Distressed Complexes

  • Artist: Asger Jorn
  • Creation date: (1964)
  • Object type: Painting

On display: Room 075 The Collection Exhibition - After the great disaster


When Asger Jorn painted Distressed Complexes, he was at the apex of his career. This was in 1964, the year he rejected the Guggenheim Award; Jorn sought rather the acclaim of the general public. 1964 was also the year when the first retrospective exhibitions of Jorn’s art were held at several major art institutions throughout Europe.

The energetic, contrasting use of colour and the abstract style that manifests itself in Distressed complexes is what Jorn is most famous for. As one of the initiators of the CoBrA group’s collaborations from 1948 to 1951, he was an important catalyst in the development of anti-dogmatic and experimental painting in Europe. His art is often seen in context with the American abstract expressionism of the 1940s and 1950s.

What interested Jorn above all was Norse art. He regarded legendary heroes and the images of mythical creatures as primeval symbols that lurked in the subconscious of humanity. This belief has much in common with Carl Jung’s psychoanalytical concept of “archetypes”, a concept that greatly influenced the art and literature of the era. As compared with Jackson Pollock and other abstract expressionists, however, the artist subject played a more subordinate role in the mythology of Jorn’s art. Jorn himself was mostly interested in the public’s primordial, unresolved fantasy images. This was also what motivated the strange and at times contradictory titles of his works, which Jorn formulated in order to stimulate the viewer’s associative and mythologizing powers.

Text: Nina Sundbäck-Arnäs Kaase

From "Highlights. Art from 1945 to the Present", Nasjonalmuseet 2016, ISBN 978-82-8154-116-0


Asger Jorn

Visual artist

Born 1914 in Vejrum, death 1973 in Danmark

Work info

Creation date:
Other titles:
Betrængte komplekser (DAN)
Urolige komplekser (NOR)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
Olje på lerret
  • Width: 90.8 cm
  • Height: 70 cm
  • Depth: 2 cm
Gift from the Friends of the National Gallery 1965
Inventory no.:
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
© Jorn, Asger/BONO