A NORMAL DAY
Sofie Arfwidson is a story telling painter. Her work is based on themes involving figures and shapes, meetings between humans, fairy-tale creatures and animals in everyday as well as in unreal contexts. The images immediately affect the viewer, who cannot remain unmoved by the paintings’ mysterious expressions and intense colorfulness.
The Immendorf student’s themes are grouped around mythology and contemplation on everyday life and escalate into a dreamlike, unreal expressionism. Often, the boundaries of what is represented dissolve, and often the paintings acquire a meaning above and beyond that which is shown. It is then not always possible to clearly determine, what the different works are about.
Nymphs, fauns and fairies share Arfwidson’s picture world with people and animals in a partly depressing, partly unnaturally colored environment. Even everyday scenarios have a tendency to border on the absurd and expressionistic. Every gesture turns into the grotesquely emotional. Narcissus, in love with himself, with a neck that is too long and a strongly bent torso, becomes a metaphor for the consideration of and the condition of being absorbed by self-love. The ecstatically intertwined group of faun with nymph from 2007 continues in the mannered form of the surrounding group of trees. The man walking dogs, in “A Normal Day” is pulled by the reluctant animals simultaneously towards every corner of the picture and as a result, figuratively speaking, looses his head. The composition, complexly tight as in a cramp within the picture, is also typical for Sofie Arfwidson’s work.
Many of the figures depicted remain a mystery, drop out of the context of the more common art forms. Is it about Christian iconography, about themes from fairy tales and legends, about pictures as part of pop culture?
The Swede uses a complex repertoire of pictures, which she in equal parts pick up from art history, industrial graphic art and advertising pieces. Her treasure trove of pictures, which she condenses into narratives and constantly interweaves anew, has many roots and references. Quick as lightning, pictures from the movies, for instance, surface right next to motifs from 17th century graphic art (especially in the drawings). From exuberant delight with associations, complex constellations arise, that with necessity demand an interpretation. The painting entitled “1937” shows a boy, descending into a hole in the ice while shadowy beings seem to urge him on. The title begs a historic interpretation, but it is a difficult one to figure out. An unpleasant atmosphere in the picture indicates a historical connection to the Third Reich. Something authoritarian and oppressive is palpable in this picture without being really decipherable.
Even within the distinctly colorful pictures the mood remains a connecting element.
You never find an unconditionally happy atmosphere but rather a melancholic spirit with mysterious, brooding elements, a feeling that seems to very much allure to some kind of threat.
As unreal representations Sofie Arfwidson’s work show the way towards the societal conditions of our time. A longing for personal closeness and affinity is contrasted against the threat from the different components inherent in the pictures. Rarely is the moment opened up towards the great beyond, plants over-growing (choking) the beings lost in a dream or in a kiss.
Dr. des. Martin Steffens
Curator, Art Historian
Original text in German
Translated to English based on a Swedish translation of the original text by Birgitta Ormelius.