Per Formo

Trondheim, Norway

The joy of seeing is the point of entry into my work. The visual experience of the painting may be puzzling, seducing, enticing, uplifting or overwhelming, but it should trigger an urge to explore the situation further. I want to make the act of looking into a conscious effort both to actually see what you are looking at, and, at the same time, to observe the act of seeing: what you do when you see, how you are working at constructing visual meaning. The continuous visual experience of our surroundings is not something we receive passively, something given—it is something we make. And still, sometimes looking turns into self-forgetting, meditation, epiphany, transcendence.

I invent geometric structures, and these structures provide the forms of the paintings. Most often I work with series of paintings, and each series becomes a set of variations on a given structure, or the exemplification of some of the multiple possibilities inherent in this structure. To my great pleasure, I have discovered that I can invent new ways of painting more effectively in this way rather than with the more traditional intuitive or improvisational method. By being constrained, I am constantly surprised at what I get. The necessity of the given structure leads me to places I would never have found using only my imagination. Constriction is liberating.

While the forms of a painting are prescribed by the geometric structure, color is often arrived at by “listening,” i.e., by intuition. Sometimes I apply rhythmical sequences of chosen colors, and sometimes I invent color choice systems to get combinations beyond my own intuition and taste. And sometimes color is used simply to differentiate forms and to generate a maximum of visual energy. Recently I have worked a lot with various types of basic visual illusionism using shades of the same colors. This has perhaps made the paintings look less geometric, but it has opened up new possibilities for me as an artist, exploring the geometric constructions in new ways.

A painting may be understood as a small scale “reality simulator.” I like to think of the work of making paintings and looking at them as laboratory experiments that can tell us things about the world outside the laboratory. Painting is a way of simultaneously exploring both the reality of the world and our presence in it.

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