Catalogue entry

Olle Baertling born 1911 [- 1981]

T00747 Ardek 1963

Inscribed 'Bærtling | 1963 | 195 x 97' on back of canvas, 'Hauv' on turnover of canvas and 'Ardek 1963. 195 x 97' on stretcher
Oil on canvas, 76 3/4 x 38 1/8 (195 x 97)
Presented by Dr Teddy Brunius 1965
Prov: Dr Teddy Brunius, Uppsala (purchased from the artist 1964)
Repr: exh. catalogue Hard-Edge, Galerie Denise René, Paris, June-October 1964, n.p. (but not exhibited); Teddy Brunius, Bærtling: Discoverer of Open Form (Stockholm-New York 1965), p.32 in colour

Baertling has written as follows about this work and his procedure in general (letter of 21 December 1965):

'I work at about 10 to 15 paintings and a sculpture simultaneously. Each day I work at one unfinished painting. I devote one day's work to each painting, continuing with the next painting at work the following day and so forth until the stage is reached when I am ready to hang up one of them on the wall in my studio for further control. There it will hang while I study it every day in order to perfect it further and further. Mostly when the painting has come as far as to hang on the wall the colour is perfect, but it happens that I find that the colour temperature is not exact and I have to give some of the field a new layer of colour. The lines I usually find need millimetres in several places to bring out the maximum of dynamics. You may understand that my art is that of immaterial spaces in strong dynamics. To achieve this phenomenon, that the surface stops being a surface but works with the effect of immaterial spaces with high velocities the composition must be distinct, the colour temperature exact and the lines must have these small oscillations at all the right places. So one day the painting begins to live, to become spaces and dynamics in high velocity.The function of the lines is that of dirigating the movement but they also have a value in themselves as a part of the expression. Josef Albers, for instance, uses an imaginary line permitting the colour to transcend the borders creating a new colour in the border areas that does not exist but in the viewer's eye. In my paintings the colour never transcends the black line but is thrown back and thus adds to the power potentiation in the field. The after-image effects at the border lines help to activate the surfaces - Teddy Brunius has written in detail about this phenomenon.

'So, when the painting has been on the wall for a month or two - sometimes for a year - it is put in a special part of my studio where the paintings are being stored.

'About 10 paintings at a time are constantly hanging in my studio for after control, removed one by one as I consider them perfect and replaced by new works that have reached the wanted stage of development. So my work goes on consistently.

'The creation of every new work is born out of compelling inner necessity. When creating a new composition I have a clear conception of the composition in my mind before getting to work. I draw out the lines directly on the canvas and give the surfaces the first layer of colour. At this stage the lines are only marked with lead-pencil and are absolutely straight, which is not the case in the finished paintings. And so the picture takes its place in the row of paintings at work. The colours are applied layer by layer 2 to 7 and more layers on the different fields. Nowadays it takes about one year before I consider a painting to have attained the maximum expression. My friends like to say that I am possessed with a devilry of perfection but I have found that the spiritual content and message in my work is brought to a better expression when the materia is perfect.

'As I am working at 10 to 15 paintings at the same time as well as controlling the works on the walls in my studio it is obvious that the paintings belonging to the same period are closely related. Mostly I am working upon 2 to 4 new different problems put forth in different sizes and in verticals and horizontals. The painting you have now in the Tate Gallery, ARDEK 1963, 195 x 97 centimetres, is related to ARDIK and ARDAK represented in the essay by Teddy Brunius, as well as to some other paintings. But I would not say that ARDEK can be regarded as part of a series. Every painting is to be regarded a fully independent poetic work and has been created by inner necessity. Obviously certain paintings represent certain similar contents. To accentuate the similarity in expression in the different researches I give the works with similar content similar names. These are pure constructions and have nothing to do with anything from the exterior. A painting with a certain name I can thus identify as belonging to such and such research work executed during a certain period. This system is applied for the last ten years, before that the systematizing was not fully carried out. As can be seen from the catalogue Konkret Realism there was a time when I used names of Egyptian and Indian gods, affluents to the Nile, etc.

'The imagery language in ARDEK and thereto related paintings is vertical with dominance of violet, black - in one of them also green - and the so called Baertling-white that has a hard, cold blue-green tone. There are no diagonals in these paintings, only obliques. Mainly open angles with the apexes downward dominate the composition, the apexes beyond the edge of the canvas - works with a profound monumental rising, the dynamics is not openly exposed, the imagery magic emanating from besides the compositional construction mainly from the power of the violet colour. There is a parallel research to be found in some horizontal paintings of the same size - ARDALK ARDELK ARDILK - all from 1963, but the spiritual content is here quite otherwise.'

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.27-8, reproduced p.27