By the light switch, just inside the doors to the entrance hall of the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering at the Royal institute of Technology in Stockholm, there is a little blue square made of wood. This is a signal, a clue, to Jacob Dahlgren’s polychrome wall relief which, unusually, is sited at a distance from people entering the building. The entrance is an open two-storey hall. Students gather at the tables on the lower level and chat or study or have meetings. On the upper level are the windows and a wide balcony with more places to sit and the entrance to the computer room. The colour scheme is neutral. It is only when one has taken a few steps and then turns round and looks up that the sparkling relief becomes visible in the corner at one end of the balcony. If we con sider the entrance hall as a construction of repeated, regular units, then the compositional elements of the relief are a formal and rhythmical conception of ambiguous contrasts of colours, lines and levels. There is no evident pattern to the mosaics made of different-sized, projecting wooden blocks. The geometrically reduced forms lend the image a sense of movement that both acts randomly and is carefully formulated in the relation ship of each individual part to the whole. The pulsating rhythm of the relief seems to spread through the room – and in fact there are three small wooden blocks placed within the room; the blue one at the entrance as well as a green one and a yellow one further away on the balcony. With a humorous touch they are placed in a composition with other geometrical forms that are important to the room’s functions: as a light switch and as various sorts of service hatches. Function and concrete composition.
The design of our modern environments has, to a great degree, been influenced by concrete art and it is difficult today to see the reduction and the constructive design without seeing similarities with the figurative expressions that surround us. Where Mondrian dreamed of a world of images that were pure, spiritual expression, pure relationships without mimetic forms, we now see images that open themselves for other interpretations. Is Jacob Dahlgren’s wall relief a cityscape, a non-earthly settlement in the manner of a dystopia, a microcosm created from a computer chip? Or is it a linguistic cipher, a work that is related to theories of correspondence, like Arthur Rimbaud’s poem Voyelles? Each colour has its vowel its sound, its music.
For the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering this work of art, with its constructional elements, is also a reference to analogies between artistic theory and the actual expression they have assumed and assume in today’s public spaces.