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05 April 2024

Ganz allein by Mads Rafte Hein

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Mads Rafte Hein (DK)
Ganz allein
APRIL 5

Lush interiors in vivid, yet delicate colors. Intricate still lifes, rich, fanciful décor and the settings for nostalgic outdoor activities. The art of Mads Rafte Hein is filled with cheerfulness and joie de vivre, but also with melancholy and a resonating emptiness lurking beneath the surface.

Art is a lonely preoccupation – to both the artist and the viewer. It is produced by the artist who, alone in his or her atelier, expresses what is often the result of years of personal reflections and evolution. And in the end, when the viewer contemplates the work, he or she does so in what is, more or less inevitably, a vacuum. While it is possible to discuss our experience of art with others, it is almost impossible to describe visual experiences exhaustively with words, and thus, experiencing art remains a lonely endeavor. Historically, this loneliness is a part of the nature of the image. Ever since figurative art as we know it today emerged definitively during the High Renaissance of the 16th century, the image has in large part been constructed with a single viewer in mind. Perspective, the geometrical construction of the illusion of a three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface became the dominant way of creating images after its invention in the early 1400s – and this mode of picture-making presupposes that its viewer is a single person viewing it from a certain point in space. If the picture is seen from a different viewpoint, such as when standing next to the ideal viewer, the illusion vanishes due to distortion, and the image no longer seems three-dimensional. Thus, only a single viewer at a time can experience a perspective image the way it was meant to be experienced. Even though art has since largely moved on and found many other modes of constructing space, the perspective image remains ubiquitous; the photographic image which is so important in our daily lives due to TV and social media, obeys the laws of perspective just like traditional figurative art.

In Mads Rafte Hein’s art, the interior and the still life become expressions of the lonely nature of art. Opulent living spaces and luxurious still lifes adorn his canvases. Vibrant ceramics, intriguing ornamental objects and luscious plants fill his still lifes. But even though his subjects are like something out of the halls of Parisian high society, the occupants of these inviting spaces are nowhere to be seen. Almost all of Mads Rafte Hein’s pictures are devoid of living beings, and it is as if the fluttering contours make the empty space reverberate. Like Vilhelm Hammershøi, who famously depicted the poignancy of silence and emptiness in his classic Copenhagen interiors using a myriad of nuances of grey and rendered with short, hectic brush strokes, Mads Rafte Hein’s art shows that even in the absence of human beings, great meaningfulness is possible. Maybe it is even because of this lack of human presence that the expressiveness of objects and spaces gets to reach its full potential in Mads Rafte Hein’s art.

Like most of us, Mads Rafte Hein got to experience just how important our surroundings are to us during the COVID-19 pandemic. Forced to stay at home most of the time, he started exploring the interior as an important artistic genre. What you see and sense the most ends up constituting your visual universe. Those are the things that you know the exact appearance of and are thus able to picture in your mind’s eye. When you read a book, you picture a world made up in large part of such visually familiar things, or elements of them. And when you are presented with a new concept or phenomenon, you start off relating it to what you know before venturing into unknown terrain and incorporating new knowledge into your world. Thus, our surroundings become very important for defining who we are and what we are able to think, and this is what Mads Rafte Hein examines in his art.

An important aspect in relation to this is color. Mads Rafte Hein works as consciously with color as Hammershøi did, but instead of keeping the color variation within a very narrow range of saturation, Mads Rafte Hein lets his colors shine at full strength. Pinks, yellows, purples and greens harmonize in his works. Bright colors and pastels work together to create a vivid sense of joy and lightness in his empty interiors. As mads Rafte Hein himself says: “I think it takes a dark mind to paint with such crazy colors. At least, that is the solution to me. 5 or 6 years ago, I made the decision to change up my palette and my artistic universe. This has helped me reach a place where my demons are no longer as present. But still, they show themselves in my paintings from time to time, but this also helps me move on.”

Sometimes, his colorful universe is interrupted by a flicker of darkness: a skull, a raging panther, voodoo dolls and lost birds. Symbols that remind us of the darker sides of life and of the importance of keeping up the fight for a colorful, happy and imaginative space.

[DK]

Overdådige interiører i sarte, men livlige farver. Detaljerige stillebener, fantasifuld indretning og nostalgisk udeliv. Mads Rafte Heins kunst er fyldt med livskraft og glæde, men også med melankoli og en sitrende tomhed, der lurer under overfladen.

Kunst er en ensom beskæftigelse – både når den produceres, og når den nydes. Kunstneren producerer den alene i sit atelier på basis af ofte årelange personlige overvejelser og erfaringer. Og beskueren oplever i sidste ende værket alene, i sit eget sind. Det kan godt være, at man kan tale med andre om kunstoplevelsen, men i sidste ende er det stort set umuligt at beskrive den visuelle oplevelse udtømmende over for andre. Denne ensomme, individuelle oplevelse er indkodet i billedets DNA. Siden den figurative kunst som vi kender den for alvor opstod i 1500-tallets renæssance, har billedet helt konkret været tiltænkt en enkelt beskuer. Perspektivet, der er den geometriske konstruktion af et tilsyneladende tredimensionelt rum på en todimensionel flade, og som blev det dominerende middel til at konstruere et billede efter dets opfindelse i det tidlige 1400-tal, forudsætter at en enkelt beskuer betragter billedet fra et bestemt synspunkt for, at illusionen om et tredimensionelt rum kan opleves fuldt ud. Ser man et billede konstrueret ved hjælp af perspektiv fra et bare lidt anderledes synspunkt end tiltænkt, forsvinder illusionen på grund af det nu forvrængede billede, der tydeligt afslører sin todimensionalitet. Selv i dag er vores dagligdag fyldt med billeder, der forudsætter en ensom beskuer; det fotografiske billede, der fylder vores verden mere end nogensinde før på TV og sociale medier, er også konstrueret efter perspektivets love og forudsætter en beskuer der ser det fra ét bestemt punkt, på linje med den kameralinse, der har nedfældet det.

Interiøret og stillebenet bliver i Mads Rafte Heins univers til maleriske udtryk for denne kunstens iboende ensomhed. Overdådige stuer og luksuriøse stillebener pryder hans lærreder. Luksuriøs keramik, fascinerende brugskunst og frodige planter fylder hans stillebener. Men selvom hans motiver er som taget fra det bedre borgerskab i Paris’ stuer, er der ikke en eneste af deres beboere at se. Stort set alle Mads Rafte Heins billedrum er tømt for levende væsener, og det er som om de sitrende konturer næsten får luften til at vibrere i sin tomhed. Ligesom Vilhelm Hammershøi, der som bekendt er berømt for at afbilde hvad der virker som den larmende stilhed i klassiske københavnske lejligheder i et væld af grå nuancer og med korte, hektiske penselstrøg, viser Mads Rafte Heins interiører og stillebener, at selv, hvor der er mennesketomt, er stor udtryksfuldhed mulig. Sågar er det måske er det netop grundet fraværet af alt levende og den handling og det drama, der normalt følger med levende væsener, at stedets og tingenes udtryk og betydningsfuldhed i Mads Rafte Heins kunst får lov at udfolde sig for alvor.

Som de fleste af os oplevede Mads Rafte Hein under coronapandemien nøjagtigt, hvor stor en betydning de steder og ting, vi omgiver os med, kan have for vores indre univers. Tvunget til at være i hjemmet størstedelen af tiden begyndte han at undersøge interiøret som motiv. Det, man ser og sanser allermest, ender i sidste ende med at blive ens visuelle univers. Det er det, man husker nøjagtigt, hvordan ser ud, og det, man kan forestille sig for sit indre blik. Når man læser en bog, ser man et univers for sig, der består af ting, man således har set og kan forestille sig, og når man bliver præsenteres for et nyt begreb eller fænomen, relaterer man det til det, man kender, før man begiver sig ud på ukendt terræn. Således er ens omgivelser afgørende for, hvad man tænker og er i stand til at tænke, og det er netop dét, Mads Rafte Hein undersøger i sine værker.

Et vigtigt aspekt i denne forbindelse er farverne. Mads Rafte Heins interiører forholder sig til farven lige så bevidst som Hammershøi gjorde det, men i stedet for at lade farvevariationerne forblive dæmpede og subtile, er der hos Mads Rafte Hein fuld knald på lyserød, gul, lilla og grøn. Pasteller og pangfarver harmonerer i de luksuriøse interiører, der trods ensomheden bliver som indbegrebet af glæde og fantasi. Som Mads Rafte Hein selv siger: ”Jeg tror der skal et sortsind til for at male i så vilde farver. Det er i hvert fald løsningen for mig. For 5-6 år siden tog jeg et valg om at skifte palette og univers. Det har hjulpet mig et sted hen hvor mine dæmoner ikke raser lige så meget. De dukker dog op en gang imellem i mine malerier, men de hjælper mig også videre.”

Ind imellem brydes det farverige univers af et mørkere moment: Kraniet, den rasende panter, voodoodukker og fortabte fugle. Symboler, der minder os om livets mørkere sider, og som dermed også minder os om, hvor vigtigt, det er, at vi holder fast i det glade, farverige og fantasifulde rum.