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Last updateFri, 19 Oct 2018 7am

European master hews to the unexpected

“Nonfigurative” may be the perfect word to describe the work of Danish-Norwegian artist Nils Erik Gjerdevik, whose collection fills six large rooms in the Instituto Cultural Cabañas until July 29.

pg24cAmong his 50 or so pieces, nary a representational element can be detected unless you count some meticulously rendered geometric forms resembling targets. 

“Unexpected” may be another key word, applying both to Gjerdevik’s style in painting, drawing and ceramic sculpture, and also to the fact that, after planning the show with Cabañas officials, the artist died unexpectedly at the age of 54, turning the exhibition into a posthumous one. 

The unexpectedness of his style (heavily influenced by his fascination with architecture, it is said) is evident in the paintings and drawings, which leave one baffled as to the techniques and media used. One reviewer said Gjerdevik’s paintings were oils, but to me and a companion they sometimes appeared etched or done with plastic appliqués. The absence of explanatory signage further adds to the mystery, although wall text in Spanish and English in the first salon catalogues Gjerdevik’s myriad influences, among them constructivism, minimalism, Art Nouveau and Pop Art.

Similarly, the mystery in his drawings consisted of questions about techniques and media. I could not detect pencil, guessing that he used ink and gouache to get his areas of brilliant color.

Gjerdevik’s intriguing, medium sized ceramic pieces were even more of a mystery. I lack much experience with ceramics but other writers marveled at the techniques used in his dripping, Dr.-Seuss-like forms, saying how easily they would have collapsed during firing. Some pieces suggest Swiss cheese, yet I feel sure the artist was not trying to depict cheese.

Gjerdevik was a faculty member at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, has work in the collections of many museums in northern Europe and was commissioned to do work for the University of Copenhagen and the Opera House in that city, so his stature is unquestioned. In addition, the work has to be described as “fun,” considering the colors and the evident relish for experimentation and, yes, the unexpected.

“Nils Erik Gjerdevik” shows until July 29 at Instituto Cultural Cabañas in Guadalajara.

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