Somewhere over the rainbow

"Iras", Olle Baertling, 1959

"Iras", Olle Baertling, 1959

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away I was introduced to the colourful charms of the Swedish artist Olle Baertling by the lovely Julia.

Back then I was not really convinced about the “original contribution to modern art” of Baertling’s non-figurative works – but I have an open mind as well as having a good few reasons to listen, not least because Julia knew what she was talking about and had already started to collect pieces from her favourite artist.

And who was I to say thay she (and most of the art critics around the world) were wrong?

"Aiyam", Olle Bartling, 1955

"Aiyam", Olle Bartling, 1955

Whatever I thought at the time as regards the artistic quality, there was never been any question that they were colourful and eye-catching pieces and maybe that is what some art is all about?

Nothing more, nothing less.

With time however, I have come to appreciate this style more and more and as my knowledge and appreciation of art and graphic design develops I can start to see how these seemingly simplistic creations sit nicely in the convergence zone of both  disciplines.

I am still a little bemused however about Baertling’s creative process and the understanding is only partially increased when reading about the development process of his sculptures

Even then the issues are more clearly related to the structural engineering challenges of recreating the desired effects in the appropriate materials.

"Yellow Centre", Herbert Bayer, 1970

"Yellow Centre", Herbert Bayer, 1970

A contemporary of Baertling is the multi-talented Bauhaus master Herbert Bayer.  When he wasn’t escaping the Nazis he was creating wonderful functional artworks in the form of fonts, bank notes, photography and exhibitions.

Although he was, among other things, art director for Vogue – his first passion was his own multi-colour geometric paintings, but it wasn’t until later in life that he found the time and space to focus his desires…

"Chromatic Twist", Herbert Bayer, 1970

"Chromatic Twist", Herbert Bayer, 1970

I am a bit of a font fetish and although I don’t love Bayer’s seminal creation P22 Universal, you have got to admire his foresight in predicting email and text speak with this attempt at creating a font that is strictly “single case”.

It’s also fairly clear from the names that he graced his creations with that he was more a creator of images rather than a gifted wordsmith – “Chromatic Twist” (seen here) being the exception that proves the rule!

"Baertling Wannabe 1", Carl Kleiner, 2009

"Baertling Wannabe 1", Carl Kleiner, 2009

Another multi-talented artist who has, among other things, mastered the art of photography is Swedish commercial photographer Carl Kleiner.  Based in Stockholm Kleiner has done some amazing photo shoots and videos for many famous magazines and brands.

The most easily recognisable for those who have been to the Design Museum and the Brit Insurance Design of the Year exhbition recently will be the various elements of the Ikea kitchen ad campaign shot and produced by Kleiner for the supporting book and TV ad spots.

"Baertling Wannabe 2", Carl Kleiner, 2009

"Baertling Wannabe 2", Carl Kleiner, 2009

My personal favourites however are his own variations of classic Baertling in his Baertling Wannabe collections.  These derivative works have definitely updated and (some might say) surpassed the original in terms of artistic endeavour and impact.  The way in which they have been created and then photographed adds significant value – and the fact that they are so openly and obviously copied raises the following question: is Kleiner poking fun at the simplistic nature of the original works or is he really being irreverent?  I would suspect that the answer is in the title – but I’m not sure…

This entry was posted in Art, Design, Photography, Web wanders. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Somewhere over the rainbow

  1. Lauren says:

    Hello! I am writing you to inquire as to where you got your image of Olle Baertling’s “Iras” 1959, which you use in this post. Have you seen this work in person, or found it in a book? We would like to use this particular work in a publication, but have not been able to find it anywhere else, and the Baertling Foundation does not know where it lives.

    Thank you for your help! You can email me back at

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