In his second solo exhibition at Galerie Nordenhake Berlin, Paul Fägerskiöld presents a series of new individual and multi-panel works, all produced in 2018.
The title Naturgemälde comes from Alexander von Humboldt’s depiction and holistic categorisation of a mountain and its surroundings developed during his explorations in Latin America. The universal scholar and visionary thinker formulated his so-called Naturgemälde, German for ‘painting of nature’, as a "microcosm in one page“. Andrea Wulf describes in her book "The Invention of Nature" how von Humboldt defines nature for the first time as a collection of ecosystems and interrelationships. The notion of nature as a Web of Life has been a crucial starting point in conceptualising this body of work for Fägerskiöld.
What does it mean to paint the landscape in the age of the Anthropocene, in an epoch where human beings don't just inhabit the earth's geology and ecosystems, but actively shape them? Fägerskiöld addresses this interrelationship in the context of the long tradition and pictorial language of landscape painting. Asserting that everything can be read as nature and landscape, the artist has drawn on his own subjective landscape and habitat. Delving into his private archive of photographs from his own surroundings and journeys, Fägerskiöld selected pictograms and symbols as the sources for the narrative suits of images that constitute his monochrome paintings.
On entering the exhibition, the visitor becomes part of a semiotic hyper-landscape, replete with references, tropes and symbols. Fägerskiöld describes the elements of these paintings as pieces of shadows – hieroglyphs from Plato's cave, in which the viewer is like Lucy, the first known human, building up meaning and language through images.
The largest painting suite, "My Life in the Woods (after Bellini's St. Francis in the Desert)", paraphrases Bellini's celebrated Renaissance painting, while also alluding to Thoreau's Walden, and constitutes a non-linear narrative depiction of the “real” world surrounding the artist. The title of another work, "Sarah's Dream", references the apocalyptic fears of Sarah Connor in the movie Terminator 2 in a Dada-esque apparition.
In a matrix of meanings the painting "Naledi" depicts 12 stars in a circle on the thick and textured black surface of the painting. Representing the symbol for the European Union flag, the title simultaneously points toward the Rising Star Cave in South Africa, in which the remains of our recently discovered ancestor Homo Naledi were found.
Previously in his paintings Fägerskiöld has eschewed figurative elements and each painting has only depicted a single subject. This new suite of monochrome large-scale works is full of interrelationships that build webs of meanings, stories and landscapes.
Paul Fägerskiöld was born in Stockholm in 1982 and currently lives and works in New York. He was educated at the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. In 2013 Moderna Museet, Malmö presented a solo exhibition of Fägerskiöld’s work in connection with the Fredrik Roos Art Grant. He has exhibited widely in galleries in Europe and USA and his work is found in significant international museum collections. Institutional exhibition venues include Sven-Harrys konstmuseum (2016), Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm (2016, 2010), Artipelag, Värmdö (2015) and Wanås Skulpturpark (2010). He has been awarded the Fredrik Roos Art Grant and Maria Bonnier Dahlins Award for Young Artists.