Private view: Thursday 15 April 2010, 6-8pm
Exhibition dates: 16 April – 29 May 2010
Presented in London for the first time, the renowned Swedish painter Ann Edholm shows entirely new paintings of great force emerging as almost literally monumental statements unusual for Swedish art today, with numerous painterly references to those existential questions that appear more or less taboo in contemporary art. And she is a painter, a born painter to her fingertips.
Ann Edholm’s work has, indeed, slightly departed from those paintings shown in Berlin a year ago characterized by their surprising closeness to her own autobiographical narrative. Thus, at the moment, she is obviously moving into an even more subtle sphere of imaginery than perhaps ever before in her career since her first appearance in the mid-1980s. It looks like “classical” concrete or abstract art, but it isn ́t, of course. It ́s much more, enriched by its realism and figurativeness evoking images of deep concern about our existential being-in-the-world, tinged with personal humour associated with, among other things, Walt Disney ́s comics. Working in extended series Edholm stages large, occasionally even monumental paintings verging on both geometric abstraction and delicate expressionism. The latter reveals itself in barely perceptible details such as small thumbprints and smear marks made by the brush or, more often, by the palette knife, thus destabilizing the seemingly solid compositional patterns of basic geometric shapes. With an elaborate network of cultural, religious and symbolic references, Edholm meticulously merges classical painting with elemental geometric shapes together with sudden painterly gestures. While at the first glance these marks may appear as smudges, they reveal unexpected connotations to other traditions of Western art as well as to highly contemporary discourses concerning the relationship between painting and the self.
In Berlin, included in the series Tongue on the Tip, originally to be comprised of 14 large paintings and now a series of 25, was a final painting on the mystery of the resurrection according to the ancient legend of the Fourteen Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa, a theme represented by, among others, Barnett Newman. The latter is an artist especially close to Ann Edholm besides painters like Ellsworth Kelly, Kazimir Malevich, Matthias Grünewald and Arnold Böcklin. However, the Berlin paintings were more autobiographically motivated than any of the earlier works in the series. Though part of a still growing narrative beginning at the end of the 1990s, the paintings here were all-embracingly entitled Hinter dem Schweigen/At the Back of Silence. According to the artist herself, whose mother was born in Berlin and lived through the bombings of the German capital at the end of World War II, the paintings are conditioned by such a silenced experience that any violence is muted, a silence celebrated by a lamenting Kaddish so deep that you hear only the joy of those embracing life, those ever repeated incantations of rejoicing. Thus, it is no coincidence that some of the paintings in Berlin were titled Zungensprache/Glossolalia, and that some of the smaller paintings on aluminium were pierced by nails painfully stuck into the flesh of paint. This is something which Ann Edholm also brings with her to London extending her series with still more paintings based on personal memories and art historical references like the big one entitled Sub Rosa; in ancient Egypt the rose was the emblem of Horus, by the Greek and the Romans regarded as the god of silence.
- The body sees the image, Edholm says. In fact, the paintings’ monumentality and physicality evoke exactly that: the position of the viewer in relation to his or her own physical participation in a process involving both his or her own body and the painting itself as a body in space. In Edholm’s vision, the image opens up the painting into a space of both conceptual thoughts and physical experiences. The image is transformed into a window looking in on the space of the beholder. No, it is not a matter of Renaissance central perspective in which the vanishing point is “behind” the windowpane. On the contrary, the vanishing point seems to emerge on the same side of the pane as the viewer: someone is looking at you while, at the same time, the painting still obstinately asserts its own definition as a pure object. The image opens the space at the back of silence. Edholm’s works are deliberately construed to minimise interpretative effort and pave the way for a deeper, individual, and spiritually founded encounter with the visual, whether this encounter hurts or brings painterly joyfulness into the realm of enjoying art.
But, on the other hand, why does Edholm, when speaking of the pink colour of Sub Rosa, refer to the irresistibility of bubble gums while at the same time pointing at the two black wedge-like forms shooting up in the lower part of the painting as if they were the ears of her own black cat sticking up behind a snowdrift thus reminding us of the curiously peering cats of T. S. Eliot ́s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats?
- Please, the cat mutters, don ́t forget to remind of the crown of thorns, not to mention the resemblance of the stare to the nails.
Professor, Ph.D Tom Sandqvist