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About Arne Jones

Swedish Culture

Articles by Ulf Linde, member of Royal Swedish Academy

Artist Arne Jones 1914-1976

Professor at the Royal Swedish College of Art 1961-1971. Represented Sweden at the Biennale in Venice 1968.

Arne Jones was among the group of artists who after the war, in 1945, presented a new and ’concrete’ programme of action for art, with a desire to carry art out into a public environment. He has since continued to develop his sculptures from a pure base form, that can be built up and varied in movements and figurations. The latter are often based on a poetical classicism, a desire to combine contemporary materials with a classical theme. 

Swedish Culture

ABSTRACT AND CONCRETE

After the war, however, abstract art was able to establish itself. This occurred at an exhibition called `Young art’ at the Colour and Form gallery in the spring of 1947, where a new generation of painters took the art concret of the Stockholm exhibition as their starting point. The geometrically oriented abstractions dominating the style gave rise to the Swedish term konkretism, which despite the linguistic paradox is categorized as abstract art. Lennart Rodhe (b. 1916) is the school’s designer, Lage Lindell (1920-1980) is its figurative narrator, Karl Axel Pehrson (b. 1921) is closest to nature and Olle Bonniér (b. 1925) is its most dynamic figure.

Arne Jones (1914-1976), the sculptor, is considered to belong to this circle. His art includes both architecture, design and visual dynamics. On the basis of the year of their debut, these artists became known as `the men of 1947′ (even though the female artist Randi Fisher contributed to `Young art’). The form is the focus of attention here, not the motif. And the whole surface of the work forms a single composition, sometimes with scientific, sometimes with musical parallels. In the 1950s, a number of these artists came to make significant contributions to public art. The new architecture of the `people’s home’ welfare state (folkhemmet) that was in the process of construction—with Sven Markelius’s suburb of Vällingby, officially opened in 1954, as its most typical expression—in many ways provides a self-evident context. In time they would come to expand their range of expression, and often enough nature sneaks its way into Swedish concretism by the back door. Olle Baertling (1911-1981) and Erik H. Olson (1909-1995) are counted among the stricter exponents of the genre. KG Nilson (b. 1942) has more recently carried on the tradition. Here too the tension between geometrical and organic form is evident.

Two articles by Ulf Linde, member of Royal Swedish Academy

Arne Jones’ sculpture ”Nova” describes a sudden ignition, an expansion or explosion. This gasifying gesture, however, emerges from its opposite: a simple compact rod, rectangular in shape, multi­plied into something resembling a log jam. The whole thing balances on a single rod, about to be knocked away by the imaginary pressure.

The first title of this sculpture was ”transtruc­tion” ‑ an unstable state between construction and destruction. The two phases can be clearly seen in the sculpture; in one part the rods seem to be splitting up, beating against each other, breaking to pieces. At the other end of the sculptu­re they collect together until they are almost parallel, until they begin to point in the same direction.

I can sense what sort of sensibility Jones set in motion when creating his sculpture: the object, must have been to put together a series of rods in such a way’ that he could experience the exact opposite of what he was doing ‑ namely that the rods were flying apart.

The actual rods are naturally only a means of portraying a dreamed‑of energy. Much as iron filings are a way of visualizing or exemplifying magnetic energy. And in fact the energy in ”Nova” is as invisible as magnetism. I recognize the sculpture’s gesture from the movements of my own mind ‑ this is how a whim, an idea detonates. The same case, the same sudden take‑off from the ground. (The word ”ground” is naturally meant here as an exemplification of something that is invisible; ”the gravel of consciousness”.)

Ulf Linde

(Dagens Nyheter, 24.6 1965)

 

The elements of sculpture

 

Henri Lauren’s’ earliest extant works are dated 1915. According to the artist himself, these sculp­tures ‑ constructions of simple forms in wood ‑were inspired by Braque, whom be got to know as early as in 1911. He regarded himself as Braque’s pupil.

By 1915, the heroic age of Cubism was over. Laurens was thus no rebel ‑ be was rather a follower‑up, a steward of the inheritance from Cubism. His work developed quietly and calmly. We find no sudden departures, no sacrifice of pre­vious gains for some new and breathtaking disco­very. He was rather a Classicist, not only because be always sought clarity and simplicity, but also because be never questioned the method be bad once adopted.

This method is sometimes called the synthetic. (The term was coined by Juan Gris.) Lauren’s’ sculptures were composed of simple forms, simple volumes, which meant nothing in themselves ‑ but which acquired a meaning from the ultimate whole. There was nothing incomprehensible in this; a couple of shirt buttons do not ”mean” any­thing ‑ but sewn onto the face of a rag doll they mean eyes. They actually look. In the same way, a cylinder can in a work by Lauren’s become an Arm, a trunk, a thigh.

The simple stereometric order we find in his early works is not, in other words, intended to reproduce any basic forms in nature. It was never a question for Lauren’s of reducing something co­incidental to a concealed order beyond the co­incidences. He did not work in this way. He was more like a mason, joining element to element in his works, building them.

This constructive aspect is clearly noticeable in some of his terra cottas. Each individual form is so definitely defined against the others that we get the feeling his sculptures can be taken to pieces. The elements seem stacked, or wedged into each other ‑ one part supports another, each incline is balanced by a counter‑weight etc. It is like an architecture in stone. And perhaps it is important that Lauren’s in his youth worked as a cutter of ornamentation for architects; when be set up his capitals in those days be was forced to respect the laws of static’s ‑ otherwise they would not have stayed in place. Later in life,. be was always to work in the same way. He had static’s in his blood.

Even so, his sculpture is by no means abstract. It reproduces human bodies, delineates them. Thanks to the carefully determined balance of the ”building”, his bodies seem always to be at rest; not a fibre in their limbs is taut ‑ and this proba­bly explains the light, lyrical tone we find in all his works. His figures resemble archaic sculptures; they are compact and light at the same time.

He seems to have been greatly concerned to pre­serve this tone. This we can see from the almost white clay be used in his sculptures.

Lauren’s ”synthetic method undoubtedly play­ed a major role in the development of two Swedish sculptors ‑ Arne Jones and Bror Marklund. They have applied what they learned from him in very different ways. In front of Jones’ sculptures, we are immediately struck by how the sculptures are ”built”. And in a text Hans Eklund has described with praise­ worthy empathy the nature of this architecture; he has shown that Jones’ understanding of the bearing and the borne can be traced back to a familiarity with the wood. Jones’ sculptures unlike those of Lauren’s ‑ seem only rarely to have been conceived as masonry. They have their analogies instead in timber constructions: in log farms, timbered roofs, bell towers or the ”Gothic” we encounter in the ribs and skins of boats. His forms have bad the direction of the wood ‑ and be has treated them as if they were logs, laths and chips.

 

This well‑balanced architecture, however, this construction at rest, contains also its own opposite. Jones’ objects can be experienced as suddenly frozen movements ‑ as if their mass bad been stopped in its flight from one position to another. At his latest exhibition,‑these ”gestures” can be traced only in a few cases to the human body. The majority belong to other fields of nature ‑the water breaking against a stone, the stretching out towards the periphery in an agglomeration of rotating matter, smoke lifting towards the sky, the pressure from an explosion.

And vet it would be wrong to take these gestur­es as solely mechanical. We can see them as metaphors of the gestures we have inside us. Would not an explosion be a better expression of anger than a fist beating on the table? (With different bodies, we would have different gestures . . .)

A sculpture by Jones thus presents itself in two ways ‑ as architecture, and as gesture, expression. In the one case we have a concrete gambit against the force of gravity, in the other case an imaginary ‑and with this we have indicated also the factor that gives these sculptures their unity: the perpen­dicular.

Ever since ”Man’s bridges” and Cathedral”, Jones has been working with this unit. But be has never embodied it with such simple means as at his latest exhibition. Not one of the sculptures shown is modelled or hewn ‑ they are all conglome­rations of extremely simple and anonymous ele­ments. In many cases be has worked with metal rods sawn up into different standard lengths ‑bits of 3, 5, 8 and 13 cm, for instance ‑ and then soldered them together. In this way, he has eliminated the traces of his own hand. Manual sensitivity no longer means anything; everything is dependent on measurement, weight, movement a visual sensitivity.

If the word arbitrary is taken to mean ”after one’s own taste” then Jones’ new way of working is a sharp denial of arbitrariness, of taste. His arbitrariness involves rather a sort of indifference that precedes the work. (The bits have been sawn up before be knows what be wants to do with them, and all the bits must be included in the work ‑ in this situation it makes no difference how many they are, or how long.)

Jones has chosen, quite simply, to avoid the situations of choice that lead to aestheticism. And his latest work has achieved this severity; it is the constructive idea and the movement that speak ‑ not taste. It is above all the purity, the clarity, that makes his exhibition so impressive.

What distinguishes Bror Marklund’s art from that of Arne Jones can best be seen in their re­spective attitudes to the elements of form.

Marklund’s exhibition relates to a single sculp­ture ‑ ”Figure in a storm”, created for Trelle­borgs Ångfartygs AB and erected in Trelleborg.

Marklund himself has described the experience that gave him the idea for this sculpture: ’1 have seen a man walking along the beach against a very strong wind. He seemed to be in a hurry, but was progressing only with laboriously elastic move­ments. He went close by where I was standing. He was VAST”.

The primary thing was thus an experience of movement ‑ the next thing the world of forms in which this movement was to be recreated. The entire exhibition can be seen as a search for such a world of forms.

One of the first sketches consists of a collection of ”abstract blocks, leaning against an imaginary wind: a leaning architecture of ashlars. Another sketch shows a man. The form is here realistic, but softly simplified ‑ egg‑like. The project veered between different alternatives ‑ between one figure and many figures, between the sculpture as a single form and as an agglomeration of a hundred forms, between soft forms and hard, angular forms. ”At least ban the monotony of the manual appro­ach,” says a note in Marklund’s sketch block. He has undoubtedly practised as he preached.

This is particularly clear in the collages that were stages of the preliminary work. He has cut out bits of illustrated magazines, bits that were of value to him above all as textures ‑ an agglomeration of round forms in a flock of sheep, the streakiness of bark and lava formations, the flow­ing movement of folded cloth etc. The characters of the forms shift continuously ‑ only one thing remains constant the whole time, the giant, pathe­tically leaning gesture.

Marklund’s overshadowing problem has thus been the choice of elements ‑ exactly the problem on which Jones turned his back!

There is perhaps an unrest in this choice, an overflowing vitality ‑ but also an exultation that comes close to anguish ‑ the underlying murmur of yes and no is perhaps our most vivid experience of Marklund’s whole exhibition.

The method of synthetic Cubism ‑ the com­position of parts without identity into a whole that gives birth to identities, Lauren’s’ method or Picasso’s ‑ inevitably leads to a critical situation. When everything can be used as elements in a picture, the choice threatens to become arbitrary a matter of taste, a personal idiosyncrasy.

Both Marklund and Jones have worked on the difficulties arising in this situation. Unlike Mark­lund, Jones has refused to accept the actual nature of the difficulties. He has abandoned the whole problem ‑ he has rendered unto chance the things that belong to it, to be able to act afresh on a new plane.

Ulf Linde

(Dagens Nyheter, April 16th, 1964)

Arne Jones and the two cultures

 

Arne Jones’ entry ”Human building”, if it had been erected, Would have been a 38 meter high sculpture of aluminum. The work consists of two figures standing against each other, the curved surfaces cut into each other and enfold each other in the most ingenious way. Light and air play through them and around them. The whole work is fascinating, and aesthetically very attrac­tive. To use a simple and adequate expression, his entry is beautiful.

But Jones’ work is much more than just this, as we can see from a visit to the Galerie Burén. Jones is there exhibiting just now a sensational collec­tion of his latest works, including ”Human build­ing III”.

At this gallery, anyone can see for himself that Jones’ work possesses qualities far beyond the aes­thetic in the more limited sense. Jones has made a contribution to the cultural debate. His contri­bution is at the highest level, and concerns a supremely topical and urgent subject. ”Human building’ treats of the relationships between ”pri­mary” and ”secondary” qualities. It relates, if we like, to the two cultures, but we should add in the name of justice that Jones goes deeper and reaches further than Sir Charles ever did in his famous lecture.

What Jones does is force us to adopt an attitude to the problem of primary and secondary qualities, their internal relationships and relative degree of urgency to us human beings. Also, he hints at a solution, a synthesis, which seems to me ex­tremely promising.

The unfortunate distinction between primary and secondary qualities was introduced over 300 years ago by Galileo. In an in itself justified opposition to his predecessors’ arbitrary classifications and system constructions, Galileo maintained that a truly scientific description of reality can contain only references to form and movement ‑ mathematically analyzable properties. These properties, Galileo called primary. The rest, such as ”heat and color” were secondary qualities. The latter were only a sort of by‑products of the reciprocal action between our sense organs and the world around us. They therefore existed only in our conceptual world, not in our environment as such. Such humanly colored attributes therefore have no place in a strictly scientific theory.

 

Galileo said:

”When I form a concept of a body or a mate­rial substance, l feel obliged to assume that it is staked out and limited by a form of this or that kind, that it is large or small in comparison with other bodies, that it has this position (or another), at this time (or another), that it is either in motion or at rest, either in contact with another body or not … It is impossible for me, however l stretch my imagination, to conceive of a body without these properties. But that it should be white or red, bitter or sweet, noisy or silent, sweet‑smelling or ill‑smelling ‑ I feel in no way constrained to assume that it must pos­sess any of these characteristics. On the contrary, if the organs of sense bad not been able to di­stinguish these properties, then neither reason nor fantasy alone would probably have come upon such ideas.

I conclude from this that taste, odor. colors etc. regarded as properties in the object are but names: their true place is rather in the recipient body (in the observer) ‑ so that if all living things were eliminated, these properties would vanish and be destroyed.”

Democritus held exactly the same view 2000 years previously: We say sweet, we say bitter, we say hot, we say cold ‑ but in reality there exists only atoms and empty space.”

 

But where are we to draw the boundary between the primary and secondary qualities? The extreme rationalist Descartes excluded only two fields from scientific research: God and the human soul. Every­thing else, Descartes considered, should be capable of scientific explanation.

These disputes as to the boundaries played no major role as long as physicists were content to busy themselves with planetary orbits and oscillat­ing pendulums. They were, after all, extremely peripheral and indifferent matters. Everything really essential lay on the right side of the bound­ary, out of reach of these slightly comic com­manders of the modest troops of mathematical philosophy. Scornfully and self‑consciously, they spoke of these narrow‑sighted philosophers who ”reduced the elephant to a point with the mass m”.

Today, however, we are no longer so certain of ourselves. Continuos adjustments have been made in the boundary between primary and secondary. The tendency is somewhat disturbing. In the age of nuclear weapons and space rockets, the natural sciences can no longer be neglected. The point with the mass m bas been transformed to the re­lationship E=mc2, and it is probably not comical. It is something that concerns us all.

But things are worse than this: we have gone further than Descartes in our mathematical and rational demands. Linnaeus admittedly counted his stamina and pistils, but this was for the sake of svstematology . He classified his plants in genera and families in a true Aristotelian spirit. There are colors. smells and tastes in Linnaeus’ flora. But today’s microbiologists are solving the genetic code, reducing man’s ideas to genes and DNA molecules. The psychologists are applying with disturbing success the new science of cybernetics, which quantifies the memory in bits and describes the functions of mental life in the language of mathematics.

Man is constructing machines which seem to fill all the requirements made by the definition of the concept ”life‑‑‑. They move, they learn from their mistakes, they communicate with each other, they can actually propagate. And yet, somewhere, something is lacking. Something is lacking that we seem to be unable to express in words, probably because we should be forced, if we tried, to do it with hare language. the mathematical and logi­cal language, and we would thus already be on the wrong side of the boundary. Yet one thing we know the whole time: mechanics and mathema­tics can never contain the entire truth of the reality we experience.

But what has Arne Jones got to do with Galileo, Descartes, nuclear physics. microbiology and cybernetics? A great deal. It does not need all that much imagination to see in Jones’ figure the silhou­ette of a human torso. Jones proves, experimentally one is tempted to say, that the perception, the ex­perience. is not determined by the material. He chose for his entry aluminum, a modern metal which was shown to the general public for the first time at the World Fair in Paris 1889 (and which was then more expensive than gold). But he reaches exactly the same effect with wood and with bronze. Nor do the details in his whole play any decisive role. It appears. that the units which build up the figure could as well be I‑girders of aluminum as wooden blocks with square cross­ sections. Jones accentuates this subordination and ir­relevance of the material by building up his sculp­ture in identical units. materials that can be bought on the metal goods market, girders of exactly the same kind as those forming the frames of the sky­scrapers around Sergels Torg. In his entry, on a small scale, he has used model girders, but also blocks from the nearest wood merchants. Note that all these units are identically alike. Like the ultimate molecular and atomic components of the human body.

Also, these units stand in a very simple relation­ship to each other. The lowest girders form an angle of 90 degrees. The next pair up are placed against each other at a slightly wider angle. This slight difference in angle then re‑occurs regularly, it is added from layer to layer so that the angle between the units steadily increases, passes 180′ (at the shoulder section) and exceeds this value, so that the silhouette tapers off towards the top.

We see a man: there is no doubt about this, even if the figure is built up of mutually exchange­able units of arbitrary material, put together ac­cording‑to an embarrassingly simple geometrical principle.

But now comes the dramatic thing. If we turn the figure upside down, it shows instead a woman’s torso! (The reader can easily convince himself of this fact by turning the photo upside down.) Exactly the same figure as previously showed a man, now portrays a woman.

Can equality between the sexes be carried further’? Can the difference in our reaction to man and woman be illustrated in a more dramatic manner?

What Jones shows is that even if the figures can be unambiguously defined in primary properties, mathematically measurable relationships such as length breadth, height and internal positions, the ”soul” of reality, its secondary properties, still cannot be captured in these mathematical formu­lae. This transcendental something, the ”soul”, docs not exist in the work as such, which consists exclusively of exchangeable units in a simple geometrical relationship to each other. In this, Galileo was right.

But this ‑‑‑something” is there even so, and it is precisely this that we find important. It is not in the figure, but in the spectator himself, because he is a person. We react differently to ”him” and ”her”, in spite of the fact that be and she prove to have exactly identical primary properties.

Jones’ entry consists of two such figures, she and he, set against each other. This, in my opinion, is a stroke of genius. What do we mean by art? Why is something ”beautiful”? Is it not because it expresses something that we would like to have said, but cannot properly formulate? Jones has found an expression of what we all feel. It is above all for this reason that his sculpture is beautiful. It is a synthesis, a fusion of primary and secondary, a bridge between the two cultures.

 

Tor Ragnar Gerholm

Professor in Physics at Stockholm University

(Dagens Nyheter. June 24th, 1964)