Kasper Sonne’s Intoxicating Paintings Take on New Territory at West Den Haag

Imagine you were given the task to create a perfect monochromatic painting. You take pains to apply impeccable, even layers of paint, avoiding the slightest blemish or any indication of the human hand. Then, you are instructed to set fire to it. This technique, an exhilarating dichotomy of creation and destruction, is central to Kasper Sonne’s practice, a complex discourse on the dichotomies that affect the way the world—and art—is viewed and perceived. The resulting visually compelling, vibrant artworks have catapulted the Danish artist onto an international stage, where his name is at the tip of collectors’ tongues, and included in shows from Palais de Tokyo, Paris to The Moving Museum, Dubai. Now, Sonne takes on The Hague, with a new show, “New Territory” at West.

The tension between control and chance that is so strong in the burned paintings, known as Sonne’s “Borderline (New Territory)” series, carries into his “TXC” series, both of which comprise this exhibition, a mix of new and recent works. The “Borderline (New Territory)” works, which have inspired the show’s title, are narratives that transition from vibrant colors to singed edges to empty voids; a lack of control and improvisation is as much a part of these works as the artist’s actions and materials. A conceptually similar process is behind the “TXC” paintings, where a monochromatic canvas is disrupted by toxic chemicals. Rather than the physical deterioration of the canvas, in these works color plays the victim; though that is hardly the case, as the resulting works are spirited fluorescent abstractions that might be best described as intoxicating.

Aside from the tantalizing element of danger, both series are spectacular in the way that they attack notions of perfection. Begun as seamlessly executed paintings, then promptly defaced, these works embrace imperfection, and upend its significance in terms of art. Conceived through black and white terms, clear ideas, and methodical processes, Sonne’s works are finished with the viewer. A believer in the subjectivity of art, he leaves interpretations up to his audience, a brave decision, though ultimately beneficial in his case, where art strikes a balance, encapsulating both the purity of creation and the thrill of destruction.

Casey Lesser

New Territory” is on view at West den Haag, July 17th–Aug. 28th, 2014.

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