FRANS WIDERBERG 1934 – 2017
Frans Widerberg is one of Norway’s most important figurative painters of the latter part of the 20th Century.
Born in Oslo in 1934 he escaped with his parents to Sweden during the Nazi occupation of Norway and after a series of studies, including a four month stint at Goldsmiths in London, spent three years at the National Academy of Fine Art in Oslo. There, he studied painting under Professor Alexander Schulz but the moment of epiphany came to him when he received a state grant to travel to Italy. Disarmingly, he once remarked that until that point he had thought himself “fantastic” as an artist, but after encountering the giants of the Renaissance, notably Masaccio, he felt humbled and reduced to tears. Unsurprisingly, after early paintings which were relatively factual and sombre, he embarked upon the quasi-expressionist dramas by which he made his name.
Widerberg’s virtual world is inhabited by winged dogs, tigers, floating figures, centaurs, and human outcasts set in an existential wilderness illuminated by a light that sometimes recalls the Aurora Borealis and at others a post-nuclear incandescence. The dramas which take place in this ‘neverland’ are sometimes affectionate (between man and woman, for instance) but at others, redolent of the untrammelled violence of Nils Gaup’s extraordinary film ‘Pathfinder’, based on a Sami legend. These encounters are not founded upon the Sagas, Wagnerian or any other existing legends but are allegories created by Widerberg himself.
The pictorial means by which this ‘shadow’ world was created consists of a palette reduced to the three primaries of red, blue and yellow. Believing that light is created by colour, Widerberg typically established a blazing light, one which could set you alight, while irradiating a contingent space. “I provide myself with a pictorial universe where up is down and down is up: where far away is close and close is even closer – or farther away”, as he described it.