Thorbjørn Bechmann on His Early Days, Battle With the Canvas and Future Projects

by Rubén Palma
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Thorbjørn Bechmann (1966) lives and works in Copenhagen. Bechmanns primary practice is a non-representative painting exploring questions og process, and representation in abstract languages. Central concerns are questions of communication, sensibility, and a representative language where notions of thinking are articulated through the artists hands and eye.  Thus his works are proceed oriented and are layered with a multitude of shades, hues and shadows.

The experince of Bechmanns Work is an experince of transperency. It points in the direction of the luminous quality of both the painting and the world.

Thorbjørn Bechmann is educated at the Royal Danish Academi of the Arts. Besides his work as an artist, he has an extensive curatorial pracsis. He has exhibited in Denmark, Germany, Istanbul and Japan and is represented in both public and private collections, including  the Danish Arts Foundation. One of his most recent exhibitions “Constant Negotiation”, 2019, was rewarded by the Danish Arts Foundation for its radical investigation of a gesture-based painting.

Bechmann’s Studio in Copenhagen

Where did you grow up?

In the trains between Copenhagen and the suburban neighborhood my parents lived in. I found my own home at the museums and galleries, at Thorvaldsen’s trying to copy the anatomy of Greek deities, and of course at the bars emulating the expressions of Dionysus. In that sense, it was very early on that I got the sense of art as a profession (as opposed to a hobby), because it was never a domestic thing for me. It always demanded my complete attention in its practice.

Bechmann @ Von-Frauenberg Art Gallery in Dusseldorf, Germany

When and why did you start to paint and perfect your gradient techinique?

It is not so much a question of when and why, but rather where. It first came to me while I was living in Istanbul, not the gradient part, I don’t think about that. I mean the relationship between the canvas and myself – It is a very physical one. It may all seem very accidental, but the exercise lies in controlling the chaos and bending it to my will. In the battle between myself and the canvas, the paint is the battleground over which we fight for control.

Interesting.. So is this battle between yourself and the canvas the reason you chose your painting style, and not a more conventional one, and paint people, landscapes or objects etc..?

For me, it’s about ridding the art of visual representation – signs, symbols, icons, anything recognizable. However, the eye seeks to find anything that can be understood, and therein lies the battle. When paint is added to the canvas, motifs appear out of thin air like clouds forming. And so I add more paint, and the canvas answers, until all connotations are lost, and there are no more signs to be found. Void of connotations, the artwork is then made almost uninterpretable as a means of communication and leaves room only for the art in its purest form – art for art’s sake. 

Bechmann @ Galerie Hartwich in Sellin, Germany

What is the process like when creating one of your paintings?

Have you ever seen a tennis match? I think it’s like that, except I drink beer in the breaks. 

Any specific reason as to why gradient became your painting style of choice?

There is little sense in watching the birds at night. But in the company of the moon, all sense returns.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not painting?

I, like so many others, enjoy art in my spare time. Sometimes I even think about it.

Bechmann @ Carlsberg Gallery in Copemhagen, Denmark

What is your favorite color?

My girlfriend – She’s like a rainbow.

Any projects comming up?

I have four shows coming up in winter and spring. First at Galleri Kant in Copenhagen, then Pieremarq in Sydney, then Ballroom and Nationale8 in Brussels. You should come by, there will be beer. 

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