published in: monograph Hannes Norberg, Salon Verlag, Cologne, 2008

Geometric patterns with clear horizontal and vertical lines are positioned parallel
or close to the picture plane within a pictorial space in landscape format. Drawn
razor sharp, they adhere to a set of rules, but nevertheless do not follow an exact
schema or structural design, rather mark the possibilities of variations in horizon
and height definition, as a system of coordinates with three axes within the space.
The x and y lines delineate surfaces in various proportional relationships, and all
possess a z axis that defines the space. This is however mostly depicted only in
shadow, thus as the absence of light, which materializes due to a slight shifting of
the depicted surfaces away from a central perspective and center axis. Just as
decisive is the pictorial space surrounding the geometric pattern, the image fore-
ground, which always begins at the lower picture edge, just as the pictorial back-
ground always ends at the upper picture edge. The intersection of both spaces in
the actual picture or the depicted spaces in the visualized image is the most tension-
filled zone, because this is largely concealed by the geometric form in the image
center and middle ground, which thus lies in the background but is still visible in
the areas of the left and right picture edge—and always situated very low. The
ruling principle of the pictures is axiality and symmetry, color reduction of that
which is depicted–usually only two or three colors are presented in a picture–
and a classical proportioning of the pictorial space according to the principles of
landscape painting with a low horizon. The dimensions of the works amplify this
effect; however they are not classical, but rather associated media-historically with
photography or film. This brings us to the issue at hand.

The pictures of Hannes Norberg are photographs. Photographs are based on the
exposure of objects to light through lenses onto light sensitive material. The rays of
light concentrated through a lens are recorded, which is why one refers to it as a
storage medium. This mapped memory is accordingly finite and holds nevertheless
endless variations at the ready. Photographs have the advantage of their iconic
status; the relationship between the real and depicted object is very close, whereby
they are assigned a higher validity. Because the objects rendered in the photographs
of Hannes Norberg are very simple geometric forms reduced to a limited palette, the
impression is formed quickly of an objective, concrete and true-to-life image. This
makes it easy for the eye to capture the content of the scene and, thanks to the
radically invariant pattern, to also quickly recognize and understand it as a photo-
graphed model within the space. The photographs therefore follow a code from which
a particular rhetoric is developed. The pictorial associations and their differing
actualities express themselves anew according to a basic pattern and yet remain
constant, so that the works are defined by a clear syntax: the two-dimensional
construction of space and its parallel saturation. The lines of the axes are endowed
with volumes characterized by light and conveyed by the texture of the materials and,
in the latest pictures, by the two-dimensional patterns in the image foreground and
the model platforms. Simply modeled, clearly structured, three-dimensionally
modulated, rhythmically composed, compo-sitionally balanced, defined through
lighting, spatially abstracted and iconically unambiguous in their absolute pictorial
logic, we are confronted with painterly thinking in a spatial composition on the level
of photographic rendition. And in the medium of photography, everything remains
completely abstracted and yet extremely precise as to what it is – at least as an
archetype of the medium! What can we therefore conclude?

Let us approach an exceptional and recently completed project in Norberg’s oeuvre.
An actual constructed object, not a model, but a church entrance in Worms, for which
he designed glass panels between the steel architectural elements. In a new, almost
deconstructivist, extension to a medieval convent church, four vacant spaces between
the cortens steel plates—the entrance and three window panels—were to be con-
structed. Norberg chose a color-neutral circular pattern for the entrance area that
corresponds to the traditional crown glass in the church interior, whose circular inner
surface is sandblasted from the outside to achieve a heightened light effect inside
and a transfigured view to the outside. The narrow skylight opposite the entrance
features a highly magnified detail of the crown glass with an emblematic effect. In the
back section of the annex, the thematic framework of the featured elements is ex-
plored through color. One plate is sectioned into a yellow and grey rectangle;
opposite, the largest glass panel is divided into transparent green and blue geometric
planes. The spaces surrounding the entrance, in a manner of speaking the incidence
of light from the architecture and from nature, become filtered beams of light for the
viewer standing in the entrance. The viewer gets a filtered view through the
geometric circular and rectangular forms, which have always played a definitive role
in the relationship between exterior and interior, as the metaphor of light within the
space and the image as a view from a window.

Much can be recounted about pictorial compositions from past centuries, in churches
and houses, in paintings and photographs, regarding the shift in attitude of artists
and their increasingly abstracted world view as an interior perspective. Narratives on
the exchange of perception and awareness ultimately led to new perceptions; as a
result perception developed into a differentiated system, most of all with respect to
the image. Norberg also creates his images in a study, a workspace, a workbench, or
a laboratory if you will which examines and studies visual perception. Likewise the
preliminary studies on graph paper are akin to architectural sketches, in which he
tests and analyzes the proportions of architectural structures, spatial objects and
sculptural monumentality and subjects them to two-dimensional examination. Then
there is a series of color tests and finally, as a model on the drawing table, a study of
the extension into the depth and height of the space. The result is usually a large
format photograph, in whose visible image area appears the spatial metaphor of
“image as construction,” which does not repudiate its model character but also largely
foils any relationship between the surface and the surrounding space. It is therefore
not explicit whether it is the painterly component, which Norberg projects into the
space, or the spatial component that prevails, by which he suggests the painterly
within a fictive pictorial space. Or if it is cinematographically intended, whether the
screen represents the rectangle within a space encompassing the old movie house
idea—comparable to the drive-ins of the Japanese photographer Sugimoto—and only
awaits the projection. They are sometimes projection screens, clear and prosaic,
statically constructed, divided, cropped or splintered, shredded. But it remains very
deliberately undetermined! Here the last works offer insight, with sometimes black,
blue or orange-colored Styrofoam elements interlocked and nested in each other,
constituting a type of Arctic Sea by Caspar David Friedrich, assembled as a panel but
also constituting a deconstructivist architecture, fabricated with the means of a CAD
program like CATIA. These structures are striations without a functional attribution
—constructed images as if specified by the normal static conditions of wall and
support. But in them the situation of the studio is made clearer and the proximity to
painting more abstract. Hannes Norberg represents in the monochromatic forms
parallel to the picture plane another side, a sublime, monumental placement of the
image as model and picture within a photographic image, whereby the distinction
between the aforementioned picture-space-constructions becomes more explicit but is
nonetheless left undetermined.

One issue remains. It is the indeterminability between the media and the stages of
perception, between the principles of the lab and those of its application. Technical
perfection in control of the model or the model in control of technology—in the sense
of that which is human, in the sense of humanity. Must we ask? Hannes Norberg
succeeds in transforming our conventional relationships to our surroundings by
creating spatially compacted and tension-filled pictorial spaces that are conceived in a
strict geometry and highlight and transcend reality.

Norberg works extraordinarily precisely with model building materials that evoke
architectural fragments or models and at the same time thematize abstract painting.
In his analytical handling of the displacement of scale and fragmentation, a cool
aesthetic emerges, full of clarity and simple forms, but also inevitable alienations
arise, giving new vision to that which is well known.