Landscape painting, especially on a monumental scale, typically evokes notions of the sublime, however, Andreas Eriksson’s exhibition, “Coincidental Mapping”, leaves me with a sense of modesty and unpretension. They are beautiful, contemplative works. This is Eriksson’s first UK solo show at Stephen Friedman gallery, and follows his participation at the 2011 Venice Biennale were he represented the Nordic Pavilion. Although he admits to minor influences from Northern Romantic painting, he does not claim any attachment to its’ essence of spirituality. Instead, Flatness, materiality, mark-making, and re-invented space are more germane aspects of his work, which speaks more about the act of painting itself.
Owing to a health condition, Eriksson lives and works in Medelplana, deep in the Swedish countryside, after he began suffering from electro-magnetic hypersensitivity. Until he was able to make suitable adjustments he also lived without electricity or TV, and this new environment provided visual information for his art.
There are eleven works in the exhibition, consisting of paintings and woven yarn pieces. Two paintings are monumental in scale and hover between figuration and abstraction. These massive works are reminiscent of atmospheric landscapes but I was struck by the flatness of the paint and a deliberately incongruous space. There is a pronounced directionality in the brushstrokes and a melange of impasto and diluted paint. In one of the large paintings, a muted and sombre background is applied with large flat areas of shades of grey. In the foreground, horizontal brushstrokes of large shapes of molten yellow dominate smaller ones in muted colours. A colossal rock formation in the centre appears to have been painted and then scraped away in vertical strokes making it so that it hovers over the surface, and just above it, a splodge of luminous green imbues the piece with an eerie surreal mood like a vista from another planet. What comes across as more significant, is the manner in which the painting is executed rather than the subject matter, dispelling notions of landscape and figuration. Instead, I felt the subject matter is more about the paint itself.
Eriksson speaks of a very early epiphany as a baby, when he recalls looking at a pile of snow and not being able to fathom what a sense of space was because he didn’t know where it was in relation to himself. It is this early memory of his experience that enters his work today, giving it a quality of ambiguity and intrigue.
His gaze extends not only to the view from his windows and his walks, but also to the shadows cast from the outside into the inside of his home. These cast shadows were additional inspiration and information for exploring shapes and the formal and abstract qualities they extend, as seen in the small yarn works.
I found these small yarn pieces very lovely in their simplicity. They are less atmospheric but very successful in how the surface space is orchestrated, and the depiction of the marks resemble drawing studies on the play of lights and darks. In one work, a small grey and a white square hover amidst a black background, but the blackness of the space is alive and active with a myriad of sensations and possibilities for interpretation. In another piece entitled “Portratt” most of the canvas in covered in black directional marks that are woven in small horizontal strokes. In the upper left corner, a grey irregular space appears, but most of the canvas is dominated by black. The irregular line is suggestive of something but we are not sure what. Only the title tells us it could be a profile. The grey space although diminutive in comparison becomes even more intriguing because of the surrounding black.
Andreas Eriksson is an interesting artist whose exhibition is worth a visit for its noteworthy execution and exploration of materials. His sensitive observations of everyday minutiae in the natural realm are a visual and tactile experience, and is very much about living in the present, the here and now. His art encourages us to improve our ability to see and to think about what we see.
WORDS: KAREN GARRATT, PHOTO: COURTESY OF STEPHEN FRIEDMAN GALLERY
Installation Photo. Image copyright the artist. Images courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Photography Stephen White
ANDREAS ERIKSSON “COINCIDENTAL MAPPING” STEPHEN FRIEDMAN GALLERY UNTIL MAY 25TH