Andreas Eriksson, Window 10, 2019, monotype, 44 1⁄2 × 28 3⁄4".

Andreas Eriksson, Window 10, 2019, monotype, 44 1⁄2 × 28 3⁄4".

Andreas Eriksson

“Nite Flights” is a 1978 song by the Walker Brothers. It describes nocturnal journeys as having “only one promise / only one way to fall,” and the darkness as “dug up by dogs.” “Nite Flights,” 2019, is also the title of a new series of paintings by the Swedish artist Andreas Eriksson, and of his most recent exhibition. The paintings, which are quite murky, feature blotches of dimmed greens, reds, and purples reminiscent of landscapes seen through the window of an airplane at night. Eriksson achieves his own kind of dug-up darkness by allowing a thick layer of oil to respond negatively to the acrylic paint underneath, causing parts of the surface to cake like mud in winter. In other places, small areas of roughly woven canvas remain visible in defiance of the otherwise imposing density of the paintings. The series might have had a Rothkoesque spirituality to it were it not for these dramatic shifts in texture, just as it would perhaps be too heavily melancholic were it not for the alternative spelling of night, referring to the much lighter, always appropriated sadness of pop culture.

In 2011, Eriksson told Jennifer Higgie that he sees nature as neutral, not sentimental. But this, too, counts as a projection of sentiment, if a rather bleak one. The “Nite Flights” pictures are too lush with gloom to be considered affectless, though the dark mood manifested in them might stem from the realization that something has become impossible in our relation to nature, that a lack of future has been installed by the windowpane. What’s remarkable about Eriksson’s paintings is that even as they manage to impart this quite particular, somehow cold, hard sense of separation, the crumbling crusts of their surfaces make them seem alive. The earth in these pictures is both distant and at hand.

In all the works in this show, the idea of a window served to structure the motif. Five monotypes, all 2019, had us looking out at views very similar to those in “Nite Flights”—camouflage webs of dark brown—but from inside a house. Nature, then, is not made abstract by distance, but by daring to see darkly. These monotypes teetered on the cartoonish. Highlighting fictionality may be Eriksson’s defense against too maudlin a reading.

Likewise a far cry from the near minimalism of the paintings were three 2019 sculptures from the series “Content Is a Glimpse,” 2014–, made up of bird corpses cast in bronze. Cause of death: collision with Eriksson’s studio window. What might have been a morbid, even gothic gesture in the context of the artist’s sensitive but unsentimental engagement with the natural world functions more like a respectful homage. The title is from a 1960 interview with Willem de Kooning, who also told David Sylvester that content is just “an encounter, you know, like a flash—it’s very tiny, very tiny, content.” An encounter with a flash of window, that contrived boundary between inside and outside, can become, for a bird, the difference between life and death. That Eriksson does not apply this idea to his actually quite de Kooning–esque paintings, but to the real deaths of once-living creatures, is another of his clever tugs at the nature/culture divide. Truly, no such thing exists here, just the space between being and seeing.