‘Low Table’, 1951-54
THIS TABLE IS indeed rare. On view this week online as part of Stockholm-based Jackson Design’s contribution to Masterpiece 2021, it is one of only three tables known to have been made by the Swedish painter and sculptor, Olle Bonniér (1925-2016). Made of painted wood and glass, it is like a cubist painting come to life in three dimensions, its shifting coloured and transparent planes, geometric shapes and interlocking spaces a dynamic conundrum for eye and mind.
Bonniér was born in Los Angeles in 1925, but moved with his mother to Sweden in 1930. He went to art school in Stockholm, and travelled through Europe. His early work was much influenced by early Cubism, especially the work of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Fernand Léger, growing increasingly abstract and geometric in the 1940s, before breaking into more lyrical, fluid coloured compositions, inspired by light and sound, from the 1950s. He was also drawn to European concrete art, initiated by the Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg in Paris in 1930, and as a young man he exhibited his work alongside other Swedish Konkretist artists.
Bonniér’s foremost influence, however, was the sea, with its ever shifting mass and limitless layers of hue. Known primarily for his paintings, lithographs and drawings, the sea inspired an early series of monochrome layered paintings in blue and green. This table, also, captures some of the visual excitement of the ocean, with the sun striking in shafts through uncertain grey depths. With its irregular edges, it too reaches for infinity, refusing to conform to a conventionally boundaried design.
In an interview with Marika Bonniér Hansen, for her biography of the artist, Bonniér offered a childhood memory: “A teamyard wall in violet dark with a gap where the sun’s light dances through. Yellow shapes that swirl in front of the wall to suddenly pull back through the gap and again just be the sun behind, outside. A play with the light that has always gripped me with its magic.” It is some of that magic he is trying to recreate with this table, playing with contrasts of yellow and black, of swirling indeterminacy and hard geometries.