Born: 1942, Cozad, Nebraska
Education: BFA, 1964, Kansas City Art Institute
There‘s an unbridled exuberance which emanates from the paintings of Dan Christensen that reflects a reverential awe with the objects of the world around us that are usually more felt than seen. Appearing as momentarily captured abstract images of nature, ones that appear stationary enough for us to capture their essence, they are also as unceasing in their movement as the constellations in the sky, the lazy flight of a firefly, or the sound of a saxaphone twisting a musical note into the wind. Conjuring mysteries out of revelations, he creates a sense of an almost child-like excitement in his use of space, light, and color that is the realm of those who never acknowledge the inevitablility of losing our sense of wonder.
Perhaps one of the most entertainingly adventurous artists working today, Mr. Christensen utilizes a vocabulary of images that is constantly challenging the constrictive limits of stylistic categorization. Balancing the delicate simplicity of minimalism with the confidant and aggressive emotionalism of the action painters, he creates a certain tension within the picture plane that can be superficially jarring while nevertheless bucolic and tranquil beneath the surface.
In no small part, this is due to his masterful marriage of line and color that allows each to create their own flow and which becomes a visual manifestation of improvisational and rhythmic motion. In "Late Lola" (acrylic on paper, 2001), Mr. Christensen uses undulating white linear forms that rhythmically pulse and sway, seemingly about to break free of the picture plane but which nevertheless continually focus its intensity inward. This sense of harnessed energy is accentuated by the presence of a rather stoical geometrically architectonic shape that anchors the composition without being static or ponderous and a deep red ground that helps emphasize the symmetry and proportion of line and mass.
Conversely, in "Carriage" (acrylic on canvas, 2002), the artist allows those same undulating white lines to actually stretch beyond the limits of the canvas, creating movement beyond what the viewer can actually see and into realms that can only be imagined. The image reflects a dynamic sense of movement that is further emphasized by the circular forms in the lower portion of the canvas which give the effect of east-west motion, as if the image were speeding across the surface of the work.
Similarly, in "Serpens" (acrylic on canvas, 1968) the artist uses bands of interlocking ribbons of color that weave sensuously across the picture plane establishing a languid but seemingly purposeful rhythmic flow. Rather than dominating the composition, however, the contrast between these bands of brilliant pigment and the blue and red washes in the far background serve to draw the viewer‘s eyes into some indeterminate point between the two that one is cognizant of, but which is invisible to the naked eye.
Throughout these works, however, what makes Mr. Christensen‘s use of line and color to create his rhythmic composition so effective is his intrinsic understanding of the use of light as an integral component of the work rather than something which simply highlights another element. As a result, he is able to express movement and emotion that strikes the viewer on an unseen, almost subliminal level.
This is particularly true in works such as "Ice Rider"(acrylic on canvas, 1997) which pulses with an energy only partially imparted by the artist‘s use of expressive circular brush strokes that dominate the edges of the pictoral composition. Instead, its emotional power is drawn from his ability to create a sense of forceful presence from the luminescence that seems to emanate from within the colors themselves but that never seems to overwhelm them. They impart a certain intensity that is visually arresting but never harsh or glaring and the painting echoes with the words of the poet Henry Vaughan who wrote:
I saw Eternity the other night
Eric Ernst, 2003