The Venice Biennial 2007
15 March – 12 May 2008
How does a painting work?
The Danish, internationally acclaimed artist Troels Wörsel (b 1950) is one of those who has left a striking mark on recent Danish painting. Wörsel’s works look closely at the artistic devices of the painting. He is particularly interested in the process of creating a painting, just as he is extremely conscious of the tradition inherent in paintings. His large wonderful paintings constitute a constant investigation of the limits of painting.
Portraits of brush-strokes
Wörsel likes to employ a broad brush and leaves clear traces of his brushwork. The brush-stroke is not meant as a personal expression, but as - a brush-stroke! The painting shows what we see. Nothing else. The same is true of the letters and whole words which often sneak into his pictures. They have no meaning, no symbolic significance. They are just painted letters. The painting is a painting.
The abstract painting
Wörsel touches an important trend in 20th century abstract painting, first and foremost Abstract Expressionism, where the painterly gesture underpins the artistic expression. However, he quite consciously abstains from the strong expression of emotions cultivated by the Expressionists.
Illusions turn up
At the same time, Wörsel likes to play with the ability of the picture to generate illusions. Right in the middle of the completely flat picture we suddenly see a realistically painted detail, e.g. rope with pulleys, creating the impression of spatial depth.
Wörsel’s efforts can be summarised to a high degree in this large painting of a race-horse. This is a traditional motif in art history, but here the horse is detached from its normal context and original function. The horse is set against a background sharply divided into two separate picture fields.
The right half is painted a quite neutral grey in minimalistic fashion, and the horse is seen here in black and white, as in an old photograph. The left half is painterly executed as an abstract painting, and the horse and its horse-cloth are in clear colours. Wörsel is playing with the concepts of modern art and expression here.