Ahlstrand 1997 - 2004
- India - Denmark
Ahlstrand's artistic background
Ahlstrand's paintings today may be described as abstract expressionism.
It is characteried by a wide span between his present nonfigurative
imagery, from the light, lyrial colour combinations of his gouaches
to the often very dark, colouristically powerful and highly contrasting
expression of his paintings. Common to all his works, however, is
that they radiate a powerful and intensely sensitive musicality.
To understand what lies beneath Lars Ahlstrand's expressive universe,
it may be helpful to take a look at his biographical background.
Ahlstrand was born in 1958 in Copenhagen. He began drawing and painting
at an early age, and made his debut at the age of 17 in 1975 at the
Artists' Autumn Exhibition with an interior of an unmade bed. The picture,
incidentally, was sold at the exhibition.
the mid-1970s onwards, Lars ahlstrand's pictures show clear signs of
having been inspired by the work of the Danish painter Edward Weie (1879-1943).
The paintings from this period demonstrate a deft lightness and musicality,
cf. an arrangement from 1978 in oil on canvas (measuring 55 x 45 cm).
studied a variety of graphic techniques, including copperplate printing
with the Danish painter and graphic artist Villy Daugaard Pedersen (1915
- 1994) in Naestved.
the beginning of the 1980s and onwards, Lars ahlstrand's work demonstrate
a use of dark, heavy and often muddy colours, smouldering with nerve
and intensity. These are highly sensuous images.
FIRST TIME IN INDIA
1989 Lars Ahlstrand travelled to india the first time. On that occasion,
his visit lasted only five weeks, and his works from this period are
often painted in grey, dusty and satiated earth shades.
second visit to India took place in 1991, and from this time onwards
his works gradually become lighter. Since 1991 Lars Ahlstrand has visited
India almost every year, occasionally twice a year, and sometimes for
up to six months at a time.
THE 1990S TO THE PRESENT DAY
Lars Ahlstrand speaks of India, it becomes clear that the country is
like a magnet to him. He soon discovered that India was a place he would
return to again and again. He was especially attracted to Shantiniketan,
which was to become his base. Shantiniketan, which is located some 150
kilometres north of Calcutta (now Kolkata), means "the abode of
is located in Birbhum district which is known for it's extreme climate.
The high summer temperatures have meant that few people were willing
to live in the area, which was previously visited only by sadhus and
yogis who came to the area to meditate.
original inhabitans are known as Santals, a tribe with beautiful and
spectacular customs. The images of their ritual symbols and patterns
on their clay huts cannot fail to have inspired Lars Ahlstrand.
Tagore (1861 - 1941), who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature
in 1919, moved to Shantiniketan at the end of the 1800s and founded
a university which thrives to this day. The range of studies is wide,
with the emphasis on art and music.
1993, Lars Ahlstrand purchased a piece of land on which he built a small
house in a part of Shantiniketan known as Lalband. Lalband is located
between two lakes: 'lal' means red, 'band' means lake. His house is
permanently occupied by his good friend Butch and the latter's wife
and two children.
recounts that the earth in Shantiniketan is red, and that the paths
therefore consist of the finest, soft orange red dust. In May, the temperature
may exceed +40 - 50 Celcius. This intense atmosphere of heat combined
with the smell and sensation of the soft orange red earth seems to be
present in several of the paintings created by him in both India and
SERIES OF PAINTINGS
Lars Ahlstrand almost never paints a single picture at a time. Often,
he paints an entire series of up to 10 - 15 pictures. Mostly, this process
intially results in only one finished painting. The remaining pictures
are subsequently stored in smaller groups. When these groups are brought
out again later, changes are made and new elements added in the shape
of new layers of paint to create a relief effect.
far as the works that are created in India are concerned, Ahlstrand
employs the same procedure of working in series. The unfinished pictures
that are painted in India are flown home to Denmark and completed here.
MULTIPLICITY OF EXPRESSION
power of the expression of Ahlstrand's paintings lies in the combination
of the implied and restrained Nordic ligthness, as seen on the one hand
in several of his canvases and gouaches from 2000, 2001 and up to the
present day (page 154) and on the other in the vived, powerful colour-saturated
expression witnessed in many of his oils or acrylic on canvas or masonite
dating from the mid-1990s to the present day.
PAINTINGS FROM 2004
visited India at the beginning of 2004 and painted a number of dark
pictures which were exhibited at the Birla Academy of Art and Culture
in Calcutta in February 2004 (pages 11 - 21). According to Ahlstrand,
the paintings were all inspired by the life and colours of Calcutta
and Shantiniketan.The dark Bengal night with its fireflies and the moon
over the peaceful Shantiniketan are contrasted with the hurly-burly
PAINTINGS FROM 2002 - 2003
2002 and at the beginning of 2003, Ahlstrand painted a number of larger
works (246 x 310 cm) in Shantiniketan. The painting from 2003 (page
127) in particular seems to toy with ambiguity: along with the symbols
of the Santals, represented perhaps by the white dots, and the exotic
light and warmth, one senses something far more subtle, possible cruel.
painting from 2003 (page 131) was painted during the same period, and
seems to indicate a profound direct connection with the nature. It could
be a scene from an early evening at the Santal clay huts.
PAINTINGS FROM 1998 - 2000
couple of the paintings from 2000 from Shantiniketan hint at a horizon.
The night and cloud formations from the lush Bengal landscape (page
151) and views from Calcutta (page 143) from the basis for these works.
PAINTINGS PRE 1998
picture (page 147), which was painted during the monsoon season in 1992,
conveys the strong heat mixed with a huge volume of rainwater.
MA, Art Historian