A seductively cheerful surface

It’s easy to fall for Martin Wickström’s art. His paintings have the cool seductive tone of pop art. A beautiful, slightly kitsch surface, mixing sunsets with Hollywood movies Elizabeth Taylor style. Seemingly as easy to consume as the retro trends of interior decorating magazines and television shows, picking the goodies from a beckoning 50s and 60s. His readymade compositions and paintings have a nostalgic scent of campings, cocktail parties and western movies, accompanied by mountain landscapes and picturesque New York facades.

But in fact there is nothing light or innocent about Wickström’s practice. Maybe that becomes clearer than ever as he now returns to Galerie Leger, showing among other things a retrospective installation. In the piece “36” he recreates the key works, in miniature, from his 36 year career since his debut in 1976. This installation is a strong achievement, the highlight of the exhibition.

From a visual aspect there is something pleasant about the small scale models, bringing together the aesthetics of a boy’s room and the love of mechanical toys with the icons of popular culture.

But when you begin to decode the separate pieces of the installation, darker parts of history emerges, both the collective and personal. There are references to Los Alamos, the location where the Americans developed the first nuclear bomb. But also the quiet incantatory work of grief, dedicated to Wickström’s friend who plummeted to his death during a mountain climbing. At the same time there is a sense of criticism in the enthusiasm over the materials and glamour, pointed towards their cheerful surface and the consumerism they represent.

Despite being close to too refined, this dual grip of his practice is what gives the exhibition it’s edge.

Carolina Söderholm

Sydsvenskan 11/5 2012