CONNERSMITH is pleased to announce Construct, an exhibition of new oil paintings on wood panel by Erik Thor Sandberg. This much anticipated series of major works exemplifies Sandberg’s signature style of Magic Realism. Themes of apprehension, risk and acceptance simultaneously unify this this body of work and create compelling tensions within it. Sandberg ponders the nature of social relationships in these marvelously conceived, exquisitely painted tableaux of humanity facing adversity.
“I look at this series of paintings as a contemplation on society and one’s interaction with it. Along the lines of the expression of someone ‘having the weight of the world on their shoulders,’ the three central figures are accepting that weight in different ways. They are overburdened, persevering, or protected.” -Erik Thor Sandberg
“Having painted these works during the pandemic, that circumstance can’t help but seep into all three of them. I began one, Pillar, prior to the pandemic. I was elaborating a few motives from my earlier paintings. It was often difficult to work on once Covid reared its head, because some of its content reflected the odd world we entered. Death is dancing through the streets. Masks are being worn by half of the living. The world seems off-kilter.”
“The setting for Pillar is purposefully nebulous to suggest a closed environment without external factors beyond light and gravity. In as much as this is a depiction of a city, it is more of a dollhouse version of one. I look at it as a celestial body with inhabitants scurrying about on it. The main figure’s pose is off balance to convey the uncertainty and worry she has for the world she maintains. She is the support for this world. The small figures do not interact directly with her because she is like the ground we stand on - not really considered until it gives way beneath us.”
“The masks and costumes in Pillar serve to equalize the living with the dead. Most of the masks on the living are skulls. Some of the dead disguise themselves as living. In this image, as with previous depictions of Death, I see the animated dead not as zombies but as symbols of change over time. I implied the passage of time in the form of a snake with no head or tail visible. Its body weaves throughout the city, like a trail of smoke or a storm gathering on the horizon. But, much as in other of my paintings, it is more of an enigma than an overt threat. Without seeing the snake’s head and most specifically its mouth, its current state of mischief is everything and nothing all at once.” -Erik Thor Sandberg
“Snakes and birds are nice foils to one another. Each traditionally is overlaid with symbolic weight, which I reject in this series. Snakes are not evil; birds are not spiritual; residing at proximity in these settings, they are simply animals who, by their natures, are at odds. The snake amongst the birds in Stable may be perceived as a potential threat - a snake in the grass, or, rather, as a peaceful cohabitant. I like to think that it is a snake with a full belly. Reptiles can be rather docile and live with potential prey if sated. But I like to let viewers fill in that portion of the narrative themselves.”
“The main figure in Stable holds two snakes in her hand, in effort to keep potential threats at bay. Her pose conveys her patience and resolve. As the cat witnesses, she is making a sacrifice to serve as a haven. The teapot and the snakes are meant to balance each other. Teapots can be made into birdhouses because the spout helps drain out any water that may get in. The variety of bird species bespeaks her standpoint of acceptance. She functions as a sanctuary where all are welcome and there is relatively little squabbling or fighting.” -Erik Thor Sandberg
“The central figure in Vacancy is enveloped by simply constructed birdhouses. Yet no bird is seen using the ‘homes’ provided; the snake is the only visible inhabitant. The ‘vacancy’ of the title refers not only to the empty modular structures, but also to the maw of the snake. The birds flying in the background of Vacancy are swallows. For small birds, they are swift and agile, so their interaction with the snake may not necessarily be fatal.”
“In contrast to the steady pose seen in Stable, the central figure of Vacancy has a more dynamic, less balanced pose. I wanted an architecture that would envelop this figure as the birds enveloped the figure in Stable. Even though she is surrounded and hindered by the birdhouses, she is also insulated by the walls of them. Maybe this is an effect of my having a home in the city. Walking around the city is a bit of chaos, but once you are on the other side of a six-inch brick wall, you feel more secure, insulated from others as well as from outside elements.” -Erik Thor Sandberg
Erik Thor Sandberg’s work has been exhibited at public and private venues internationally, including the Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD; American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, Washington, DC; Montserrat College of Art, Beverly, MA; and Baker Museum, Naples, FL. Sandberg's paintings are also included in numerous international private collections.
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