Signe Adrian

All Thumbs

When Signe Adrian was a child, her head ached from the colour of one of her mother’s blouses. Colours still make a big impression on her, although now she finds expression through an exploration of painting’s elements in the broadest sense. Gauzy areas alternate with solid bands of colour on her canvases. Heavy thumbs create urgent prints which interact with straight lines, brush strokes and layers of stripes.

These are the paintings of Signe Adrian; the flow of a line and its analysis, vigorously executed, unceasingly curious. This toying with elements and an ongoing exploration of the materials of painting are increasingly a concern of the artist’s work. She describes her work as being almost clinical in nature. She likes assigning herself exercises, which she then approaches quite systematically.

Her work explores the significance of a brushstroke, the interaction of colour with various types of surface weave, the relevance of brush choice, how translucency can reinterpret heavier painting, and how the raw canvas can engage with heavily painted areas.

Take the lines: they can be thick or thin or even diaphanous, they may overlap, lie neatly in stripes or barely touch each other with a delicacy that Signe Adrian describes as ballerina-like. This brings us to the next question. How many lines should there be? After many experiments and completed works, the line has been pushed to such an extreme by Signe Adrian that she can go no further with it for now. She has reached several limits and has perhaps in the process encountered shapes, colours and forms which will require exploration on new canvases and in other contexts.

One can detect the legacy of American “Color Field” painters, like Sam Francis, in Signe Adrian's works, or one can try to attribute the influence of colour to young Danish artists, however her work is true to herself. The many thumbprints in the paintings and the titles refer to a lefthanded gaucheness which Signe Adrian fully acknowledges. She portrays herself as a clubfoot, one who employs large gestures and who therefore is always the one overturning the coffee cup. But when like Signe Adrian you gasp at colours accurately defined by masking tape, it is not strange to insist precisely on this clumsiness, to emphasise that lines need not be straight and that extraneous materials such as pencil, pen and marker can kickstart a painting, though they are traditionally the materials of graphics, not canvas. Yet using these media makes sense as Signe Adrian works on canvas in the same way most people work on paper, quickly and without correction. The diaphanous areas assume the properties of tissuepaper, exquisite and ethereal, yet with their own idiosyncratic strength.

A fundamental challenge for any artist is knowing when a piece of work is finished. Particularly, if like Signe Adrian one is working non-figuratively. However she has an innate sense of when the work ebbs and that she has been there – but is no longer.

Trine Ross, Art Critic for Politiken, 2007