1940-1946: Scandinavian roots
The German Occupation years became a time of fertile growth for Jorn. Forced to remain in Denmark, he immersed himself in Scandinavian visual traditions, explored the significance of images, and cultivated collaboration with other Danish artists.
The advent of World War II and Germany’s occupation of Denmark in the years 1940 to 1945 meant that Jorn had to stay in Denmark for a prolonged period of time. Nevertheless the German Occupation years became a fruitful period for Jorn’s art and saw him immerse himself in Scandinavian art and visual traditions.
Collaborating with Danish artists
Asger Jorn’s interaction and collaboration with Danish artists such as Carl-Henning Pedersen, Else Alfelt, and Ejler Bille came to be of great importance to him during the German Occupation years. For example, the artists collaborated on decorating and creating art for a kindergarten in Hjortøgade in Copenhagen. The artists also jointly founded the journal Helhesten (a creature from Nordic myth, a "horse of hell"). The new journal conveyed their ideas about art and culture.
The hunt for greater spontaneity
One of Jorn’s main endeavours during the Occupation was to cultivate a greater sense of spontaneity in his manner of painting. He began to work with ways to compose his motive.
One work of art – many meanings
One of Jorn’s fundamental beliefs was that every picture, every image, contains many potential meanings, and that each spectator will find their own meaning.
In order to prove his thesis Jorn conducted an experiment in 1946: he gave numerous of his fellow artists in Denmark and France the same drawing and asked them to accentuate the parts that they felt were most significant by copying them.
To the right is one of Asger Jorn’s drawings – and below you can see what Ejler Bille, Richard Mortensen, and Carl-Henning Pedersen saw in the drawing.
Take part in re-enacting Jorn’s experiment. Draw what you see in the image.