In Article Fragment and Gesture Bubbles Allan Otte has created an evocative universe that is both familiar and strange. The painting’s recognisable elements are countered by a surreal atmosphere supported by the synthetic pastels. Otte enhances this sense of looking at a fictitious universe, partly by employing an airbrush technique or applying the paint in vertical and horizontal movements, counteracting the spatiality of the subject, engendering a kind of abstraction. And partly by constructing the painting from discrete elements which appear to be placed on the surface of the picture with no logical, interconnected relations.
BETWEEN DREAM AND REALITY
In Article Fragment and Gesture Bubbles Otte moves in the borderland between the realistic and the clearly artificial. Suggestive moods and dreamlike visions appear side by side with a concrete farm, taken from the Danish agricultural environment that is Otte’s subject of choice.
The realism emerges in the meticulous brushwork and the dominant colours’ similarity to an objectively recording photograph but the delicate pastel colours transport the farm building and the surrounding fields into another dimension. The pastels clearly do not harmonise with the farm subject, just as it seems strangely disturbing that no people are present.
A TWISTED FORM OF SOCIAL CRITICISM
In Article Fragment and Gesture Bubbles Otte engages one of the favourite subjects of Danish 19th century painting: country life. But as in several of his works the bucolic idyll of the national romanticism here is replaced by the industrially streamlined farming of today. Otte’s primary inspiration is not timber frame farms with scrupulously pruned hollyhocks and surrounding pastures of grazing cows. His inspiration is rather taken from Social Realism’s honest depictions of the actual lived life and its surroundings. However, Otte’s images are placed in our time with motifs taken from the modern agricultural production, depicting a thoroughly industrialized and modernized universe comprising concrete silos, fertiliser tanks, robot controlled, climate and daylight regulating animal halls, rows of plastic wrapped hay bales and wind mill parks stretching as far as the eye can see.
Unlike the national romantic painters Otte does not present the landscape as a space for introspection and contemplation. Rather the work Article Fragment and Gesture Bubbles contains a thoroughgoing social criticism: It bears witness to the ongoing development which has brought about an increasing mechanisation and depopulation of the Danish agricultural lifestyle. With his both beautiful and chilling painting Otte emphasises reality outside of the hastily expanding metropolises. At the same time we are made witnesses to the loss of value which has struck the old farming culture in the name of productivity and profit maximisation.
Allan Otte’s art in general
Otte’s derelict pictures portray with objective distance a contemporary, abandoned agriculture subject to industrialisation’s demands for efficiency. The subjects of the paintings are real and immediately recognisable. But at the same time surreal elements have a tendency to crop up in the pictures when suddenly the farm hovers in a thought balloon or is deported to an isolated rocky island. Or when Otte “masks” a contemporary agricultural building from its surroundings, making it appear to be isolated on an island in the centre of the painting’s grey surface.
PAINTING IN THE EDITING ROOM
Otte’s paintings are characterised by great technical complexity. The work process begins with extensive pictorial research on a computer, in realty magazines or journals on cattle and agricultural machines. This is followed by work on the computer. The pictures are sampled and placed on top of each other in up to forty or fifty layers. Subsequently Otte “edits in” various pictorial elements until the desired composition is achieved. Frequently he also incorporates his own photos in the formally constructed picture collages.
After having composed a digitally manipulated picture collage on the screen, Otte projects it onto the canvas in large scale with an overhead projector. He then traces the subject with a pencil, whereupon it is divided into sections with masking tape. Only then does the painting process begin. The subject is painted systematically using either vertical or horizontal brushstrokes inside the areas sectioned off with masking tape. With this method Otte uses digital image manipulation when composing his paintings which are often constructed from several picture layers. Then, with his special technique combining masking tape and brushstrokes, he attains an effect where the subject appears to be cut from the paint.
AN UPDATED LANDSCAPE PAINTING
Otte’s paintings are the product of a modern sample culture and their visual effects obviously inspired by the technological media of today. In the unsentimental depictions of disused farms, the realistic and immediately recognisable subject slips in and out of focus, as if it were a photograph. While other parts of the painting bear imprints of the fuzzy lines of videotape. On this technologically inspired update of landscape painting Otte says: - I think there is exciting potential in working on the computer where everything is immaterial, and where you can switch layers and create displacements and make some things bigger and others smaller. All things that are quite hard if you are doing a collage with paper and scissors or if you are drawing. There is great potential in subsequently transferring this to a painting where it suddenly becomes very concrete and tangible.