- Visual analysis By Christopher R. Inwood
Hotel Lounge, 1958
Oil on composition board
120.1cm x 155.1cm
The painting Hotel Lounge by Jon Molvig (1958) depicts four fashionable women seated around a small table, a smartly dressed waiter carrying beverages, and a figure that recludes into the background of the hotel lounge scene. The clear expression of narrative created by Molvig smacks the viewer in the mouth. The first visual shot throws the viewer back, reeling, from the sharp burn of energy and colour running down the viewer’s throat. As the viewer composes themselves for the next taste they find themselves stumbling in with speed to the painting's focus point, only to fall back again dazed and groggy as the eye bounces off each wildly luminous brush stroke. Again and again the viewer drinks only to be thrown back to their seat at the bar, not allowing the viewer to join the reality of the scene, but to sit and feel the energetic atmosphere of the drunken hotel lounge. The key elements of colour, line, design and style all converge in this painting in order for the viewer to feel the drunken 'vibrant energy' of this lounge.
Colour is the viewer’s first drink that allows entry into the vibrant energy of the painting. Molvig's highly saturated cool blues and warm reds, complemented by orange and green, sends the viewer back, allowing the colour to dominate the visual field. Molvig's warm red brings you into the heated atmosphere of the scene. This red converges at the top of the painting and creates the viewer's main focus point, which mixes through the atmosphere to the left of the painting, where green is used to contain the heat and prevent it exploding from the painting. In contrast, Molvig's use of jazz trumpeted blue swells over the figures, twisting off each of the women’s remarks through the lounge, until it hits the back right wall, leaving it's notes across the painting. These two dominant colours interplay together, depicting both the radiant heat and jazz smooth mood of the lounge, and with these elements combined, the energetic atmosphere cannot be suppressed.
Molvig's use of contour lines and compositional lines direct the viewer's attention to the dominance of colour in the painting, which intensifies the energy of the scene. The saturated red area produces an implied compositional line that leads the eye to the heat of the room, which is the main focus point of the painting. This line is also used to draw the viewer back into the painting. The implied line is complemented by two sets of contour lines that run off a black chair, continued by blue contour lines that edge along the central figure’s reclined arms. These contour lines further speed your decent into the painting, leading the eye to the main heat and energy of the lounge. As the viewer recedes from the over whelming colours, the eye is sent feverishly in all directions, fizzing off contour lines and wild brush strokes that do not allow the eye to gain focus, blurring the reality of the scene. Molvig’s use of line works to blur an academic reality, guiding the viewer to focus on the atmosphere and directing the viewer to the dominance of colour and energy in the painting.
The composition of Hotel lounge has been designed with dominance, a focal point, balance, economy and scale to compliment the expression of the atmosphere and energy of the scene. Molvig's dominant use of saturated colour culminates at the red focal point, the heart of the lively painting. His design asymmetrically balances the focal point with complementing colours to sooth the beating heart, allowing the viewer to continue to drink in the vigor of the lounge. The use of economy, by simplifying the figures and objects, fades the viewer’s attention to these elements, allowing the warm haze of the drink to wash over you, the voyeur at the bar. The large scale (120.1cm x 155.1cm) of this painting expands the dominance of the highly saturated areas of colour in the hotel lounge. Together these five principles of design aid in the expression of the drunken energy of the painting.
The style of Molvig's 1958 painting is indicative of expressionism, predominantly used to visually illustrate the emotion or meaning of the work rather then the physical reality. His expressionistic style is used to convey the vibrant energy of Hotel lounge, as it reduces the use of space, mass, volume and proportion, helping illustrate the emphasis on the emotion and meaning rather then the accurate portrayal of reality. By exaggerating the use of dominant saturated colour, line, scale, and economy Molvig’s effective use of expressionism clearly portrays the vibrant energy of Hotel Lounge.
The key elements of colour, line, design and style all converge in Molvig’s painting, making the viewer feel the drunken 'vibrant energy' of the lounge. Through the use of two dominant, complimented, and saturated colours, an energetic heat and mood is set forth in the viewers visual field. The use of line throughout the painting directs the viewer to major elements of energy and blurs the focus on reality. Molvig’s compositional design uses scale, dominance, balance, a focus point and economy to emphasise the vibrant energy expressed in the painting. The expressionistic style of the painting also enables the viewer to focus on the atmosphere of the artwork. Hotel Lounge is the expression of the vibrant energy of a drunken night in this hotel lounge.