BENGT ORUP (1916-1996) was born in Lindesberg, but lived and worked in Domsten outside Helsingborg. His formal training ranged from Otte Sköld's painting school to attending the Grande Chaumière and Colarossi Academies in Paris from 1933 to 1938.
One of the pioneers of Swedish post-war modernism, he was experimenting as early as 1946 with stripped down, geometric assemblages related to l'art concret. The surface was his medium. Towards the end of the 40s and the early 50s, he created a series of concrete paintings presenting an elegant but simple interplay between geometric shapes and sharp contrasts. These original works, taken together with the work of the later decades, elevate him to a leading position among Scandinavian concretists.
The community was a vital scene for artists with a concrete, non-representative bent. They sought assignments where their knowledge could be used in people’s everyday activities.
In 1952, Bengt Orup became artistic leader for Johansfors Glass Works in Småland Province. Glass came to dominate his activities. He designed everday glassware, including services, bowls, vases and decanters, meny of which have become classics - in the series titled Presens and Strip he displayed his sense of effective simplicity. Orup has also signed dramatically coloured and shaped, wholly unique glass pieces. His career as a glass artist reached its zenith when he was invited to be guest lecturer at the Royal Collage of Art in London in 1968.
There followed a return to painting, though now in hiatus of informal, lyrical canvasses. Soon enough, however, he was manipulating geometric shapes once more. His Paris contacts were re-established and the 80s saw a show at the legendary Galerie Trente.
As time passed, he purified his art consistently and increasingly boldly. He used few colours, giving white and black a growing role. His attention was taken by nuance in the surface, by the movement of lines, seeking unswervingly "that picture which only represents itself, a new reality, a world unto itself, through which no possibility is given for association with anything already existing outside it". His own words, though there existed another fealty as well, one where his glass production played an important part.
This was the challenge of light, that interplay between volume, surface and depth which arises in an intensively vibrant sensual experience, that shift between the most concrete forms and a shapeless chaos. Finding balance for this, using as few means as possible to transform, tame and shape light, or chaos, if you will - this was Bengt Orup's course. As always, beauty lay at the center. The path was made of play and seriousness mixed, faith and doubt mingled, but the posture was always intimate and existential. And all was true of both the painting and the glass, existing as mutually illuminating facets of a tenacious artistry.
Thomas Millroth Translation by Sven Borei