A personal grid in Martin Wickström’s “Europa”

“Europa”. That’s the name of Martin Wickström’s current exhibition. Europe – a notion swelling with signification. The earths smallest continent after Oceania. The name of king Agenor’s daughter according to Greek mythology. Or, as some people claim, a semitic word for “the land of the sunset”. Cries for help are heard throughout the continent with the ongoing refugee crisis. Europe is a dream that is not seldom crushed.

Martin Wickström’s “Europa” has a personal grid. Every room of the gallery has been filled with painting, collage and objects in showcases. The soundtrack included is more prominent than in previous contexts. The composer Magnus Grenstedt has created a suggestive soundtrack that enhances the feeling of a train travel. While the images pass before you the rails are singing. From outside there is a chorus of oceans and seagulls and city voices.

Wickström creates by reusing. He samples motives, revisits old ideas, twists and turns old patterns. The separate episodes are linked through recurring details, without depicting a linear narrative. As in his previous work, blue continues to be the dominant color.

Paris during World War II returns through an unexpected connection between the artist’s grandfather and the Swedish business man Raoul Nordling, who was the consul general in Paris 1926-58. For other reasons, but similarly to, for example, the codebreaker Alan Turing, Raoul Norling undeservingly disappeared from history. Both have been posthumously recognized, recently in movies, for their important contribution during World War II.

That Paris was not demolished by the end of the war can be largely contributed to Nordling. With his life at stake he succeeded in mediating a cease fire between the French resistance and the Germans. Paris and the state of France later thanked Nordling by rewarding him with a medal, that Nordling passed forward to his friend – Martin Wickström’s grandfather. The diary of the grandfather as well as the medal are displayed in a showcase. That is the most stringent part of the exhibition. Wickström’s paintings in various formats shown with the saved objects tie together a concentrated narrative of a couple of human lives that were connected. Collective experiences of war consists of individual fates.

Martin Wickström’s visual language continues in consistency with his previous work. The skillfully executed photorealistic paintings are inspired by old newspaper clippings, scientific articles, the great masters and pop kitsch. Facades of houses, the welfare state, reflections of the sun and mysterious portraits. People that come and go while yesterday turns into today. Personal as well as collective memories are tied together, nostalgia and humor are blended like raindrops on a glass surface.

Martin Wickström’s “Europa” is a collection of loosely hovering impressions of time and space – a travel diary written next to a train window.

Joanna Persman

Svenska Dagbladet

10/9 2015