- Artist: Olav Strømme
- Creation date: (1975)
- Object type: Painting
The young Olav Strømme stood out in the 1930s with his existentially charged cityscapes, petrified flowers, and nocturnes. Several of his pictures were created with such unconventional materials as cement mass, coloured glass, and mirror shards, revealing a kinship with some of Max Ernst’s surrealistic depictions of ruin and destruction from the late 1920s.
In the 1960s Strømme returned to a dark, nocturnal imagery, now in more abstracted forms and often in large formats. Thalatta, which is almost three metres tall and almost square, contains mostly dark brown hues that contrast with glittering elements of silver. The surface is divided vertically into three distinct fields, with the right-hand field stretched out over a separate frame. Up close the viewer sees shades of blue and other colours, added by way of painted patches that were subsequently removed and that have left behind slight traces of paint that provide a vibrating, tactile impression. The title is Greek and means “the sea”. It refers to the historian Xenophon’s description of Greek mercenaries retreating from a disastrous war in Asia Minor, and their exultant cry upon finally seeing the Black Sea: Thalatta! Thalatta!
The American art historian Robert Rosenblum has noted how abstract painters from the midtwentieth century on, such as Mark Rothko, continue romanticism’s depiction of the sublime by using simple, abstract forms within large-scale formats. It is reasonable to imagine that Strømmewanted to create just such an impression of the majestic or boundless in this monumental, abstract painting.