Danish artist Carsten Beck has mastered the art of simplicity, with punchy, catchy and instantly memorable designs that could grab you from a mile off. Huge slabs of paint in simple, appealing colours are angled to and fro against a white ground, sometimes falling off the edges or overlapping one another as if jostling for attention. The nuanced, retro colours and striking designs of Beck’s paintings revive the classic language of mid-20th century modernism, a time when the emphasis was on stripping design back to its elemental basics.
Although he was born and raised in a small town outside Aalborg in Denmark, Beck recalls always being drawn to the clean lines of buildings and streets. “Growing up I found inspiration in photographs of buildings and architecture as well as mathematical equations and curves,” he remembers back. Training in photography and printmaking opened up new avenues of creativity, but when he finally arrived at painting, Beck’s focus shifted towards an architecturally constructed, modernist-inspired language. Even so, both these strands of his past can be seen in Beck’s paintings today – his broad, flat panels of colour are undoubtedly inspired by printmaking, while close, cropped compositions speak an unmistakable photographic language. “My background in print making and photography gives me a new perspective in art,” he observes.
The influence of modernist design is also clear to see in Beck’s art; long lines and gently sweeping curves echo Marcel Breuer’s Bauhaus designs and the furniture of Charles and Ray Eames, while jutting angles and solid blocks suggest Brutalist architecture. Colour-wise, the tomato reds, mint greens and vivid turquoise blues in Beck’s art resembles the 1950s graphics and poster designs made by Paul Rand, Saul Bass, Max Bill and Milton Glaser, proving we still have much to learn from these design pioneers. Like the striking work of these graphic designers, Beck’s crisply cut designs also rely heavily on flat black, sometimes veering remarkably close to typography or stylised lettering.
Because of this close relationship between art and design in Beck’s art, he is deeply considerate of how his paintings relate to the architectural space around them, drawing out or enhancing the features of the room or gallery they inhabit. “I always try to live with my own work before I sell it,” he admits. “I like to see it and try it in a living environment and see how it affects a space.”