Banal as well as deadly serious

Martin Wickström’s Europe is azure blue. The large square painting that has lent its title to the exhibition depicts a part of a plastic blue wall panel from a toilet, probably on board an airplane or a train. An image depicting a holder for toilet paper and paper towels. Where are we heading? To Europe.

Martin Wickström has made azure blue, the color used to describe the Mediterranean by the French Riviera, Cote d’Azur, into his own. He has previously shown installations with various plastic objects in the same coolly turquoise color, it travels like a blue line through his practice.

   No other color can have the same fresh feeling, and no other color can be as murky: I’m thinking of all the images of dead people I have seen lately. People who have drowned in an azure blue ocean. That is a way to view the entire exhibition, with a double gaze.

   And that is Wickström’s concept: Like previously, some of the works are literally double projections. The boy who, in a large painting, is standing on the balcony of what I believe is a hotel on a resort looking out over the scenery. Views he will remember for the rest of his life.

   In the second part of the same painting we see rows of summer houses resembling barracks, in what might be a “Sliding Doors” view of existence: Everything is double, everything could very well have been different. What a coincidence it ended up this way.

   That is why Wickström’s Europe contains golden evening light on house facades in Athens as well as black and white flashbacks to World War II. Dreams and destruction side by side.

   The fantastic, monumental piece consisting of 18 paintings all depicting snow covered mountains brings out a wave of associations: Disney, Ingemar Stenmark, school holidays, Dick Bengtsson, Hitler’s Berghof, “Bergtagen”, “The Thing”, the seed bank at Svalbard, Caspar David Friedrich , “Sound of Music”, Milka commercials, polar expeditions, the apocalypse. It is the kind of landscape that is both blessed and charged with legends, history and kitsch, that creates the same doubleness: the banal and the deadly serious.

   Even if Martin Wickström keeps returning to a kind of boy room aesthetics, with a fascination for mechanics and toys, comic books and movie stars, he never becomes a nostalgic introvert. Rather than that “Europa” reminds you that there is always a before and an after, even if one never realizes it until after.

   And that everything we take for granted has been lent to us.

Expressen 19/9 2015

Therese Bohman