Fredrik Söderberg, ”We Pray to the Sun and Hail the Moon”

Fredrik Söderberg
Fredrik Söderberg, Mandragora, 2009, watercolor on paper, 28 x 38, with frame: 53 x 43 cm, image: Milliken Gallery

This striking collection of Fredrik Söderberg’s watercolour paintings, entitled ‘We Pray to the Sun and Hail the Moon’, may inspire engaged viewers to question their relationship with infinity and perhaps even dissuade some from swallowing the world’s investment with spiritual redemption or continuing to embrace a detached narcissism. Söderberg’s charm lies in his explorative mapping of self-reflective spiritualisms, as well as in his ability to create provocative microcosms inspired by our own spheres—even if his works may appear cryptic to some.Linked to the transcendental teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley’s philosophies on ceremonial magic and the occult, these unearthed energies are a fresh discovery for those who find themselves removed from any form of spiritualism. Much like Crowley’s wide array of eclectic interests, Söderberg’s paintings investigate the unknown from diverse angles. At first glance, rich watercolours such as Avebury (2009) appear to be timeless landscapes when they are actually secular perspectives focused on the geographies of meditation and transformation. Others, such as Summer Solstice (2008) and The Beginning of Magick II (2008), are extreme in their quest to enlighten the viewer about the pervasive foundation fuelling the occult. These paintings visually interpret hierarchical connections between energy and power through balanced geometries and the recurring presence of cosmic forces—a massive sun or seductive moon—reminding one of a secret Masonic history or ancient Egyptian influences.

Some of Söderberg’s paintings appear to be more preoccupied with a mysterious means to a justifiable spirituality rather than any specific end. In Mandragora (2009), the artist painted a solitary mandrake root suspended, presented as an object worthy of further examination. For the mandrake root is directly associated with occult practices, facilitating rituals and harbouring mythologies related to its own hallucinogenic powers and aphrodisiacal abilities. In Ritual II (2009), time has stopped and the moment of the sacrificial act—whether it is sinister or harmless—becomes the true focal point. Viewers may find themselves questioning the border between psychosexual effrontery and pre-emptive violence.

Such explorations into the occult remain appealing because this cosmic voyage, in part, embodies and preserves the core existential concepts of modern works such as Albert Camus’ The Rebel (1956), in which he writes, ‘But from the moment when a movement of rebellion begins, suffering is seen as a collective experience. Therefore the first progressive step for a mind overwhelmed by the strangeness of things is to realize that this feeling of strangeness is shared with all men and that human reality, in its entirety, suffers from the distance which separates it from the rest of the universe … I rebel—therefore we exist.’ Söderberg cultivates this singular feeling of strangeness that we collectively experience as human beings. Placing emphasis on cultural faux-pas and exception, ‘We Pray to the Sun and Hail the Moon’ exhibits the contradictory influences of cultural artefacts versus the fantastic—but not as they were meant to be initially consumed. Herein lies the beauty of representation. The freedom to rebel is often followed by delightful confusion; Söderberg has managed to instigate both aforementioned sentiments, clearing a trail for the unpredictable. ‘He makes solemn claims for his art spawning alternative experiences,’ comments Ronald Jones in an accompanying exhibition essay, ‘especially where the mysteries of life are concerned. In this sense Söderberg’s art discovers new spiritual vistas, while being earnest, proactive, pre-scientific, and post-critical. His art is allergic to irony.’ Perhaps there is hope for the diligent and searching after all.To see the review in context, click here.

Edgar Cleijne & Ellen Gallagher, “Better Dimension”

Edgar Cleijne & Ellen Gallagher
Installation view. Image: Jacquelyn Davis.

Presenting collaborations between Dutch artist Edgar Cleijne and US artist and filmmaker Ellen Gallagher, ‘Better Dimension’ at Stockholm’s Bonniers Konsthall includes experimental works that provide socio-political commentary on US history and race relations from a cosmic, obscure distance. More »

Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art (RIBOCA1)

Aslan Gaisumov
Aslan Gaisumov, People of No Consequence, 2016.

For the first Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art, curator Katarina Gregos has chosen to view Latvia as ‘the center of the world,’ where other regions and nationalities become satellites. This is refreshing, for the Baltics have previously been considered to have a peripheral status. More »

Johannes Heldén, “The Exploding Book”

Johannes Heldén
Johannes Heldén, Clouds, 2017.

As one enters the space temporarily designated for Swedish artist and poet Johannes Heldén’s The Exploding Book at Konstakademin’s in Stockholm, one detects that Heldén is receptive to nuance; each creative gesture confirms his dedication to both text and image, expressed with equitable consideration. More »

Malin Gabriella Nordin, “Floating from Within”

Malin Gabriella Nordin, Veil of Dreams, 2017. Image: Gallery Steinsland Berliner.

Stockholm-based artist Malin Gabriella Nordin is one of many Swedish women artists who resort to the basics – or perhaps the old ways, meaning they’re not particularly interested in the digital. More »

“Survival Kit 9”

Andris Eglītis, Laboratory of Poetic Research, 2017. Image: Jacquelyn Davis.

The 9th edition of Survival Kit is orchestrated by a small team of Baltic and Scandinavian curators: Jonatan Habib Engqvist, Solvita Krese and Inga Lāce. All possess a background in organizing independently and within the confines of institutions, which may be their strong point—their fluidity. More »

The 9th Momentum Biennial

Jenna Sutela, Sporulating Paragraph, 2017. Image: Momentum 9.

Momentum 9, taking place in the industrial town of Moss, Norway, is being curated by Ulrika Flink, Ilari Laamanen, Jacob Lillemose, Gunhild Moe, and Jón B.K. Ransu, who together represent the Scandinavian region. With this biennial’s focus on ‘alienation’, the curators joined forces to determine how alien processes and entities are infused in our lives through technological, ecological and social transformations. More »

Klas Eriksson, “Vet din mamma var du e?”

Klas Eriksson
Klas Eriksson, Evidence of Patchwork, 2017. Image: Göteborgs Konsthall.

Swedish artist Klas Eriksson has developed a practice rooted in examining subcultures via works in public spaces and spontaneous performances. With an interest in how power flows and how crowds function, the artist attempts to unpack sociopolitical dynamics using playful tactics. More »

Lovisa Ringborg, “Night Remains”

Lovisa Ringborg
Lovisa Ringborg, Fountain, 2017. Image: Cecilia Hillström Gallery.

In Lovisa Ringborg’s second exhibition at this gallery, the artist upholds the argument that displaying a set of harmonious works can be more potent than a plethora of free-floating entities. More »

Przemek Pyszczek, “1989”

Przemek Pyszczek
Przemek Pyszczek, Public Relief No 6, 2016. Image: Gallery Belenius.

Polish-born, Canadian-raised, Berlin-based artist Przemek Pyszczek displays new works which are primarily sculptural and mixed media, with stints into collage. More »