It is found again!
It is the sea, mingled
with the sun.
Vejby is a small town on the coast of the Danish island of Zealand, about 50 km north of Copenhagen. The surrounding summer cottage area of Vejby Strand is already quasi-deserted when Carsten Fock arrived there in September 2020 at the beginning of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. An odyssey lies behind him. During the first lockdown, instead of the initially planned visit of one month, he had stayed at the Kunsthalle Andratx in Majorca for almost half a year and then travelled on to Copenhagen, where he intended to settle down. When he didn’t really feel at home in the Danish capital, a close friend offered him to move indefinitely into her holiday home, empty in the off-season. Fock, in a phase of doubt and reorientation at the time, accepted her offer. He spent the next five months in Vejby in almost complete solitude, upholding a strict daily routine of meditation, sport and work.
Between September 2020 and January 2021, he stayed there and produced a series of medium-sized works on paper measuring 40 × 30 cm, all drawn with his fingers and framed by Fock himself with white paper. The abstract, seemingly objectless pictures were mostly created between runs along the steep cliffs or the beach, runs during which Fock constantly gazed at the first autumnal and then wintry Kattegat, at the sea and the sky. His Vejby drawings record the changing seasons, colours and light like a diary. They form a serial and at the same time poetic experimental arrangement. In many of them, the course of the coast, the light, the clouds and the fog are alluded to.
At the same time, however, they are meditations on the union of outer and inner experience – on place, ego and timelessness. The act of finger drawing, the renunciation of tools and the direct haptic contact with the paper has something deeply therapeutic about it. It denotes the attempt to come into contact with one’s own perceptions and emotions, the elementary need to feel and experience oneself holistically.
In Fock’s oeuvre, which has from the outset dealt with subjects such as Romantic and expressive landscape painting, these works on paper form a deep break. They dispense with affect-laden gestures, grandiose, bold settings, pictorial references and political or pop-cultural allusions that were otherwise associated with his landscape painting. Despite their luminosity, they are fine, velvety, covered with cloudy hatchings. They are decidedly vulnerable. Yet they remain dry, unexcited – nothing flows, no blood, no tears, no colour.
Associations naturally abound to Romantic landscape painting and Caspar David Friedrich, to the maritime paintings of Turner, the sacred colour spaces of Rothko and to visionary or religious art. The formats, the focus on process and material – all this, however, is the programme for a transcendent painting that entirely does without pathos. There is no emotional sublimity here, no conquest of the summit or the picture, no monk by the sea. Carsten Fock’s paintings are profoundly unheroic. They rather spring from a capitulation, an inner distress. They speak of a return to the essential, a refinement of perception, a sensitivity that is vital.
Oliver Koerner von Gustorf
translation: Dr. Ariane Kossack