Mamma Andersson’s paintings have the eerie, druggy quality of a bad dream or a buried memory. In her current show, Gooseberry, the mood is dark, with lots of black and pale bone-coloured paint. A troubling confusion reigns.
In the dim room depicted in Cat Ice, even animal figurines look sinister. Is it night time or have the lights been lowered, the curtains drawn against curious eyes? Where and when are we in the paired works Hello and Goodbye? Time has dissolved in their mirror images of a shop full of clocks with blurred faces. Walls become windows, where Andersson’s grandfather and mother approach and retreat. The perspective’s off, or is the room itself skewed?
"Mamma Andersson’s paintings have the eerie, druggy quality of a bad dream or a buried memory. A troubling confusion reigns."
As with much of the Swedish artist’s work of the past two decades, many of her new works suggest scenes from a film, caught half way in. In the fantastically gothic Family Ties a ring of shadowy black and white figures hold hands in the dark. Are they leading each other through the gloom, walking, unknowingly, in a circle? Or is this some ritual dance? Could the flecks of ruddy brown at their feet be dried blood?
When dawn breaks, things don’t get any more comfortable. Andersson’s unmistakably Nordic landscapes seem emptied out, the trees bare, the earth muddy beneath cold skies. The show’s titular painting Gooseberry is particularly troubling, with its wan girl picking her way through an inhospitable wood, in nothing more than slippers and knickers (this isn’t the weather for skinny-dipping). She’s a vulnerable, sleight thing, with her butt half exposed in the wilderness, and a fitting symbol for the artist’s mysterious vision.
Mamma Andersson: Gooseberry is at Stephen Friedman Gallery until May 25.