" All of the canvasses are dot-and-stripe paintings governed by systems that might seem mechanical were it not for the irregularities introduced by the human hand. Such chance elements cause vertical and horizontal undulations that vary the otherwise regular patterns, causing in large, dense pieces effects not unlike those of Op Art of the 1960s. 

Petersen´s smaller paintings are generally free of such effects, presenting chains of dots at some distance from each other on fields of flat, boldly contrasting color. Serendipity is not as important a factor here as is the artist´s meticulousness. 

The most succesful piece. " The Goldstar Project " is an almost eight-foot-square floor installation made up of more than 700 componenets. There Petersen´s color is unusually rich and of as much interest as the work´s overall pattern, which presumably can be changed into alternative configurations at the whim of the viewer, though just how much interaction the artist allows is unclear ".

 Outtake from review by

Alan G. Artner, Tribune Art Critic.

Chicago Tribune.

Published August 17. 2001


Essay by Julie Damgaard, translated by Sidsel Dahl-Hardt.

He leaves a trace; Peter Christian Petersen does.  An elaborate trace of dots and stripes running criss cross along the space of percepption – a trace you want to follow.

Follow down floors, down stairs and up walls.  To just once feel the forces of gravity letting go of your body and feel the field of opportunity opening up.  

It started as it often does, with pure figuration.  But the need to take the painting away from the depiction of recognizable objects towards a more impersonal, distanced expression gradually took over.

The path crossed the use of episcope and a raster pop art inspired work; ending in a systematic construction of modules - which still occupies the artist.

Today, the work field is no longer limited to the surface of the canvas, but encompasses three-dimensional space. Paintings alternate with spatial elements thus creating a greater installatory completeness; it surrounds and encapsulates the viewer. 

Often one feels thrown into a color saturated, pulsating environment of nucleus cells, - cell stems and dna threads weaving in and out among each other.  Only a strong geometric impulse – a grid – seems to keep the organic elements from an unrestrained all encompassing prevalence.  Like a thin, transparent second skin it surrounds the chaotic wilderness of life – it places an impeccable veil of order across the chaos.  It holds together the body of the work.

The sense of the power of these contrasting energies is strong in the works of Peter Christian Petersen.  The tension widens as a potential total destruction of the balance underlies the surface of each painting.  As with Bridget Riley whose ‘op art’ Petersen’s abstracts – despite their lively formulation – ties into.

There is with the words of Baudrillard a virus in the system.  A viral chain reaction that spreads from picture to picture, causing small mutations in the logical process of the system – in the size of the circles as with the distance between them.  Almost as a terrorist action (without the usual negative meaning of the word terrorist) that contributes to the suggestion of destabilizing – best described as an objective revenge over man and its project to master the world.  In this instance – a revenge over the complete planning by the artist.  Over the tightly composed patterns.  Herein lies the imminent possibility of the process to ask questions to itself and to commit to mistakes.

The odd and nearby “risk” of dissolution and spreading of the picture elements, that touches from the works’ battle between order and chaos – leaving the viewer with a passing sense of possible perdition into a sudden explosion of circles – at the same time revealing the passage into another realm, another dimension : the sublime.  According to Kant, the sublime happens when the beautiful shapes are being stretched as far as the “shapeless” – by that creating a revolution and undermining by the beautiful esthetics.  The sublime, as the meeting between infinity and the limitless is a theme that is found in each of Petersen’s` works of art – unity – but does not unfold in its entirety until the painting/installation – the entirety of work.  Due to the size of the installation, the ability to grasp or hold the entire work in one single view is strained and therefore the conception of limitless space is raised.  Feelings and associations that such a room awakes are called upon; feelings that always are tightly connected to a clear consciousness that one is being in a well defined, limited space. 

According to Diderot, the art of painting could not really be noted in the esthetics of the sublime before it lost the classical demands of imitation.

This statement strongly appealed to the generation of abstract painters of the 1900.  They found an acceptance of the new artistic initiatives in the words of Diderot.  From orphism, supremacists and constructiveness over neoplasticism and formal art to abstract expressionism and op art, compositions of lines, shapes and color on canvas, or sculptural shapes in space, have performed their effect directly upon the viewer – just as the light, the color, the texture and the movement did in he physical world.  The abstract, in all its expression, was according to Kant, the negative portrait of infinity.  Or, - with the later definition by Lyotard, “ the inexpressible”  (l’ imprésentable ).  Through the abstract, the painter, points to that which cannot be seen or conveyed.  Instead of expressing messages or beliefs, the abstract can be characterized as an event; an action that engages with reality adds new dents in it as well as enables the viewer to see the world in a new and different way.

The uncovering of the sublime dimension does not only unleash the force of creating but it also gives room to the independence of the artist and places the rules of creating in the center.  By this is not referred to the given rules, but to those, which have to be created in order to capture that which have not yet been produced.  To the artist of the 20th century this meant a showdown with the closed pictorial space and hierarchical order of modernism.  The attempt to recreate the unity and coherence, which no longer was experienced as a part of reality was dismissed.  In Denmark the tendency has been visible by Heinsen, Broegger and Moeller, who with a starting point in minimalism, broke with both the worship of beauty, the sense of unity and the attempt to always place man in the center.  Altogether emptied the work from traditional values.  Inspiration from the minimalists work with serial sequence which in principal can continue infinite, is also suggested in the work of Petersen; but the rules pertaining to the artistic creation – which is always tightly connected to the uncovering of the sublime, is put in other formulas.

In his research of serial procedures in consideration to color, size and intervals, area and sequence – Petersen have by example used painted foil on wall (the show “ Motorcycle emptiness – I can’t understand boy” 2002), acrylic and alkyd on canvas (“Prolonging until it’s finally too late” 2003) and chocolates on floor (“Now am I happy to see you or did I just put a canoe in my pants?” 2002). On the different surfaces, in a meditative rhythm, Petersen has placed a reiterative pattern of circles, dots and lines, whose symmetry is only broken by the margin of mistakes that the artist leaves open in the planned, almost mechanical work process.  This margin is part of giving the whole process a larger playroom and gives the work itself vitality.  In the middle of the principal of repetition one finds small deviations, best characterized as its own breath.  The expression gets a life of its very own.  A life that removes the painting away from mere decoration.  A sudden closeness appears – a dynamic on the surface, which in small glimmers opens up and lives in front of the viewer.  The play between this closeness and the sense of a surrounding incomprehensible space is a part of creating the arts own unique field of tension.

As in all abstract art, the viewer also seems to find references to the outer world in the works of Peter Christian Petersen.  References, that perhaps in their starting points are not made as such.  Elements that perform distorted or disguised but non the less, in their references or hints towards figures, are open to interpretation and creates a line of connections to our reality.  Connections that does not only hide in the commotion of the colorful patterns with their associations such as elements of the sky, bubbles, kaleidoscopes, woven textiles, streams of rain on a window or particles, but also in what the artist names as the special size of the painting.  A phenomenon that was evident in his solo show “ Themes for Heroes” at Overgaden in 2002, where several of the pieces were placed on Montana Furniture modules, as were they curiosities in mantelpiece setup.  A new way of thinking in how to use design in showing art; giving the painting a character of becoming objects among other objects. Instead of simply functioning as a two dimensional object on a wall, the painting was installed in such a fashion that it activated the surface of the wall, just as foil, lids of spray cans, canes and wooden plates inhabited and activated the floor.

In this manner a coupling between spatial elements and painting occurs, an effect that is seen in Petersen’s other installations.  The two parts are so to speak codependent on each other.  Concrete elements such as chocolates, disposable cups or cd-covers become extensions of the painting and vice versa.  The materials from the close everyday and the workday is not only being put into the rooms of the art institution and exhibited but is also used to stamp colors unto the canvas – being the shape of spray can lids, film containers and disposable cups.  Through these choices of material, the art seems to stand at a 1 to 1 relation to reality.  This trace of reality puts its unmistakably unique mark in the space of abstraction.  We are talking about a game, a play with the shapes as well as the pictures that are always created on the retina of the viewer.  That playroom, which the artist leaves open – is a playroom that we enter happily.  We instinctively perceive the underlying smile and feel its contagious effect – at the same time we wonder and ponder.  A wonder that in part is connected to the titles of each piece.  A mixture of the recognizable and the absurdity adds another dimension to the artistic work.  The titles are picked out from our daily life, from our consumer society.  They are quotes from movies, from music, headlines from newspapers.  Herein the biographical body of the artist; the intellect, the sense of humor stands.  In relation to the distanced painting, a personality, a narrator suddenly becomes visible.  Titles such as Bar Research 1, We Will Always Have Paris, James Bond Weather forecast, Quiet Farting in Public Places, Can of Smashed Assholes, The Truth is For Suckers, Johnny Boy, Pedestrian Theme Songs, John Holmes Memorial Services or By the Way, I faked every Orgasm; becomes an association navigator. The titles add an extra dimension to the work, which it couldn’t be without. Though not giving any answers away, it does send the viewer unto a far trip of thoughts – into new and undiscovered directions.  Often the title stands as a contrast to the piece of art it names but at the same time expands its field.  By the contradictory notes of the title – it points back to the contradiction and contrast the art contains in itself – and without which it would not work.  The title underlines a distinct issue in Peter Christian Petersen’s work.  Furthermore the titles place the work on a special branch in the glorified family by the name “abstracts” Away from the pieces whose titles places them in a larger series, such as, Wassily Kandinskys Improvisation no. 19 (1911), Piet Mondrians Komposition ), Blue Façade (1914), Theo van Doesburgs Komposition xxll ( 1920 ) or Jackson Pollocks No. 1 1949 (1949).  That the pictures of Peter Christian Petersen doesn’t get numbers, but each their own title is furthermore part of putting a distance to earlier generations use of altogether ordered procedures, mathematical ways, systematic order and structured fields.  Instead the artist work procedures seems unsystematic – not to say unruly.  Nature is free to range in the work of Peter Christian Petersen.  A ruly, unruly nature of circles lines and dots….