20 Aug – 02 Oct 2021
Geopromenade: A tour of Andreas Eriksson’s new paintings
In the exhibition catalogue Promenad (2021)
We do not know exactly where we are, except that it could be somewhere in nature. Deep in nature, or rather, underneath its surface. With our eyes locked onto sediments of rocks, clay, sand and topsoil. Minerals that expose their composite crystals. Erosion that lays bare the different layers of soil in irregular intervals. Although the geological associations are only one of many possibilities, and one that merges with the sensory experience that conveys it, it is emphasised by the discernible brush strokes that condense in alternating groups of parallel lines within the irregular flakes that constitute the basic grammatical components of the paintings. When you accept the invitation hidden in the exhibition’s cheerful title, Promenad, and take a stroll through Andreas Eriksson’s new paintings, the otherwise safe bourgeois walk becomes imbued with a hint of field work as we descend into this complicated telluric puzzle.
Even though Eriksson’s art has long engaged with the category of landscape – framed panoramic nature – it is as if his recent paintings have become heavier and appear to be gathering places, or sedimentation areas, for a returned physical materiality. A materiality that blends with the otherwise distanced sensory perception inherent in landscapes and brings it back to earth. As the German philosopher Joachim Ritter points out, the framing of nature in landscapes could be regarded as a form of grieving for post-medieval industrial culture, a sentimental atonement, which through its distanced perspective, returns to us some of the tenderness for nature that is usually lost when technoscience maps, colonizes and exploits it. With a kind of climax in the romantic landscape, where most of culture shrewdly retreats behind the observer – to the unseen but indispensable infrastructure that turns the frontal view of nature’s similarly unruly chaos, the sublime, into a safe endeavour that you can enjoy during a stroll. But what is the use of such distance-dominated atonement in a world where industry has long since merged with nature and reshaped it so profoundly that both have become part of the same temporality, the geological epoch known as the Anthropocene?
Eriksson’s paintings could therefore be viewed as ruins of romantic landscapes – as an exploration of the indeterminate perceptual spaces that emerge when we can no longer distance ourselves from nature but can feel the romantic landscape collapse beneath its new Anthropocene weight. When airy distance is compressed into stony proximity. Eriksson’s more recent paintings still contain touches of his earlier, more variegated colouring – sky blue, sun yellow, grassy green – but the greens of the plants and the blood red of the animals often appear strangely muted and are swallowed by the earthy palette of browns, greys and blacks. It is as if we are already dealing with a renewal of geological deposits that otherwise belong to millions of years’ worth of plant and animal submersion into the earth. The way Eriksson bleeds the organic greens into the geological greys and browns could even call to mind the aversion to the Earth’s green top stratum that Bruno Latour is so captivated by in his recent attempts to visualise nature through the medium of theatre and exhibition. Regarding the exhibition Reset Modernity! (2016) in Karlsruhe, the French philosopher of science declares:
Everything had to be brown and layered and no green whatsoever. This approach was chosen to help visitors to shift attention away from what we associate with nature: green, global, unanimous, and nice. Instead it had a mundane, earthly, ruinous, brown, layered character […].
Is there a similar downwards-seeking geological instinct at play in Eriksson’s paintings?
But as earlier said: just as the paintings can be perceived as surface-bound nature submerged in the depths of the earth, they can also be perceived as visualisations of our own sensory experience of this process that they themselves blend with. Their indeterminable sedimentation is also a reflection of a silted fragmentation of memories and unprocessed fragments of sensory perception. Eriksson himself notes: “I experience the painting as a picture of a moment in time, a sort of optical being which has to be accepted as a space in itself before we can step into this spaciousness […].” Eriksson’s paintings can thereby be seen as a visualisation of this optical being, a pre-spacial space, whose dense materiality encloses without the option of taking a walk through it as yet.
Whether you interpret the sedimentation of the paintings as deriving from either geological or psychological layers, it ends up in such a compressed state that our frayed glimpses of its layers also acquires a meta-reflection, a self-analysis of the painting’s media-based functions and its interaction with other media. Perhaps particularly the torn paper of decollages. One is reminded of the torn look by an abstract expressionist such as Clyfford Still, and one also understands why, since 2012, Eriksson’s painted visions have been able to translate into a series of woven tapestries. Even though the subtle grey-brown weavings were based on a series of diagrammatic drawings reminiscent of the black and white lines of colouring books, they transformed into geological rag rugs, with hanging frays and an intrusive weave design that alternates between vertical and horizontal lines.
What has fallen to pieces and has then been re-combined here, as in the paintings, is of course particularly Northern romanticism and its idea of a sublime Scandinavian landscape, a more or less arctic expanse of rocks, snow, fog and sparse vegetation. Eriksson’s closest artistic relative in this regard must be Danish Per Kirkeby, whose lyrical natural abstractions also allow the bedrock, this time in a Byzantine-Greenlandic version, to peak out from beneath more ephemeral echoes of fog and plant life. Just like Kirkeby, Eriksson is a fun mix of a late romanticist and a conceptualist, who only hesitantly and indirectly turns towards nature. Occasion: a sudden hypersensitivity to electricity, the binding agent behind the worldwide network that media theorist Marshall McLuhan described as the global village. For Eriksson, this resulted in a decoupling from the network and retreating to Medelplana at the southern edge of Vänern Lake. The nature of Medelplana has been level-headedly detailed in photobooks, with, for instance, a narrow focus on naked tree branches in the snow, small islands of melting snow, or the transformation of western Sweden’s terrain by its reflection in the water line.
Otherwise, Eriksson’s work has, for a long time, hovered around those man-made windows that shield us from nature, both figuratively and literally. A series of paintings, for example, captured the distant window reflections that car headlights cast on the back walls of his electricity-devoid house. And bronze castings granted resurrection to the birds that had flown into those same deadly, invisible windows, the reflections of which they had overlooked with fatal consequences. The thin channels used to caste the bronze were preserved to serve as branches and reconnect the birds to their abandoned lifeworld. Even Eriksson’s castings of prosaic molehills exert the same pressure on our identity-sustaining screens, because once the moles burst through their surplus of underground excavation material onto middle-class lawns, gaping holes appear into the earth that we would prefer not to see during our promenades in the garden. When Eriksson’s ten-year-old son pretended to be a mole in their own garden, Eriksson naturally had to descend into the hole and feel the embrace of the soil:
Displacements are strange. To see a landscape from an ant’s perspective and to feel the moisture of the soil. I squat and make myself feel ‘invisible’. The noise from cars on the large road is barely audible and I can follow the layers of time in the sediment around me.
It is this ant-eye perspective of the landscape, then, the erasure of man by the envelopment of the earth’s sediment, that Eriksson has transferred to canvas. The previously transparent windowpane is smudged, becomes materially noticeable through a visualisation of its once repressed minerals, causing it to crack into heavy shards. But Eriksson does not forget that the nature presented in his paintings is conveyed as inescapably mediated. As you can sense from his latest catalogue photographs of the paintings, they may benefit from being released back into the nature they depict at a sensory distance.
 Joachim Ritter, “Landschaft. Zur Funktion des ästhetischen in der modernen Gesellschaft” , i Ritter, Subjektivität. Sechs Aufsätze (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp,  1989), 141-90.
 Bruno Latour, “How to rediscover our ground after nature?”, in ARoS triennal/The Garden: End of timesBeginning of times (London: Koenig Books, 2017), 67.
 Inger Marie Hahn-Møller, ”Andreas Eriksson”, in High, Low & In Between (Stockholm and Medelplana: Blue Sky Förlag, 2011).
 Sara Walker, Andreas Eriksson: Weavings, ed. Patricia Kohl (Berlin: Infinity Greyscale, 2020); Kirsty Bell, ”Diaries”, in Andreas Eriksson: Cutouts (Berlin: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2020), 24.
 Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York, Toronto and London: McGraw-Hill, 1964), 5 and 34-35.
 Jennifer Higgie, Andreas Eriksson, in Teresa Hahr (ed.), Andreas Eriksson: The Nordic Pavilion, 54th International Art Exhibition, Biennale de Venezia, 4.6-27.11 2011 (Stockholm: Moderna Museum and Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2011), 165.
 Andreas Eriksson, Skolk (London: Stephen Friedman Gallery, 2018).