Top score for Lars Bohman!

Konstvärlden’s Göran Ståhle has chosen some of the most talked about exhibitions of the moment.

What has characterized Martin Wickström’s art over the years has been his mixing of paintings, toys and appliances in the form of accomplished installations in which there has always been a search for a lost childhood, portrayed in a nostalgic shimmer with an aesthetic combining photorealistic painting and pop art.

   So far there is nothing new in his exhibition of new work at Lars Bohman Gallery. It’s just that this time it has been executed with a conviction and seriousness that completely overwhelms you!

   The exhibition begins with a series of paintings and objects that depict building facades. Among them the painting “Athina” (2015), which might be one of the most beautiful figurative paintings by a Swedish artist that I have ever seen. Formally he relates to photorealistic painters from the late 60’s, such as Billgren, Håfström and Tillberg, but there is a warmth and mystery in these facades that make them almost archetypical as symbols of a lost welfare state.

   The second room in the exhibition has a personal starting point through a medallion that was awarded to Wicktröm’s own grandfather, Raoul Nordling, who is said to have saved Paris from Hitler’s total annihilation during the end of World War II. Here we can see a European theme with paintings and objects relating to Paris.

   In the large last room hangs the painting “Charlotte”, based on a photograph he found at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which might be the first portrait photograph in the world, and standing in the middle of the room is an object with a huge satellite dish, something Wickström found in a progress optimistic children’s book from the 50’s: “The wonderful world of science”. Both the painting and the object have already been seen by the viewer as they are put together in a small version in the very first room, with the title “Charlotte’s room”.

   The last room also has an entire wall of paintings of mountains and mountain climbers that originate in when Wickström’s friend Daniel Bidner set out to climb mount K2 in 1993 but died on his way. Something Wickström has referred to in earlier works but never in such a monumental way; like a requiem in pictures.

   The piece “Notes” – a collection of gadgets, objects, paintings and drawings in a long glass show case, presented as archaeological traces from the artist’s childhood in the 60’s, reminds me of Jan Håfström who made similar works about his own childhood in the 40’s. But although one can rather clearly detect influences from for example Håfström, Tuymans or Richter, it doesn’t bother you. There is something humble, nostalgic and slightly sad in Wickström’s exhibition that turns it into an unusual and different experience.

   In an interview before the show he describes his practice as a kind of archaeology: “Everything is in the sand and it is my job to search, look and put the pieces together. I know when I’ve found the right thing, I know that i’ve found it but not why – if I could put it into words I don’t think I would be an artist.”

  I can’t either describe why he has found the right way, but he certainly has!

Göran Ståhle

October 2015