Stig Baumgartner: Key Figures
Galerie Forsblom, January 8–January 31, 2021
In his latest works Stig Baumgartner (b. 1969) combines precise, rational geometry with free, organic brushwork. The paintings in his Key Figures series are based on a compositional principle combining an identical number of interconnected horizontal and vertical blocks. This principle visually and conceptually symbolizes the human figure. The exhibition’s title, too, refers to the human figure, albeit that Baumgartner’s paintings ostensibly carry on the legacy of abstract geometrical painting. His compositions have the same, slightly twisted, off-axis symmetry as the human form. The Key Figures title also alludes to the universal paradox of abstract art, namely how non-representational elements easily tend to be perceived as a recognizable visual subject.
Baumgartner believes that the choices he makes during the painting process should be visible in the final composition. Each painting lays bare its own history, exposing every step of how it came into being. The organic brushwork anthropomorphizes the dimensions of the geometrical blocks, as if adding a layer of human skin. Baumgartner thus self-reflexively foregrounds his creative process as something corporeal, explorative, and experimental.
Baumgartner’s work draws inspiration not only from the history of abstract art, but also from sources as varied as everyday observations of his surroundings to real people and vivid dreams. His rectangular blocks are like architectural floor plans. Through mundane associations, Baumgartner demystifies the mythic aura of abstract art. In his own words, there is always something warped and imperfect about abstract art, revealing something salient about the human imperfection of what we call rational thought.
Baumgartner’s oeuvre consists chiefly of paintings, drawings, and installations. In addition to his artistic work, he is also a lecturer in drawing and perception at the Academy of Fine Arts. He earned a PhD in Fine Arts in 2015. He has completed numerous public commissions, the most recent being a public mural executed on the campus of Turku University in summer 2020. Baumgartner is represented in many prestigious Finnish collections including the Saastamoinen Foundation and Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art.