Billgren's paintings are characterized by both duality and ambiguity, both in expression and in content, and the dreamlike presence is unmistakable. The technique underlines this by constantly moving in the borderlands between realism and the abstract - where the two opposites define Billgren as an artist.
His work undergoes several phases, or metamorphoses, which manifest themselves in his different periods. The early hyperrealist painting later moves toward the less representational and culminating in the red period where the paintings that are covered with a bright red colour meet the viewer. Billgren chooses to reduce the original image and with the addition of the red, he creates a painting that, through constructive and reducing processes, has found its final form.
› Signed Ola Billgren and dated -94 on verso. Oil on canvas 156 x 100 cm. Estimate 500 000 – 600 000 SEK.
In the catalogue that accompanied the exhibition at Galleri Engström in 1996 the artist expresses it this way:
The task of painting is to be a discourse about seeing and not to classify in kind. At least this was my starting point when I started experimenting with (quasi) monochrome painting in cadmium red three years ago. At first, from a colour experience point of view, it seemed most appropriate to refrain from all representational content, but I changed my mind after a period of investigation. I had become attached to the colour red mainly due to a paradoxicality with it, that it at once pleases and attacks, flatters, and humiliates the gaze. It turned out that the interpretation of this relationship benefited from the introduction of an operator in the shape of a simple motif, for eg portrait or interior character (faces, furniture, etc.) which in an energetic way appealed to the viewer and gave a less peaceful meaning to the scrutinization. In that way, by filling the place of the referent, I hope to be able to say something about the visual necessity: about both the will to see and the will to be seen as well as to give an uncensored version of the symbolic register of red. In other words, what I am trying to do is to make the color open up semantically through a certain analysis, so that its more or less given meanings have their context elucidated.
The current catalogue number "Kvinnofigur i landskap" from 1994 shows exactly the elements that we recognise from the red period where we in the background see a greatly reduced but still recognisable image of a female figure.