"Grekiskt landskap" by Ola Billgren, signed Ola Billgren and dated –87 a tergo. Estimate: 125 000 – 150 000 SEK. To be sold at Contemporary Art & Design on 12 November.
We are proud to present eight artworks by the Swedish artists Ola Billgren at this fall's major hammer auction for contemporary art Contemporary Art & Design. One of the highlights, "Män vid havet" is presented below.
The photographic image has always played a significant role in Ola Billgren's working process. In the 1960s, when his photorealist art sharply mirrored his own environment, the inspiration came from films and literature, the illustrated press and his everyday. During the 1970s Billgren developed a freer painting style. With a newfound sense of artistic freedom he was able to further investigate the possibilities of painting. He was now an established artist, exhibited internationally.
Billgren’s academic, almost scientific, approach to painting allowed him to continue developing. He sought out new challenges. In the 1980s he again broke away from his earlier motifs. The artist now gazed out across European cities and urban scenes, both from a street-level perspective and from the top of cathedrals. The colour red emerged and stretched out across the canvases, where previously it had only touched the surface, as in ‘Sagan (Snövit)’ from 1987.
In the 1990s Billgren created almost monochrome paintings in which the motifs were barely visible beneath layer upon layer of paint. Photographs were still important as templates and inspiration, but the painterly quality of colour was given an increasing prominence and was what carried Billgren’s paintings forward. The piece ‘Män vid havet’, executed in 1995, is an excellent example of this period in Billgren’s artistic career.
– In 1995 we made a longer journey to Italy. We travelled, for example, to Pompeii, and visited Tivoli and Villa d’Este. Ola took lots of photographs during the entire trip. When we got back he developed the images and they inspired his painting work, Anita Nilsson Billgren recounts.
The result of the trip was a series of paintings with classical motifs. They attest to the importance of the trip and the extent to which it left an impression on Billgren’s work. In the artist’s abstract surfaces a classical idiom, architectural details and images of sculptures began to appear.
The painting in the auction, ‘Antikstudie’, is clearly inspired by the artist’s visit to Italy a few years prior. What begins as an already distinct piece of painting is transformed by the artist’s hand and given a dream-like, evocative resonance. The grey colour is carefully introduced to the surface of the canvas in a way that is unmistakably Billgrenesque.
Signed Ola Billgren and dated –95 on verso.
Estimate: 400 000 – 500 000 SEK
Contemporary Art & Design
Viewing: 7–11 November at Berzelii Park in Stockholm, Sweden
Auction: 12 November at Arsenalsgatan 2 i Stockholm, Sweden