Ragnar Sten - Close-ups

Close-ups tell of something you see with glasses or a microscope, something you zoom in on with a camera or lens. Close-ups can be a slice of a larger set of realities.

When presenting an artist like Ragnar Sten (b. 1943) and his work, one must operate with such sections. For this artist has had a long and incredibly rich production until now, and it is by no means over yet. Although this exhibition shows more than 80 works and is thus among the largest retrospective exhibitions that Drammens Museum has shown, the audience will only get a small insight into his development. These close-ups will tell the story of a young artist who sought out Drammen for inspiration and role models for his abstract design language. In Berlin, where he took his education, he saw exhibitions by Karl Fr. Dahmen, Antonio Tàpies and Emil Schumacher. The pastose expression of the painting and with its exciting elaborate surfaces inspired the young Sten. The paintings from the time around the debut are experimental and exploratory, with unfamiliar techniques and materials mixed in. Burnt plastic was, among other things, excellent for creating wound surfaces that protruded from the canvas. The early rather dark, brown paintings developed towards lighter gray-white motifs, where the landscape becomes more clearly recognizable in the composition. But the experimental surface was still present. Ragnar Sten used what he has around him and painted stitches and needles and twine in material pictures from the mid-1980s.

After almost 10 years in a white period, the colors show up. But at first careful and dull, the desire to paint red was there, but the first attempts remained pink for a long time before the color finally set. After the summer stay at Hässelby Castle outside Stockholm in 1989, it was as if the colors literally splashed off the canvas. Inspiration and new Swedish blending agent were triggering factors. For several years to come, the compositions became clear yellow, green and red and Sten concentrated the painting on the surface. But he did not completely stop modeling the surface, but now paper and collage were used. Paper was glued on and painted over, in some places you only see remnants of paper and cardboard, in other places you can read newspaper clippings through thin, lasering layers of paint.

Collage and decollage have been given a more prominent role in recent major compositions. Here is the printed paper, the poster with its large types that stand out. But as in his early pictures from the 1970s, Sten is still working with the surface. Layer upon layer, the paper is glued on and torn off, painted and glued, so that it in turn helps to create exciting wound surfaces.

Large parts of Ragnar Sten's art are abstract and based on a set reality. Sometimes these figurative features appear from his close-ups, in the form of landscapes, hands, feet and shapes as in the Something series.

This exhibition hopes to give the visitor a close-up of Ragnar Sten's pictorial world over the past thirty years. An artist who over the years has challenged his audience with new compositions. Drammen's museum is proud to be able to show Ragnar Sten's work as his summer exhibition in 2003, the year that marks 30 years since his debut exhibition, at the same time as Ragnar Sten himself celebrates 60 years.

The exhibition is generously supported by Buskerud County Municipality, the Development Department which has i.a. made it possible to publish a catalog. The Norwegian Cultural Council has awarded Sten an exhibition scholarship. Such an exhibition could not have been possible without the benevolent support of private and public lenders such as Oslo Municipality's art collections, the Norwegian Cultural Council, Asker Municipality, Sparebanken Øst and Buskerud Central Hospital Drammen. Ragnar Sten himself has been involved in the entire planning process and has very generously made his archive, studio and time available. We thank you for a pleasant and enriching collaboration with the artist.

Fredrikke Schrumpf

Curator

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