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A Twist of the Kaleidoscope

Jonas Hvid Søndergaard’s paintings are a journey into the dizzying universe of form. His painterly shapes range from the complex to the simple, from the chaotic to the peaceful, and from the abstract to the figurative. These paintings are like a look into a children’s kaleidoscope, twisted to make coloured bits of glass create ever-new patterns through the reflection of mirrors. Hvid however, in his paintings, twists not the kaleidoscope but the surrounding world, forever rotating it to create new recognitions.

White squares neatly run the length of an oblong, brown painting. A mousy-grey plane is decorated with a pattern of dark grey and black rectangles. White, grey and black triangles are randomly thrown about on a sea-blue background. The coloured pieces of glass are turned into a simple, abstract pattern. Or are we witnessing the elements of the surrounding world with a new aesthetic force?

Ladders, roads, balconies, windows, and brickwork gain new visual power in Hvid’s paintings as they are transformed into abstract compositions. These are the simplest of the patterns produced by Hvid’s kaleidoscope. It is as if he has isolated a few mundane experiences with binoculars to emphasize them in a new aesthetic form.


Hvid’s paintings are not without humour, yet there is a heartfelt earnestness about his compositions. In some works he draws on the tradition of pop art, for instance giving aesthetic value to the most anonymous of urban objects. By contrast, in other works he continues a long painterly tradition of employing abstract means to approach the actuality of reality. The forms must twist and turn to capture reality as it really is.

Like a nimbus on a big dark sky a hoarding hangs over a small village on the plains. Painted in all sorts of colourful shades the hoarding signifies an aspiration rising from the insignificance of the village to meet the gigantic forces of nature. With sharp teeth pointing down toward the little houses, the planks act as reminders of the dangers that lurk when external forces rage.

In Hvid’s work abstract forms may appear as part of the ordinary world around us, whereas recognizable elements perform acrobatics that render them completely abstract. There is a continuous play of abstraction and figuration in Hvid’s paintings, just as they alternate between humour and sincerity, and the kaleidoscope is still turning.


The simpler works of Jonas Hvid Søndergaard present elements from the urban landscape in an almost factual manner. Conversely, the more complex landscape compositions allow the more emotional aspects of painterly form float free. This is where the previously smooth journey through the landscape ceases: From the simple we turn to the chaotic.

The backyard is in a state of revolt. The grand oak is throwing its arms in all directions. Terrace tiles whirl around chaotically. The landscape is pierced by a lightning-storm, disrupting the road and lifting the house off the ground. The earth transforms into sharp spikes. Has the house been hit by an earthquake or is this a childhood nightmare brought to life?

The world is unstable in Jonas Hvid Søndergaard’s paintings; constituted by a steady stream of mutable shapes. Once in a while, shapes crystallize into recognizable motifs, but most of the time they fly around aimlessly: drifting upwards, floating off course, or performing various kinds of acrobatics, ascending suddenly, even doing somersaults and turning everything upside down.


In the latest work by Jonas Hvid Søndergaard, the chaotic reaches new heights. The formerly distinct, delineated shapes are now confronted with a lava stream of blended colour. The motifs are pulled away from their centre of mundanely recognizable forms, towards a fabulating universe, capable both of a nightmare’s horrors and the aspirations of dream.

The night sky dissolves in an explosion of light. Knotted tree branches reach up and contort in the glare of the blast. The world curls up towards a new centre while the remains of what once was stable fly in the tumultuous change that has taken over. Gravity no longer has a hold on the composition and the world in its familiarity is rapidly disintegrating.

Like spray painted kitsch, where everything refracts too lavishly in neon love, an expressive background is juxtaposed with concrete slabs in free falling. Two historical traditions of abstraction crash into a chaotic universe. The expressive confronts the exact, the calculated joins the impulsive and the dry and precise language is being challenged by marks of the wild and the uncontrollable. The proper world of abstraction has asserted itself.

Inverted Balcony

Jonas Hvid Søndergaard’s paintings alternate between flatness and spatiality in the same way that they oscillate between abstraction and figuration. Recognizable objects are transformed into abstract shapes, while non-representative forms are turned into landscapes. Yet the basic point of departure for Hvid is the abstract language of form both as it has been cultivated throughout the history of painting and as it confronts us in the world.

Balconies have a certain functional legitimacy. They offer access from the inside of a house to the fresh air outside. But the balcony also represents a specific form and like a road, a ladder, or a wall, that form may be transformed into an abstract composition of coloured planes, or even be inverted. In Jonas Hvid Søndergaard’s paintings the world is turned inside out in order to appear anew.

Like a kaleidoscope Hvid’s paintings consist of coloured forms. They can create fictive landscape compositions or they may be extracted from the actual abstract shapes of reality. In some paintings, the shapes have gathered into a calm, simple pattern. Other paintings are chaotic and complex as if frozen in the middle of the kaleidoscopic twist. Jonas Hvid Søndergaard’s paintings are a kaleidoscopic turn presenting you with a world transformed into a new recognizability.


Copyright 2013
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