to be in the midst of life's fray and with all her creative energies intact.
My first (and thus far only) direct encounter with RAH's pictures was in 1996, at Gallery 1814 Unique in Eidsvoll. Reviewing that exhibition, I wrote the following: "One precondition for joining Randi Aafløy Hansen on a journey into her pictorial world is that one must share in her interest and joy of colour. Colour as such. In her pictures colour is the primary and constructive element."
"In Reidun Aafløy Hansen's pictures, the surfaces, as far as I can understand, are not primarily forms or outlines, but carriers of colour. Colour must harmonize and engender feelings in us."
The book has many pictures, mostly chronologically ordered. RAAH's paintings from the 1980s can be characterized by rough brush strokes. These "hefty" expressionistic works reveal her alignment with Junge Wilde ("The Wild Youth") whose spiritual home in the '80s was Berlin. The pictorial conception of the CoBrA Group also undergirds these works and provides a sounding board against which they resonate. During the 1990s, however, her expression seems more to coincide with École de Paris traditions. Such is also the case for her most recent works for they are intensely coloured and, in my opinion, also the most clarified.
RAAH's oil paintings, watercolours and gouaches usually unfold on a flat pictorial plane, as Modernism dictates. She satisfies her well-developed penchant for three-dimensionality through sculptures in clay, bronze and plaster. In the same way as the expressiveness in her paintings appeals to me, so also the roughness of her fired clay sculptures, more than the relatively refined bronze works. Although skilfully executed, the latter do not incite empathy to the same extent as, for example, Face in Clay – this is far from being classically beautiful, yet it is intensely expressive in its primitive beauty.
More than 50 of RAAH's paintings and a large number of drawings and sculptures are pictured in the book. Art historian Leena Mannila, who has written the text, emphasizes RAAH's all-round mastery as an artist, both with respect to technique and form of expression:
"RAH's thirty years as an artist is a rare and lucid example of a well-accomplished project of self-realization, through extensive processes of learning and production". Furthermore, "the scope of this learning process can be said to have been impressive".
Through the book's biographical information we learn not only that RAH is still, despite her age, very active and productive, but also that her formal art education started unusually late. Half her life was spent as a Radio - officer on Norwegian tankers and cargo ships. When in port she would visit important museums and exhibitions. Not until 50 did she enter art academy where she studied both painting and sculpting. As a "late bloomer" she is well aware that time is running out, yet still she has a captious appetite for creative activity. Succour she finds in the words of American professor of psychology Keith Simonton: "As long as the individual continues to produce, the odds of getting a hit remain unchanged, on an averageit may not even be meaningful to speak of an age decrement."
In general I do not share Simonton's view, because there are far too many examples of painters who should have laid down the paintbrush before their results began going downhill. Nevertheless, for RAAH the claim undoubtedly holds. She is still bubbling with creative energy. To my mind, the most recent pictures (Ultramarine, Red Violet and Deep Rose) are the most beautiful she has produced. Thus far.
"A wide scope: RAH's paintings range from expressionistic-figurative works to purely abstract constructions."