A look over the shoulder

The extremes are what describe Martin Wickström’s imagery. On one hand the contemplative reflections from the sun on a house facade, the breathtaking mountain scenes and the nostalgic recaps from family albums. And on the other the muffled sense of war, the documentary elements with photos from the liberation of Paris and the commemorative plaques over Raoul Nordling (as a central element). Notions of family, security and dreams are put next to a threatening and turbulent world – an exhibition scenario that is not vastly different from reality.

Raoul Nordling was the name of the Swedish consul that at the very end of World War II succeeded in eliminating the German threat to demolish Paris, as well as contributing to saving a large number of prisoners.

It is sympathetic that Martin Wickström has put Nordling as the moral center of the exhibition. But that doesn’t mean that he forgets about the importance of the personal: the beloved grandfather’s worn out office chair, for example, exists both as an image and an original object.

When I look at Martin Wickström’s new paintings I am reminded of the animated art discussions of the seventies on the pros and cons of pictorial polarization. Neorealism was in fashion and Ola Billgren was one of the stars. To build images around visual and conceptual extremes was the “language of the future”. Today we might call the method problematic, but back then the notions of theses, antithesis and synthesis were very alluring.

Wickström’s “Stjärnan och matrosen” is a good example of this. (One can compare it to Fassbinder’s sexually liberated movie “The sailor and the star”) By using the polarization of two “incompatible” images value is added, but to be honest it also leads to a slight (deliberate?) conceptual confusion.

In the large group of alp landscapes it is more a question of images interacting with each other than being opposites. Eighteen thematically similar paintings are hung next to each other in an almost shrine-like presentation, and you get a feeling of something more reserved and distanced.

Opposites are great, but what really captivates you in this current exhibition is the retrospective and contemplative parts, mainly the parts that touch upon the violent history of Europe. “Europa” is also the title of the exhibition. For everyone who is familiar with the descriptions of the occupation in the works of Patrick Modiano, the recognition is clear. In the showcase “French Connection” (a for the artist typical assemblage) Martin Wickström is approaching the French writer’s domains. The presentation in the inner room, with the painting “Charlotte” in the center, brings out associations to the young and irremediably lost that Modiano often return to. That work occupies figuratively and literally a central position of distinct gravity and eternal immediacy.

Leif Mattson

omkonst.nu 9/9 2015