Wednesday 19 March 2014

Review of Astrid Svangren at Maria Stenfors

Astrid Svangren:
before me: I roll in the snow/ rotating/ raveling/ turned/ twisted/ to an expression of instance

behind me: peonies/ disassemble/ loosen up/ breaking down/ collapsing

beside me: enfleurage/ ointmentlike/ perfumed solids/ without body/ engulfed/ collected/ to a given

under me: loose materials/ mishmash/ knocking/ beating/ leaf buds/ opening/ chlorophyll/ watercolor/ unfolding/ fold in

over me: froth of sugar/ corals/ sea anemones/ jellyfish/ seasnails/ all is viewed/ lulling/ as long as it lasts
Maria Stenfors
14 March – 26 April 2014
Swedish-born, Copenhagen-resident artist Astrid Svangren (b. 1972) is not one for short titles. The above poem serves as both the title of the exhibition and as the title of each of the seven works within. And actually it describes them better than any other combination of words I might seek to contrive. I can but try, regardless.
Candy coloured sheets of plexiglass hang like barriers, separating one world from another; one dream’s landscape colliding with a fragment of the next; a window; a mirror; a wall.

Blue: like the ocean, inscribed with the words of the poem-cum-all-purpose-title, scratched and scuffed, graffitied, distorting what lies on either side.
Pink: daubed with candlewax and cellophane. Like sweet wrappers or confetti. The ground upon which a painting has been born. Look a little closer and maybe it’s not as enticing as it seems. Is there something awry in this gingerbread house? Was it the scene of a tussle? Of something more angry and violent? Are the stains and substances not what one at first perceives?

Black and white: hung flat against the wall. Like a net curtain, there’s the desire to lift a corner and peak through the window. Black scrawls and red splashes. Again we pause to question whether we’d actually want to see more, were we able. Two pink silk crescents at the top: horns or lingerie, either way the suggestion is of adult play…
…which involves, perhaps, the cascade of ostrich feathers hanging nearby?...
…themselves mirrored by a tumbling down of yellow silk and horsehair, cellophane and elastic strings. Each work takes something from the last and passes something on to the next. There is a narrative being woven, albeit with breaks. These fragments – each from a story of their own – come together to tell an overarching other.

And fragments from each are hung out to dry on the frame in the neighbouring room. Dried lemons, hair grips, Japanese silk, balloons, metal wire, tights, sponge, beads… Domestic yet strangely uncanny, an unknown magic or voodoo. Again, drawing you in to peer curiously, but then that recurrent uncertainty: Will I like what I find?
At the farthest corner, a mirror reflects it all back. Daubed and scratched, smeared and painted over. Standing too low to be seen into without crouching. Black roots reaching into the ground – that which persists, stubborn and resilient, or that which takes root afresh, striving forth towards a new existence, the next life, reincarnation? The caterpillar becomes the moth. Or is it the butterfly?

Who is directing this tale? The dream or the dreamer? The artist or the viewer? all is viewed/ lulling/ as long as it lasts.


Installation shots © the artist and Maria Stenfors

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