My Way & The Highway, 2015
oil and collage on canvas
195 x 120 cm
"Classicism is also possible in contemporary art"
I wrote a review of Jan Kenneth Weckman´s last exhibition in Galleria Heino more than four years ago, in which I was rather critical of his earlier works. It turns out that I may have been only partially correct. I wrote, "... his new paintings show a sense of relaxedness and liberation that I cannot remember seeing in his works in the 2000s. Weckman´s touch is light, and even his colour scheme is fresh. Weckman´s struggle between theory and artistic expression during his doctoral studies showed unusually poignantly in his art, and many of his paintings from that era feel like their objective was to prove a point. Thankfully, the only point that his new works seem to make is that Weckman is a painter."
I no longer agree with that last sentence. Weckman´s paintings have recognisable subjects, and they show clear evidence of the artist´s continuous introspection on what art is and what it could be. His works are certainly not the result of his pouring his subconscious onto the canvas. Art history is a constant undercurrent in Weckman´s paintings, and the artist himself has said, "I have a strong feeling that classicism is also possible in contemporary art". This feeling of his is evident in his new works. I do, however, believe that I was right about that sense of liberation, and his curiosity leaves nothing to be desired either: He seems to be finding new ideas to experiment with all the time.
Still, it is not all about introspection, but more about the trend of analysing art, which has become an almost mandatory requirement in the art world: "Oil painting is a traditional technique, which artists throughout history have used as a vehicle for reflecting on their relationship with the artistic process, regardless of the subjects of the era."
Weckman is simultaneously a timeless painter and a contemporary commentator, who knows that an artist is no more detached from the rest of the world than he is from his own idiosyncratic personal history. Weckman does not set out to tell a story, he does it by accident. In his own words, "making art is more about stepping back than about taking a closer look. Some artists like to think that, when they paint, they are as one with the world, or at least more so than at other times. But they are wrong. You are no closer to the world when you are painting than you are when you are walking, sleeping or eating. But there is a dialogue of sorts."
Weckman, who obtained a doctorate degree in fine art in 2005, has probably at times suffered from the tendency of others to label him as a theorist, suggesting that understanding his works requires some kind of a philosophical key. In my view, however, the sense of liberation that could be seen for the first time in his previous exhibition has only intensified, and the fact that Weckman has become more prolific as a painter gives the public more freedom to interact with his art in whichever way they want - even if that means ignoring the artist´s intentions. Still, in Weckman´s case, the chances of there being a hidden study guide on how to approach art embedded in his works are quite high.
Parvs Publishing will be bringing out a comprehensive catalogue of Weckman´s paintings from recent years in connection with the exhibition. The catalogue is called My Way & The Highway, and it includes an extensive introduction by Altti Kuusamo, a shorter discussion guide by Otso Kantokorpi, and an afterword by Weckman himself. It is probably also worth mentioning that Weckman, who held his first exhibition in Galerie Strindberg in 1969, will be celebrating his 70th birthday during the exhibition, on 10 February 2016. On that day, he will undoubtedly reflect on one of his own wisdoms, "forms rush through time in different media, albeit
for their own reasons".