Pontus Kyander, Museum Director, Sørlandets Kunstmuseum Norway
Short Cuts Amor vincit omnia: love conquers all. It does, but at a price, just like in any other transaction. This title of Michelangelo Caravaggio’s painting of the all-conquering Cupid is intentionally double, and dubious. With his dark wings half-folded, arrows and bow in one hand and the other hidden behind his back, he smiles invitingly to the viewer. Whether we like it or not, this boy is ready to play, in any meaning of the word. If painted in the 21st century, it might have been considered outrageous, depicting a pre-pubescent boy obviously soliciting his love to anyone encouraging his invite. Caravaggio, scandalous in life and art, gave the messenger of love the face of a street urchin, and the attitude of a young prostitute. Ripping innocence off from love is a trope already in the century preceding Caravaggio’s painting of 1602, but he added cynicism to the timeless mix of mythology, sex and beauty. Caravaggio’s Cupid is the focal point in one of Per Wizén’s most ambitious early works from the series Reworkings (1998). The wings removed, he is no longer a creature of mythology, but a young boy being abused in the battles of love, or more precise in a strangely battle-like scene where men of various ages and in varying roles are engaged. Like most of Per Wizén’s works, there is something just as disturbing as familiar in this large picture. In all its gloss and slickness, it does resemble a painting, and in every detail, it is a Caravaggio. But when looking for any mythological or iconological clue, we are left clueless. The motive as such is nowhere to be found in Caravaggio’s oeuvre. Per Wizén’s works are products of a painstakingly meticulous process, where bits and pieces from printed reproductions are cut (by hand with scissors) and pasted (with glue) into entirely new works based usually on one singular artist’s works. The result-
ing collages – that might take some year from start to finish – are later scanned and lightly digitally processed, just to erase creases, even out the light and blur the small pixels still visible from the reproductions used. The prints then made are sometimes but far from always very large, bringing in an aspect of monumentality. With this increasingly time-consuming process, Wizén has worked his way through art history, where the series Reworkings based on Caravaggio was a point of departure soon to be followed by series and singular works based on Massaccio and Piero della Francesca, Uccello, and lately also Ingres and the black and white illustrations by John Tenniel for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The violent and sexually loaded situations with men and boys have changed in favour of more ambivalent gestures, where sexuality remains an essential element, but charged with a strange sense of absence, rather than with the violent interaction and confrontation of the Reworkings. The games of force and submission are there still, but under a surface of tranquil passivity. The Hunt is one of those, Uccello’s famous depiction of hunters, horses, footmen, dogs and deer all moving into the forest, but in Per Wizén’s version with the entire hunting party as well as their prey removed from the picture, leaving the forest as a dark and secretive ground for hunts of possibly entirely other kind. With the two years it took from start to completion, it is just as much the simplest and the most complex of Per Wizén’s images. It is also the work that most clearly shows how content and meaning of historic and iconographic kind is removed in the process, and the image salvaged from the dark pits of history into the still darker caves of contemporary culture. Titles like Spin, Spiraling and Top display a fascination with repetitious and uncontrolled rotation. Ecstasy, regardless if sexual or spiritual, or if a result of mystical transgression or physical penetration, remains in this way a form of submission to greater forces, a loss of self that is just as much a yearning for fulfillment as a quest for obliteration. There are in fact no secrets in Per Wizén’s works. Everything is visible, and he works with elements clearly recognizable
from the books we read and images we somehow know. But there are layers of ambiguity in them, layers that might be frightening and uncanny not as they represent something unknown, but as they have the familiar and fearful look of things we might not want to know. This ambiguity is not necessarily calling for interpretation and explanation, nor does it help to run. In this world of Per WizĂŠnâ€™s, the Puppet Master moves his child-like doll with the gentle hands of a seducer, and anything we want or do not want to happen is just as likely to occur. Throughout these works, the faded beauty of lust and glory long expired shines through. Love conquers all, at the price of innocence.
Per Wizén, born 1966 in Norrköping, Sweden Lives and works in Malmö, Sweden Education 1993-1998 Malmoe Art Academy, Malmö Latest solo exhibitions 2010 Subterranean, Stene Projects, Stockholm 2010 Subterranean, Andersens Contemporary, Berlin /Copenhagen 2010 Reworkings, VOLTA NY, Stene Projects 2009 Works, 1998-2008, Malmö Art Museum, Malmö Latest group exhibitions 2009 Entr’Acte, Kukje Gallery, Seoul 2009 Contemporary Collection, Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York 2009 Do Not Cover, Eskilstuna Art Museum, Eskilstuna 2009 Previews, Stene Projects, Stockholm
Running catalogue series for Stene Projects. Per Wizén booklet for VOLTA NY. Essay by Pontus Kyander.