Within the Layers: Paintings of Gro Folkan

2019. By John Austin,


The  dynamic paintings of Gro Folkan reflect the artist’s efforts to explore the pictorial language of evolution of female body and its movement within time through the activity of artmaking. For the artist this process expresses her most private moments in which she attempts to articulate her sense of self as a medium between the forces, both personal and transpersonal.

Folkan does this with enormous assurance and vitality. Not surprisingly, in her notes she writes: ”My pictures are instruments like runes, used for thousands of years by Northern peoples to invoke hidden aspects of reality. The real pictures, the images are not the lines and colors on my canvases, but the images coming into being in the mind of the onlooker.”

Keeping these remarkable words in mind, it becomes clear that the aesthetic dimension in the Folkan’s work incorporates a certain amount of figural and abstract expressionism. The artist’s moving paintings fulfill one of the most important functions of the artististic experience, namely to arrange sensations in such a way so that they, in Roger Fry’s words ”arouse in us deep emotions, through which this feeling of a special tie with the man who expressed them becomes very strong.”

The best visual work says the inexpressible using forms and colors. Indeed, art is the paramount language of the unsayable in which, as Theodor Adorno claims, it is seen as a dialectic between the intuition and rationality, (as it) ”attempts …to approximate thing and expression so closely that difference disappears. ” In the Gro Folkan’s paintings the sense of confidence is mixed with an element of pure, urgent sagacity in spite of the aesthetic rowdiness with which the eye is initially confronted.

The compelling contradiction sensed as the works’ clearly organized frenzy demonstrates the paint-er’s exceedingly suave commitment to the essence of art, what Irving Sandler has defined as ”The …way of hightening safety feeling… through the modification and control of perception.” Folkan’s paintings can be perceived as filled with a type of mystifying enigma that bears close scrutiny.

Hovering between being completely non-representational yet retaining a residual figural impulse in which bodies and their movements are referenced by an obligingly oblique suggestiveness on the part of the artist, these paintings re-vitalize the meaning of human condition by referencing its materiality. On the other hand, the artist makes the world more connected through her churning abstractionism and allows a timelessness and presentness to intrude on notions of narrative and recording. Instead, fleeting perceptions and sensations within the artist’s sensorium are tracked and recorded through gesture and color, and through her uninhibited applications of paint.

The continuous, the untold and the irreducible is what Gro Folkan has chosen to bring to light in her work. Her coloristically saturated paintings are the surrogate psychic spaces that resonate with our emotion-laded perceptions of a world both atomized and united in a frenzy of space, speed and time. Within these surrogate spaces the artist takes on an pictorial ride that is unforgettable: sailing between psychic assimilation and social incoherence we take the measure of our worlds, both inner and outer, through the artist’s intoxicating pictorial language. Most compellingly, it refuses to hear itself speak through echoes, preferring, instead, to reveal what the artist has termed ”air” between the layers of mystical evocations and the beauty of the inner being.

John Austin is an art writer living and working in Manhattan.