Fredrik Söderberg, En förlorad värld, painting, 18 August–24 September

Cecilia Hillström Gallery is thrilled to present Fredrik Söderberg’s largest gallery show to date, En förlorad värld, featuring a series of new watercolour paintings centring around Scandinavian national romanticism and its artistic expressions and ideas through architecture and tapestry.

The gallery’s third exhibition with Söderberg takes its starting point in his fascination for imagery and symbols deeply connected to our past and present, encompassing different cultural movements, religions and historical events. In the show, paintings of two-dimensional architecture – intricate facades of brick buildings and structures, townhouses and fortresses – are put vis-à-vis watercolours of elaborate woven textiles, patterns that are repeated and deepened into a complex and alluring whole.

A main motif in the exhibition is the portal: doors, openings, entrances, or possible descents into something unknown or hidden. As is the labyrinth – a motif encouraging the eyes to move over the paintings, following complex staircases and levels, through passageways, to windows and doors leading to mysterious interiors one can only imagine. In the work Midvinterblot II, a stone building with an elaborate facade takes form with stucco and brick ornamentations. Over a portal, a mural depicts a view from the famous painting by Carl Larsson Midvinterblot – a subject Söderberg also explored in 2007-8. Carl Larsson, a key figure in the forming of Swedish national romanticism, embodies the movement – in this case, with his interest in Norse mythology and his imagination of what once could have been.

In Söderberg’s geometrical meditations, multifaceted thoughts about aesthetics, morals and human nature are intertwined, taking the shape of something both seductive and horrendous. In this sense, the exhibition works as a concentration of previous projects. In the painting In the Garden of Eden, electric hues of red and green are woven into an endless, mesmerizing pattern. However, on a closer look, the convincing whole consists of repetitive Norse runes and symbols, revealing a more ominous meaning in light of history and current movements (right in the middle of the Garden of Eden). The title of the work, with its biblical reference, also points to how early Christianity incorporated pagan rituals, imagery and tropes into their traditions. A religion with a warlike and pagan past – a legacy which later was tidied up but is still present in many forms – is a recurrent subject in Söderberg’s work.

A striking aspect of the exhibition is the artistic achievements through history – expressions to be stunned and bewildered by, tainted by past fashions and ideas, yet persisting with the power of evoking a sense of something eternal. Söderberg’s craftsmanship involves a time-consuming skilful process of working mainly with natural pigments and making his own paint. There is a three-dimensional feature in the works where the ground pigments rest visible on the surface. In this almost alchemical process, pulverized slate, granite and gneiss make up the architecture in the works, while typical textile pigments like malachite, azurite and Tyrian purple compose the tapestries.

Fredrik Söderberg’s oeuvre may be seen as a quiet protest of our time’s obsession with the new. By focusing on and dissecting what constitutes our foundation, whether we like it or not, he brings forth new perspectives on the present. With intense concentration and brilliant execution, Söderberg once again presents us with a multifaceted project, pointing to the power of aesthetics and the inherent complexity of our visual language.

Fredrik Söderberg (born 1972) is based in Stockholm. He holds an MFA from University College of Arts, Craft & Design and has also studied at the Royal Institute of Art. A comprehensive survey of his watercolours dated 2008-2019 was presented in the solo exhibition Fredrik Söderberg, Watercolours 2008-2019 at the Nordic Watercolour Museum in 2020. In addition, Söderberg has exhibited at the Swedish History Museum, Magasin III Museum & Foundation for Contemporary Art, Centre Culturel Suédois, Paris, and in numerous gallery exhibitions in Sweden and abroad. His works are included in the collections of Moderna Museet, Magasin III Museum & Foundation for Contemporary Art, Public Art Agency Sweden, The Nordic Watercolor Museum as well as in private collections.

Earlier this year a new publication titled Sangraal featuring Fredrik Söderberg’s works from 2019-2021 was released. The book is designed by Patrick Waters from Waters Löwenhielm and includes an in-depth text on Söderberg’s oeuvre by Per Faxneld, Associate Professor at Södertörn University.

”Fredrik Söderbergs visuella borrningar väcker ambivalens”, Birgitta Rubin / DN
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”Fredrik Söderberg, ”En förlorad värld” Färger och mönster suger fast blicken”, Håkan Nilsson / SvD
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”Midvinterblot och förlorade världar”, Karolina Modig / Art Notes
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