Kristina Mezei about Dan Wirén

There is a veritable storyteller concealed within these seemingly unassuming black and white images. Dan Wirén’s prints, like his paintings, are all the more engaging the longer one observes them.

Dan Wirén’s black and gray splotches offer unexpected narratives. They also titillate sensations of motion and gravity in one’s body. You want to back off, listen or smile. It is somewhat like standing before a number of complicated ink blots for psychological testing, Rorschach tests. There is a sender here who is searching for an interpreter or a fellow observer. I willingly let myself be seduced. This is clever, warmly contemplative and at times humoristic.

After years of making paintings, Dan Wirén has recently spent a great deal of time making only prints, primarily in black and white. Of course this is not the entire truth since there is a gray scale between them, which in his case ranges from shimmering powdery white nuances to compact jet blacks. He has been captivated by the possibilities of aquatint etching, a kind of intaglio print that is built up using tones and tonal areas instead of lines.

The word aquatint comes from aqua tinta, which means colored water. This probably refers to the similarities between this method and the use of washes, i.e. painting watercolors by using only black or sepia, which was very popular when the technique of aquatint was introduced during the 18th century. Goya became the foremost aquatint etcher. During the 20th century the possibilities of aquatint were exploited in color and large format prints by French artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Roault. They all etched the painted stroke rather than the unpainted areas of the plate, which resulted in the image having a more spontaneous and painterly character. The paintbrush was dipped into a sugar solution – consequently the technique was named sugar lift.

Also included in the secrets of the working process are the print itself, together with the transformations that occur while working on the plate and etching it in the acid, and the seconds when the printed paper is lifted from the press bed. Only then it is revealed whether the artist has succeeded in capturing, retaining or ignoring the possibilities of both chance and conscious control.

Dan Wirén’s images have a fresh directness that is characteristic of calligraphy. The lightness of hand smoothly follows the spontaneous motion of the gesture. We are reminded of the automatic drawings of the surrealists, and the abstract expressionists’ formulations of both flow and frustration, primarily the former.

The silhouette-like shapes can be filled with diverse contents. Sojourns in nature, quiet moments and observations full of reflection with a sketchbook in one’s lap are important – not for a world of form where likeness dominates, but rather one where precision allows space for multiplicity and alternatives at the same time.

Kristina Mezei
Fil.dr i konstvetenskap
maj 2009