© Bjærke Estate 2011 The painter The Norwegian painter Håkon Arnestad Bjærke (1910-1977) studied at School for Crafts and Art and at the Academy of Art  in Oslo from 1928 to 1932. He had his debut at the Annual Autumn Exhibition, Oslo 1932, and was represented here the  following four years. In 1937 he moved to Kaupang outside Larvik. His first solo exhibition was planned at Kunstnerforbundet  (The Artist Association), Oslo 1940, but was not arranged until 1945 due to the war. The following years he exhibited in  Larvik, Sandefjord, Bergen, and Oslo. He was invited to Den Frie Efterårs-udstilling (the Independant Autumn Exhibition)  in Copenhagen and participated here 1945-47. During the 1960s he exhibited in Larvik, Sandefjord, Odense, Würzburg,   Wiesbaden, Franfurt, and Oslo.   A representative selection of his production was shown in a retrospective exhibition at the Stenersen Museum, Oslo, and  at Vestfold Cultural Center Haugar, Tønsberg, in 2002. In 2010 Larvik Art Association arranged a memorial exhibition  at Galleri Bølgen, Larvik, showing 42 selected works.   Arnestad Bjærke’s drawings and paintings have a strong personal stamp. At the same time there is a wide variation in motifs and palette. The basis for his entire production was his unique talent for drawing with a firm but completely flexible and free line. Except for some of the early “surrealistic” works and a later series of geometrical studies carried out as a demonstration of his composition system, all his pictures have a figurative basis. He gave his motifs a characteristic organic expression which enhanced their character. In many works he included humouristic  details. His production may be divided into three main periods:1930-1940, 1943-1958, and 1958-1977. From the beginning of the 1930s a few paintings have survived which may be regarded as finished academy studies. These are Abstrakt (Abstract) 1930, Vindu (Window) 1931-32, and Akt (Nude) 1932-33. In addition, pictures representing different trends typical of the time but not fully characteristic of Arnestad Bjærke: Veien (The road) 1933, Fuge (Fugue) 1933 and Fire (Four) 1934. Even though these paintings therefore at first sight appear more conventional, they show that he is mastering the style- elements, and the pictures are characteristic of their genres. They were painted when the artist was in his early 20s. However, they also show the beginning development of his own individual style. Ten years later, in 1943, his own style is fully developed. In the following years he is creating geometrical pictures as well as pictures with a figurative basis, applying his own composition theories. During the 1950s a number of new compositions were created. At the same time old compositions were presented in new variations. From the late 1950s his style is further developed. The figurative motifs, both in new and repetitions of the old compositions, become more and more obscure, details disappear and the paintings tend towards pure colour compositions (Opus 46). Many of the paintings are now carried out on coarse canvas where the structure shows distinctly and the strokes become broader. A lighter colouring also becomes more prominent. The most characteristic element in Arnestad Bjærke’s paintings is, in addition to the drawing and the wide variation in colouring, the “transparent” surfaces. In its final form this is developed into a basic compositional principle in his paintings. The picture is built up entirely of  “transparent” elements bordered by contours. All contours are closed. This method results in pictoral elements over and under each other in apparently different planes, not side by side as in pictures influenced by the cubistic tradition. The relative colour change across the individual contours is the same along the entire contour and therefore defines the contour visually. Overlapping planes give the impression of a new colour which is a synthesis of the colour tones of the individual elements. This makes the light appear to pass through the picture, as if the picture lights up. It also allows to present figurative elements that are overlapping, as we see through the figures. For a description of the technical aspects of this composition theory see Tor Bjærke (2011): Håkon Arnestad Bjærke. Colour system and composition theory. Unpubl. MS. Already early in the 1930s Arnestad Bjærke applied transparent elements in his paintings. Examples are Abstrakt 1933, Uten tittel (No title) (dancer) 1934, and especially Hellige familie (Holy family) 1936. But in none of these pictures the composition system is completely developed. Some contours end blindly. Parts of the picture are separated from the rest of the picture, because some contours relate only to a part of the picture, not to the picture as a whole. Also the colour changes defining the individual contours are inconsistently applied  in these pictures when compared to later works. The colour calibration is in these early paintings based on subjective estimates and is coherent only within a single picture or in some cases only parts of a picture. The earliest pictures in which the contours are completely developed are Opus 19 possibly from 1936, and the abstract Tid (Time) showing the head of a woman, assumed to be from 1940.  (Opus 50 and Opus 42 theme 2  are dated as early as 1939). In these pictures the colours are only approximately in accordance with the later calibrated use of colours, especially regarding brightness. The picture Anatomi from 1940, is completely in accordance with the compositional system. It was probably when he had reached this point in the development of his art, that Arnestad Bjærke realized that he needed a coherent procedure to guide the selection of colours.