‘At the bottom of his visual ur-memory something has been shaken up, lit up, has trembled through his body, and everything he paints is an answer to this arousement.’
Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Thomas Henriksson’s work exemplifies one of the more special qualities of painting; its ability to alienate and thereby show how our transcendent consciousness really works. Normally we do not wonder why the world looks as it does, the circumstances of daily life are stated in the never-ending process of interpreting sight, touch, smell, taste and sound. We move seamlessly in the world performing our errands and duties. What takes place in an encounter with a painting is that these combined sensibilities are disturbed, we stand in front of something whose function is to establish a relationship with us through sight alone.
The painting neither tastes, smells, hears nor feels (unless we touch it). Yet, strangely, it has the ability to awaken composite sense impressions of stored knowledge and awakened memories so that we now experience a heightened consciousness of our surroundings. The picture (size, material, form and colour) forces us, through its reduction of reality, to add our own experiences to its interpretation. And these experiences are always composed of information combined from memory and the present. Hence the strange phenomenon that we can experience how a painting tastes or sounds.

There is a long tradition of ‘truth seeking’ in which the painter has been driven to present sensual experience fused together with memory, and abstracted to a 2-dimensional form, Cezanne being an important example of such a painter. The phenomenon can be referred back to the above quote of the philosopher and phenomenologist, Maurice Merleau-Ponty. In the paintings of Thomas Henriksson this sense-transcending trait is clear. He continues to maintain and develop a tradition that focuses more on ‘how’ something is presented than ‘what’ is shown. This ‘how’ consists of a construction of the picture that evokes experiences and impressions other than the purely visible.
Henriksson’s intention is not to give specific codes to decipher the work. Rather, the meaning or the story is subordinate to the poetic, instantaneous event that can be released in the viewer when he encounters a painting and lets himself ‘tremble’ in the interaction of all his senses. Whereas daily life uses these experiences on a subconscious level, art helps to render them conscious; the familiar yet altered form places the viewer in the now - in the eternal momentary station between memory and expectation.
Henriksson saw the relatively early breakthrough of his work whilst still studying at the academy in his mid-20’s, as a challenge to set himself new goals. The early diffuse cityscapes were abandoned in favour of larger, more complex compositions of machines based on collaged photographs from magazines and books. This project extended over several years, as did

his next body of work, Film Stills, in which he focused on the constructed relationships between people and objects in different settings. These images, using movie stills as their source material, convey modern collective myths, similar to the way narratives in early Renaissance paintings convey biblical myths.
Up to this point Henriksson chose to depict man-made environments, whereas in his latest series, Weather Paintings, the viewpoint moves upwards and outwards, focusing on the huge skies that cover these settings. In spite of the 2-dimensional form, the viewer is involved in an increasingly spatial and tactile relationship to the painting as object that reminds one of the theoretical demands of Minimalism, even if the mode of expression is radically different. We are referred back to Merleau-Ponty’s idea of how all our senses are active in perceiving a painting, how we shift between seeing and feeling until the difference completely dissolves in these simultaneously atmospheric and compact works.
This seems to be the key to understanding Henriksson’s paintings. Their presence resides materially in field after field and layer after layer of colour, where gestural movements mirror the continuous shifting between the senses and the intellect.

Susanna Slöör, Artist, Art Critic and Director of Academy of Arts, Stockholm, Sweden

A Sense-Transcending Touch

Susanna Slöör,

Catalouge Text for The Weather Paintings , 2007

recension Joanna Persman av Thomas Henrikssons utställning Ristningar på Galleri Olsson November, December 2010