I don’t want pictures. I just want to find things out, Piet Hein once said. Tumi Magnússon´s project seems to have the same goal. Magnússon does not wish to freeze a given moment in time or elevate a moment, a being or a figuration, but rather to initiate a discussion about formations of reality between himself, the space and the audience. How does one represent a reality in a constant state of flux? His paintings are a part of a world whose point of departure is the clashing of universe, body and consciousness. This clash is processive by its nature, with no fixed measures or categories. Magnússon prefers it that way.
Magnússon´s method is broad in scope and, in many ways, paradoxical. He perches on the shoulders of European painters such as Piet Mondrian and Yves Klein, and Americans such as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Frank Stella and Barnett Newman. References to abstract expressionism and Colour Field may occur, yet Magnússon does not use momentaneous inspiration as his starting point. Despite a powerful sense of aesthetics and eroticism, the foundation of his art is the idea. The idea of representation. Through his continuous research and debate on the painting as a medium, he builds on both the analytical conceptual art of the 1960s, and the Fluxus movement with its yen for dialogue. The painting is not a fixed object which can be referred to in visual terms only. On the contrary, it is present in our world and its unmistakeble physique has to be experienced and accepted with all our physical capabilities.
From the figurative painting of the 80´s and early 90´s, Magnússon moves on towards a series of surfaces of clear colour, with no trace of brush nor hand. This is where his experiments with the double status of colour and form, as being concrete/physical/literal as well as abstract/matterless/unstructured, begin. Often they have an installatorial aspect, whereby Magnusson attacks The White Cube and the idea of the artwork as a distinct unit, fixed and ennobled in the spotless, white exhibition space.
The work blends into the surroundings. This becomes particularly evident in the airbrushed murals from the past few years and the paste-on photostats, where the colour is transferred directly to the wall surface. This way, colour and motif become as one with the space and contribute to its physical features and its natural characteristics. Sometimes the effect is quite the reverse, as the motifs are often picked out and fitted with regard to the specific place. The work becomes a happening – an exchange inside a given space. Right now, right here.
As previously noted, Magnússon has long since departed from the “traditional” painting process, wherein colour is transferred from tube to canvas. His current medium could be defined – if such a definition is called for – as a digital photographic painting. Photographs, processed in a computer And then we have the video installations. The installation in Gallery i8 is one recent example, a work called Boogie (a thinly veiled reference to Broadway Boogie Woogie – Mondrian´s intellectual tour de force of colour combination). This is an audiovisual work in which the composition of the colours is controlled by a principle of coincidence: multicoloured spring rubber balls that – if the soundtrack is anything to go by – perform a virtual dance across the viewing space, only to finally settle in the projected picture area on one of the end walls.
Magnusson´s purpose is light-hearted and humoristic. Focusing on everyday, banal phenomena, he dethrones the art and pulls it into the sphere of the audiences´ immediate experience. Whether it be red wine, soft drinks, urine, flowers, pencils, family portraits or the family cat – or, as in the series Box, also on display at Gallery i8, various boxes and square forms, found on a shelf in an office, in a window sill or in a desk drawer. These things represent fixed categories in our everyday lives, or landmarks in our lifetime, but have been processed in a way which blurs the reference. There is, however, always some familiar trait to be glimpsed – a path which anchors the motif in something recognizable.
In this, the title often has an important role. Cool, categorising utterings such as Communion Wine & Blood or Coffee & Urine serve to explain the link between the subject and the concrete reality. What may at first glance seem ethereal landscapes of colour eventually turn out to be firmly grounded in something as banal as the fluids of everyday existence.
In the Box-series, Magnússon zooms in on the visible reality, only to immediately transform it. He uses the computer to drag the boxes in the photographic original out of the restraints of the central perspective space. The restricted, geometrical image space which results from this is actually a perspective pole. Simultaneously, a sharp contrast arises between the almost hyperreal materiality surrounding the camera´s focal point and the spherical patches of colour the subject bleeds into. The box becomes an undefined object, which before your very eyes can yet again be transformed into an introverted empty space – an abstract interior of an almost Hammershöian nature.
The original subject – the box – is by definition a clearly defined area. It is a phenomenon we use to organise our world.
A tool of defining systems which lets us control our surroundings.
By transforming this object into something undefinable, Magnússon causes chaos in our understanding of the world. In this Box summarises a basic element in Magnússon´s work: The clash of intellectual logic and emotional turbulence. A clash of opposite elements, which in a physical as well as an intellectual way makes the work and the world twist and wrench itself free of its everyday restraints. Cracks form in our world view and the horizon of our experience starts to sway.
Presumably, the code is cracked. The viewer regains his balance and can sigh with relief, and at the same time smile to himself. But this is the true moment of non-control – there, in this open, unstable space, where our world has moved beyond categories – that the art works to its full advantage and effect. For Magnússon, this is just one more experiment, aimed at bringing him further along the path of investigating the formations of reality.
-Trine Møller Madsen