Anna McNay

Review of Astrid Svangren at Maria Stenfors



me: I roll in the snow/ rotating/ raveling/ turned/ twisted/ to an expression
of instance

me: peonies/ disassemble/ loosen up/ breaking down/ collapsing

me: enfleurage/ ointmentlike/ perfumed solids/ without body/ engulfed/
collected/ to a given

under me:
loose materials/ mishmash/ knocking/ beating/ leaf buds/ opening/ chlorophyll/
watercolor/ unfolding/ fold in

over me:
froth of sugar/ corals/ sea anemones/ jellyfish/ seasnails/ all is viewed/
lulling/ as long as it lasts


14 March
– 26 April 2014

Swedish-born, Copenhagen-resident artist Astrid
Svangren (b. 1972) is not one for short titles. The above poem serves as both
the title of the exhibition and as the title of each of the seven works within.
And actually it describes them better than any other combination of words I
might seek to contrive. I can but try, regardless.

Candy coloured sheets of plexiglass hang like
barriers, separating one world from another; one dream’s landscape colliding
with a fragment of the next; a window; a mirror; a wall.

Blue: like the ocean, inscribed with the words of the
poem-cum-all-purpose-title, scratched and scuffed, graffitied, distorting what
lies on either side.

Pink: daubed with candlewax and cellophane. Like sweet
wrappers or confetti. The ground upon which a painting has been born. Look a
little closer and maybe it’s not as enticing as it seems. Is there something
awry in this gingerbread house? Was it the scene of a tussle? Of something more
angry and violent? Are the stains and substances not what one at first

Black and white: hung flat against the wall. Like a
net curtain, there’s the desire to lift a corner and peak through the window.
Black scrawls and red splashes. Again we pause to question whether we’d
actually want to see more, were we able. Two pink silk crescents at the top: horns
or lingerie, either way the suggestion is of adult play…

…which involves, perhaps, the cascade of ostrich
feathers hanging nearby?…

…themselves mirrored by a tumbling down of yellow silk
and horsehair, cellophane and elastic strings. Each work takes something from
the last and passes something on to the next. There is a narrative being woven,
albeit with breaks. These fragments – each from a story of their own – come
together to tell an overarching other.

And fragments from each are hung out to dry on the
frame in the neighbouring room. Dried lemons, hair grips, Japanese silk,
balloons, metal wire, tights, sponge, beads… Domestic yet strangely uncanny, an
unknown magic or voodoo. Again, drawing you in to peer curiously, but then that
recurrent uncertainty: Will I like what I find?

At the farthest corner, a mirror reflects it all back.
Daubed and scratched, smeared and painted over. Standing too low to be seen
into without crouching. Black roots reaching into the ground – that which
persists, stubborn and resilient, or that which takes root afresh, striving
forth towards a new existence, the next life, reincarnation? The caterpillar
becomes the moth. Or is it the butterfly?

Who is directing this tale? The dream or the dreamer? The
artist or the viewer? all is viewed/
lulling/ as long as it lasts.


Installation shots © the artist and Maria Stenfors