My gaze stops at a painting on the wall. It’s a collage. A self-portrait by Edward Munch is one of the parts. A relatively peripheral bedspread with somewhat chaotic patterns is eye-catching. Cross-hatching pattern is what it’s called, or korshårsmålning in Swedish, says Jan Öberg who made the collage. Cross-hatching is a technique you can use to create the illusion of shading or nuances of color when you draw or paint. What has attracted Öberg here is that Munch has chosen somehow to place focus on the technique. And to place the subject and himself in the background.
Why do you do things like this?
Well, I associated to later artists’ interest in the technology of illusion in art, says Öberg. In the year 2011 this association took Öberg’s thought to Jasper Johns – one of the foremost in abstract expressionism and pop art.
And there it is clear. Jasper Johns devotes his artistic life to experimenting with and to examination of the relationships between technique and illusion. It is unclear whether he was trying to see through the creative illusion with which we form what we call reality. Personally, I regard it that way. Öberg hints that he would like to see these works as a basis for more open meditation.
Here you can see where I found the link between Edward Munch and Jasper Johns, says Öberg about his collage. I printed it on a steel sheet that was first grounded with oil paint. The left part is an enlargement of a minimum pixel pattern from a newspaper photo. A cross-hatch filter has been used. Then there’s a photo of a toy skeleton with cross-hatch features. And a can of Guiness beer, where a cross-hatch pattern is included in the design. Munch’s association with cross-hatching is stressed by the inserted drawing of a Swedish wall clock that refers to the clock that is seen in the self-portrait.
Öbergs play with Munch, Johns and their exploration of techniques and illusion in art also includes another picture – a direct comment to Johns’ Savarin from 1977.
It was funny, he says, when we return to the collage, and he points to the year 2011 when the picture was signed. Last year (2016) a book was published that analyzes exactly this link between Munch and Jasper Johns and their mutual interest in cross-hatching. Öberg expresses his delight that he and the book’s author were able to find this same connection, without knowing about one another.
Finally, I get Öberg’s answer to my unspoken question of why they do this. Why he himself is experimenting with image, technique and illusion. We see a picture that he calls Prince Charles’s hair. Here he has played boundlessly with technology.
I found a press photo of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, which showed his hair and hers that coincided in one part of the picture.
Right there I took out a minimal piece of the picture, says Öberg with an expression of relish on his lips. I enlarged this small part, took out a minimal part of it and enlarged it. Did so several times until I got this pixel pattern.
It makes me think of the universe and the Milky Way, I say a little surprised.
It gives me peace for meditation, says Öberg.
Footnote: The book Öberg mentions is John B Ravenal: Jesper Johns and Edward Munch – Inspiration and Transformation