(Photo: Painter Per Henrik Bille)
Editor's Note: Finn Bille is a poet, storyteller and writer who has performed on several occasions at the Dade County Public Library. He will be there again at 3 p.m. on Feb. 10 with his Big Bang event. This is a free event and everyone is invited.
Do you understand abstract art?
Neither do I.
I have read many statements about abstract art that seemed to be nonsense from inside a closed art world.
But my brother, Per Henrik Bille, is an abstract artist, so I don't dismiss the art form easily or lightly, nor his comments about his abstract images.
He talks about "pictures," not "art."
So last spring, when I spent four weeks in Denmark, I listened carefully to my brother and looked intently at the one picture he had displayed in his studio: a large, roughly four-by-four-foot acrylic painting on paper that draped from two nails.
What immediately caught my eyes were bold black shapes that suggested primitive symbols, and a multi-layer field of vague, obscured symbols and washed-over paint. This field, which could be dismissed as mere sloppy and random painting over dark figures, could also be seen as an answer to the dark shapes. The chaos seemed to debate, or reflect, or intuitively relate to the distinct shapes.
Per says that art in general, and his pictures in particular, are expressions of "experience experiencing experience"--experience, not just squared but cubed. That sounds like an expansion, but it is also a contraction, a concentration into essence, and that essence is somehow an echo of the "intention" that has existed since the Big Bang, Per says.
I had heard that triple assertion about experience before, but now looking at this picture, it finally clicked: It made intuitive sense that literal, sense-based experience would be transformed when experienced as experience, that is, experienced again and anew, through an intuitive creative filter.
But wait, you might say, is this not a kind of cosmic babble that substitutes for the art world nonsense that I mentioned earlier? In a way it is, but it has come straight from the artist himself, and it helped me have an experience that convinced me of the value of this painting and that others might appreciate this picture--that they might be filled with wonder by viewing it intently, hearing the comments of the artist, and sharing their own experience of the painting. And as Per asserted, and I repeated in an earlier article, experiencing wonder is the essence of art.
So the abstraction of the proto-symbols and the layered field represent a kind of synthesizing, or filtering, reduction, or expansion of primary senses. And if these effects seem to contradict each other, so be it. You could experience them simultaneously. After all, this is not science or logical argumentation, but intuitive engagement.
But don't take my word for it.
Come to the viewing and group discussion of this painting at the Dade County Public Library in Trenton, Georgia, 102 Court St., on Saturday, February 10, 3-5 p.m.
You don't have to know anything about art to participate. Just bring an open mind, like seeing shapes in clouds.
Thanks to librarian Marshana Sharp, former library board member Ginnie Sams and Bob Dombrowski of the Trenton Arts Council for supporting this event.