An introduction to Else Alfelt (1910-1974)


From the titles of her exhibitions and paintings we may get a sense of Else Alfelt’s fascination of the natural and strange spectacles of the universe: “The Beauty of the Mountains”, “The Dream and the Mountains”, “Land of Eternity”, “A Poem About the Full Moon”, “The Flower of the Universe”, “The Universe of Colours”. The earth, waters, mountains, and the moon are her chosen motifs, and thoughts of ‘the eternal’, ‘the universe’, and ‘the cosmic’ automatically spring to mind when one tries to interpret her colourful imagery.



Else Alfelt’s compositions are indebted to the surrealists and their predilection for automatic drawing. They are characterised by changes between soft, organic lines – spirals or circular shapes – and hard, geometric, pointed lines, often in crystalline patterns. Alfelt frequently makes use of the same procedure, where the basic outline of the composition is marked with pencil on the surface. Following this, the fields between the pencil lines are then filled in with precisely coordinated colour nuances. Thin, cobweblike line sequences can be seen where the white of the background is left unpainted. When painting in a freer style, Alfelt tends to make use of long, distinct colour strokes arranged in a rhythmic sequence.


Throughout her career, the spiral motif reappears again and again in her imagery, gaining increasingly obvious symbolic importance as the representation of life’s eternal repetition: Birth, life, and death. It is beyond all doubt that Else Alfelt herself considered her approach to painting to be closely connected to Japanese culture and its thoughts on cosmos, self, and enlightenment.