Danish Painter Per Hillo Delineates Our Interconnectedness

Few contemporary paintings evoke the underlying energies of all things as dynamically as those of Per Hillo, an artist from Denmark, on view at Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th Street,from January 6 to 27, 2009. (Reception Thursday, January 8, 6 to 8 pm.) For although his paintings contain images, the overriding element in Hillo’s compositions is energy itself, expressed linearly in a manner different from yet akin in its own way to how van Gogh’s jotted strokes energized his canvases, making poplar trees dance like flames and flowers appear to wiggle on their stems.

In Hillo’s case, everything in his paintings is submerged in an organic environment wherein plant forms, groups of human figures and other elements merge within the confines of his restless, constantly probing line and subtle color harmonies.

The artist whose imagery has been seen everywhere, from mural scale decorations for a luxury hotel in Dubai to giant paintings for corporate offices to the CD cover of the recently deceased jazz musician Niels Henning Ørsted Pedersen to more than twenty huge works for a chain of banks in Copenhagen¬¬states simply, “My art is about communication and about the way we interact.”

Visually, Hillo expresses this idea by virtue of the interconnectedness of all the images in his paintings, wherein the boundaries between the various elements become nearly indistinguishable, merging in the graceful permutations of his flowing lines and the forms that they delineate. Indeed, the line between abstraction and representation is all but erased by the free flowing movements of Hillo’s brush, which also makes a mockery of what we normally think of as the comparative scale of individual things.

Sensual plant forms, for example, often loom much larger than the human figure, which may be enmeshed between their leaves, along with faces and abstract forms that defy specific description. The thrust of Hillo’s pictures is invariably Expressionist in the same undogmatic manner as the school of mostly Scandinavian artists known as the Cobra group.

Like his fellow Danish painter Asger Jorn, the most well known member of that movement, Hillo is a marvelously fluent painter for whom every painting is obviously driven by emotion and an unerring instinct for form and color. Indeed, it is the intuitive choices that he apparently makes in the act of painting, rather than any contrived intellectual formulation, plan, or forethought, that imbues his compositions with such irresistible energy and contagious verve.

Titles such as “Life and Opportunity,” “Flowers of Love,” and “We Are Growing Together” seem to express the visual metaphors that Hillo generates through his mergers of plant forms and the human figure, conveying a sense of the interconnectedness of all things in nature, not only through line, but also through the often close-valued colors which knit his compositions together both formally and chromatically.

In terms of composition, Hillo can only be termed a “Maximalist” for his habit of filling almost the entire picture space with a lively array of shapes that appear to swarm before the eyes, forming as they flow contours both recognizable and abstract. All, however, are animated by the selfsame energies that converge with seeming effortlessness from the artist’s brush, lush and sumptuous.

Per Hillo appears to be one of those natural born painters who spring up fully formed, acutely attuned to their own inner music.

Maurice Taplinger

Image Credits: Enjoy the Journey, Acrylic, 16" x 16"

Read more reviews