‘Hope Love Helium’, the title of Magnus Plessen’s most recent series of paintings, references both the human condition and the process of nuclear fusion that powers the sun. The images are imaginative responses to the ineffable dynamics of affection and connection, as well as the not entirely unrelated process by which stars have transformed hydrogen into helium and, eventually, all the elements in the universe.
As in Plessen’s earlier work, these images defy conventional notions of realism and abstraction, figure and ground. They show painted traces of the paper templates and the adhesive tape used to plan their compositions, along with outlines of the stretcher bars that suggest an uncanny ‘reversal’, as if, as the artist says, their brushstrokes mark a direct encounter with reality. Thematically, however, they are the creative responses to new, quantum theories of nature’s structures and energies.