Alvar Gullichsen (b. 1961, Helsinki) is an established artist, musician and producer. For the past ten years, he has focused on painting geometric spatial paintings. Gullichsen’s art gradually started becoming abstract from 2002 onwards, when he was artist-in-residence at Villa Karo in Benin, West Africa.
Gullichsen traces transcultural, universal forms. He sees many similarities between different cultures and eras. His take on modernism is visionary, with an open-minded interest in esotericism, transcendental-philosophy, mysticism and spiritual traditions.
Gullichsen’s works are a continuation of modernist abstract art, where ideal forms are the standard. He is interested in patterns repeating in the world. Such images have been approached from many directions in the visual arts: for example, Jungian archetypes have referred to images with a shared unconscious meaning. In abstract art, basic forms and composition often form a kind of symbolic language.
Both pop art and abstract art strongly challenge the concept of artists’ individualism. Gullichsen’s approach to art is ecstatic: he channels or mixes various forms while filtering his own and the collective cultural background. “The starting point for a painting is a vision of some archetypal visual language that seems to carry with it a message or a teaching, a type of aesthetic ideal,” Gullichsen says. These visions, implemented with hyperprecision, are also challenging for the viewer. They force the viewer to surrender as if in the presence of some inevitable truth.
Cosmos aims to depict the simultaneity, the unity, of both the common and the individual. The relationship between the universal and the particular is problematic in many ways if one thinks that patterns and forms can be owned. In Gullichsen’s paintings, perhaps, the patterns rather wander in and through the images.
Spanning two floors of the Aboa Vetus Ars Nova museum, the exhibition provides an exceptionally extensive overview of Gullichsen’s artistic production and contains more than 70 works. The exhibition includes early cartoon-like paintings and fibreglass sculptures, as well as sketch-like gouache paintings from his time as artist-in residence at Villa Karo in the early 2000s. The large-scale geometric paintings from the 2010s and GNARS sculptures* form an extensive ensemble. In the exhibition, humorous and more serious works are juxtaposed in an eclectic fashion. At the heart of his latest Dissolving Patterns series is the necessity for change. In these paintings, the artist dismantles his previous style and allows hard-edged geometric forms to dissolve into the landscape.
Gullichsen made his artistic breakthrough with his first exhibition Raba Hiff Show 89, which featured the machines of the fictitious Bonk Business Inc. In the ten years that followed, he continued to work on Bonk with his team** and created humorous cartoon-like paintings. Posankka (1999)***, a monumental sculpture created towards the end of the Bonk period, is by far his best-known and most beloved work. At the turn of the millennium, Gullichsen joined the artist collective ROR (Revolutions on Request), through which he participated in creating the 2001 Utopia exhibition at Kiasma. ROR was rock and pop culture, crafts and psychedelia, and strongly opposed to the prevailing belief in technology and economics.
*GNARS (Gullichsen-Nyqvist Art Systems) is a joint project between Gullichsen and Klaus Nyqvist to create geometric sculptures and public works.
**The Bonk project involved Richard Stanley, Henrik Helpiö, Magnus Weckström, Magnus Scharmanoff and Olli Lehtinen.
***Posankka and other fibreglass sculptures were created by Bjarne Ölander (Fibresin). Estonian sculptor Matti Varik sculpted the originals in clay from Gullichsen’s drawings.
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