Tina Jonsbu's Drawing: Quietly Present
By Henning L. Mortensen
Tina Jonsbu´s work nearly always encompasses the same; the documentation of gradual processes within a system of self set constraints which follow the rhythm of the body. She draws crosses, circles, dots and lines. Drawn forms that invite curiosity. `What is this?´ Many will ask when faced with Tina Jonsbu´s work. Her drawings are tracks of time, the track of time each work takes and the finished work at the end of the process. Consider the archeologists markers, marking layer upon layer of history in an archeological dig. The mapping of the find, all that witnesses human activity is documented in process and in collections. Such things catch the imagination and in Jonsb´s work one experiences slow processes of care and consideration. In this way she makes the almost unseen processes a little more visible. The series aspect of the work strengthens quiet, gentle impression. Quiet, but insistent, gentle, but powerful.
For the exhibition in Kunstnerforbundet 2009, she showed a series of drawings. One series was made up of 30 A4 sheets which showed different three dimensional patterns and jumped out with the same rhythm. She often gives a precise description of how she works, almost like a recipe in a cookery book, and perfect for anyone who wished to copy her…`Beginning with 15 cm diameter circles, I draw inward angles in rounds. The angles split and double each third round. Beginning with 5 cm diameter circles I draw using the same system but outwards from the circle. I stop when I am no longer able to split the angles without them clashing with one another.´ This description shows in simple terms how she works and which system she is engaged with. These are simple sentences, there is nothing mystical or pretentious art with a capital `A´. Jonsbu is fascinated with small unevenness, tones and imperfections which occur when she follows a system with much repetition. A small imperfection at the start will have larger consequences on other places on the sheet. I believe it is these imperfections that make the drawings so interesting, so full of life, like some kind of organism. The drawings are so bodily in feel and reflect the bodies rhythms; breathing, heartbeat, pulse and perhaps the slightest tremor of the hand.
In another series of 2 AO sized drawings she drew lines that were split and doubled every third line until she was no longer to seperate the angles; then she reversed the system with equally many lines. A number of these works were bought by the Police Academy and education centre at Kongsvinner. There is a curious symbolism in the fact that these works follow such rigid rules and yet what makes them interesting are the small imperfections. There is hope that the graduating students will take this practical humanism out into society with them.
This type of work can seem cold and machinelike in that they remind us of data graphics, they´re almost too perfect. However they always have a typical Jonsbu element of randomness, tiny gradations that highlight that we are human, not machines. there can be differences in the pressure applied to the pencil, differences due to breathing in and out, with the line following the bodies physical rhythms, and when one blinks it can result in the tniest of imperfections. These random elements break the rigid system Jonsbu has made for her work. She prefers to work in series where the random elements become even more obvious and displays the rich variation within the restrictions she has chosen.
A seismic log or contours on a map represent specific values within a subject concerned with physical structures. These `drawings´are similar to Tina Jonsbu´s work. Just as strongly build up with variations within their own system. Jonsbu registers, documents and collects and her work becomes an actual language with its own grammar.
For the exhibition at Galleri Kunst 1 in spring 2010, she showed a series of 300 small drawings which covered an entire wall of the gallery. The 101 drawings which didn´t find a place on the wall could be seen in a box. Each drawing had a different pattern but came from the same restrictions which were 50 points with ink in one direction and 50 points the other direction, with straight sides. She filled the negative spaces with dots but let different areas remain open from drawing to drawing. Many of these small drawings are completely different, some look similar to each other, some are positive and some are negative in the same pattern. This is a series she began in 2001, the series totals 401 drawings, and this figure rises all the time. With a series of such a large number, sooner or later it becomes a collection. A collection can be shown on a wall, in an album or in a shoe box. A collection lives its own life, it´s not necessary to view it, it´s good just to know that it exists and perhaps take a look now and again. Jonsbu is a collector. Her collections are always made up of seperate works with individual qualities that lose nothing through their coming together and being part of an exciting wholeness. They become personal registrations where the `whole´becomes larger than the sum of all their parts. Again, it is the small variations you see when you look at each drawing which makes a good art experience. It feels odd to say this, but each individual drawing has a nearness to it and when one goes from seeing the details to seeing the entire wall covered, one becomes overwhelmed by a `wow´experience.
At Kunst 1 she also showed a series of millimetre format graph paper, such is used to draw graphs and curves in schools. These sheets of paper had different background colours, most were orange, but some were light blue, grey, green and salmon pink. Jonsbu has found a range of these with different background colours. She has then made a dot in each square on the graph paper with ink of the same colour as the sheet of paper. What happens is that there is a colourful vibration between her dots and the lines that are still there. Dots and lines float together. The graph paper, a ready-made that she has almost not seemingly worked with, stands out with individuality and character. It´s an enormous task to fill out these sheets with more than 50,000 dots on each of them. Tiny variations occur were she has pressed harder in certain areas, which become non.figurative elements in the picture, almost invisible.
In the years that have passed since she graduated from the Kunsthøgskole in Bergen in 1997 she has been consistent in her work, as with many good artists, she has worked with the same work but with different expressions. `I want the `now´to be strong, I want to say something about the presence of `now´. She wrote in her thesis. `That to not hurry´.
Tina Jonsbu works with slow projects, and the foundation in all of her work is that she makes the almost invisible a little more visible. That that no one cares about, or takes for granted or doesn´t see. She does something with that, a gentle touch with a pencil, and that simple attention can lead to a big experience.