Stig Sjölund

Galleri Sten Eriksson

Stig Sjölund’s polyptychs are hybrids of a rather special kind. The artist sets large, framed Cibachrome prints next to painted reliefs of the same height, thereby combining mechanically reproduced pictures with handmade, three-dimensional structures. To make the reliefs, he puts wooden circles, stars, or beams under the stretched canvases, which reveal the protruding shapes of these “hidden” objects. The acrylic paint is applied either quite anonymously or in a way reminiscent of frottage. The latter method gives the reliefs an indexical character that is enhanced by the way that the colors in the reliefs often echo the chromatic qualities of the adjacent Cibachromes.

Sjölund uses two types of sources for his prints. He either photographs news programs on television or hires models in order to take pictures of them in urban environments. In the latter case he acts in the role of movie director, as he deliberately breaks up narration and empties scenes of their claim to meaning by making them opaque. The result is a disturbance of the activity of reference, an ambivalent, allegorical division of the recorded, frozen events. The photographs are further manipulated by means of double exposures, superimpositions, bleaching, and blurring. In so doing, Sjölund adds a painterly quality to them. By comparison, the painted reliefs, with their deadpan surfaces, look quite impersonal. The contrast between the elusive, fragmented, almost abstract character of the prints and the palpable objecthood of the reliefs causes a reversal of traditional categories: photography is forced to represent a loss of reality, while painting is used to create an anonymous, concrete reality. The result is an interesting transmutation of subjectivity and objectivity.

Sjölund’s is an esthetic of destabilization. At first glance, his work may seem no more than another investigation into the waning of what is thought to constitute the real. On closer examination, however, these multiple panels raise questions regarding not only the instability of the real, but more specifically the attitude we generally assume before mediated events—perhaps, even, before our own memories. The work deals with a present just turning into the past, a mental space fractured by memory. What Sjölund makes us witness is a splintering of time, place, and event. His works convey an intense feeling of secondariness, of eroded meaning, and of incoherence. He deliberately creates a kind of unreadability that frustrates our desire to grasp and understand. The world appears here as a flickering, hazy surface.

These mediated, complex structures undermine logical space and chronological time. They seem on their way into a Bergsonian general past not yet fixed in time. Looking at these works puts one in- to a kind of mental limbo, a twilight zone between image, afterimage, and memory, one that resists every kind of totalizing impulse. Sjölund is an allegorist who creates a kind of modern palimpsest, and his hybridized art is tinged with melancholy.

Lars O. Ericsson