About the work



     A-Z, 2002 (Detail)
237,6 x 420,8 cm
Lars Arrhenius presents a series of anonymous figures drawn in a simple, stylised line. They wander around a setting void of light sources, shadows and any sense of perspective. Our otherwise limitless world is reduced to simple sections of longer, more complex stories. The absence of visual detail furthers the plot and underscores the characters' roles as extras in a larger narrative.

The tight composition is cut through by the amusing communication happening between the characters. We piece the individual parts together like in a puzzle, creating a personal story from the controlled imagery.

Arrhenius dispenses with the regular text based dialogue of comics and instead employs familiar icons. The schematic and informative symbols impart the work with a universal readability by everyone who is a regular in the city.

A-Z is an enlarged version of the book London A-Z Map, a familiar resource for any traveller trying to get a handle on the big city of London. The city map functions as a visual and mental systematisation of reality. Arrhenius combines the function of the neutral map, creator of order and direction, with a focus on each individual's private life. We set up a framework in which to exercise some form of control over the course of our lives but random occurrences keep interrupting the established order, forcing us to change direction.

Neither the map nor the individual stories have beginnings or endings. Although Arrhenius tries to derail us from the indicated routes, we have no trouble connecting the scattered dots into a coherent tale of a city and its citizens. Arrhenius demonstrates how the public sphere is teeming with meaningful stories that usually escape our attention because we rush by.

The stereotypes of the city, such as the beggar, the prostitute, the homeless person and the frustrated office worker, are well known. They move about in the streets of London or any major city as expressionless mobile figures. Arrhenius makes us pause at the banal and the obvious to rediscover the importance of nuances. Visualising the big city's geographical organisation from man's social behaviour and emotional relations, he creates a psychogeographical environment with basis in the neutral map. He does not depict the city as we see it but as we live it.

Lars Arrhenius' art in general
ARKEN's work A-Z closely resembles several of Arrhenius' other works, whether we follow the journey of a banknote from hand to hand (Domino, 2000) or a random person's possible adventures (The Man without One Way, 1999). Arrhenius circles around urban life and a recognisable reality. In the former work the narrative is governed by the principle that any action has a consequence; the latter poses the question, "what would have happened if…?"

He demonstrates, translates and interprets via the idiom and system of the comic all the things we perceive unconsciously. Therefore we readily create a number of personal images from the work. Working with small, overlooked stories and recognisable issues, played out in the day-to-day life of ordinary people, is a distinguishing feature of many artists of the 1990s. Arrhenius records what is immediately visible, translating the information into a more understandable world.

Arrhenius combines the restrained and simple drawing with a young, popular and plain-spoken idiom, appropriating recognisable icons; two aspects recalling the Pop art of the 1960s and '70s. The Pop artists employ consumer orientated and popular imagery to suspend the separation between high culture and popular culture. Among them is the American artist Roy Lichtenstein who utilises familiar characters from the fictitious universe of comics.

Analogously in Domino Arrhenius transfers characters from an assortment of comics. Moreover many Pop artists employ a similar stylised and impersonal expression, distancing themselves from the idea of the artist's personal touch on the canvas. As is the case in Arrhenius, the construction of the art is made abundantly clear.

The works' high degree of perfection, structured composition and dry, understated wit contain a number of unpretentious subjects. This non-intellectual method is typical of the more inclusive approach to painting today. With the aid of a broader defined cultural frame of reference the artists challenge the prevalent notion of what a painting is.

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