Max Book’s new images are difficult to grasp. When consciousness attempts to take hold of his images, and determine their meaning, it is as if they slip through the fingers like sand. The onlooker quickly begins to understand that Book moves within a framework where the usual state of things is put out of order.
Ever since his debut in the late 1970s, Book has opposed one-dimensional readings of the pictures. His work from the 1980s was charged with contradictions. With his well-known ”gap” between visual notions and style classifications, Book was able to play contradictions against one another form of distortion has occurred. The motifs are recognisable on one level – people in nature – but seem unstable, as if, at any moment, they could collapse.
Book’s latest paintings stem from photographs, the majority of which are taken in the area surrounding Handen. In the images of thickets, meadows, and streams, we meet a Nordic nature that may call to mind both Anders Zorn and Bruno Liljefors. The darkness is deeper; however, the paintings occasionally erupt into ”blind colouristic beauty”, to use the artist’s own words. The motifs are like a cloth being wrought out towards its ends. The scenes are turned inside out as if the were viewed through a psychosis or LSD-trip. The psycadelica of the 1960s and 70s is clearly an underlying reference. The effect is reminiscent of techniques used by movie directors, such as Alfred Hitchcok, in order to provoke a sense of discomfort. With a so called dolly zoom – the camera is pulled away from the motif whilst zooming in – distorting the proportions of objects in the foreground and backround, which has an extremely distressing effect on human consciousness. In this manner, the usual order of things is displaced in Book’s new paintings. Nothing can be taken for granted. The wellknown has become estranged.
The manipulation of scale in order to break with a conformed vision is also something we find in romantic landscape painting. This break constitutes a starting point for Book, but perhaps not so much in his iconography as in his visual rhetoric, his way of extending the image in order to increase the drama, create lacunas between depicted objects and people, blind (or yellow) spots in the middle of the image that one’s consciousness must fill in.
The images appear to be imprints of a state of mind, an experience that nature has come too close while, at the same time paradoxically remaining distant. The world is seen through a medial filter. On the surfaces of the images, there are splashes of yellow, blue, or magenta, reminiscent of blots of printing colour. Some of the paintings portray a kind of McLuhan-ish media mass, where time is bent in and out. The world is curved inwards. Everything is rotating faster. ”There must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief.”