Up the Public Spirit

Mar 5 - Apr 11, 2015

Christian Larsen presents the exhibition "Up the Public Spirit" by Klas Eriksson. Eriksson, born in 1976 and educated at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm, has received both public and critical acclaim for his spectacular performances with flares and colored smoke bombs in public spaces.

For this exhibition, the artist has produced a series of abstract paintings that bear deliberate references to the Swedish national romanticism and landscape painting. Instead of paint, Eriksson uses colored smoke bombs and various medium applied directly on the canvas. The colored smoke is also found in the accompanying photographic series, in which various performances in urban and rural environments in Sweden are documented. The idea of a Nation snapping, or disappearing into thin air, runs through the entire exhibition, whose centerpiece is a large sculptural work that is strongly symbolic and straightforward in it’s perceived simplicity.

Following is the exhibition text by art critic and philosopher Lars-Erik Hjertström Lappalainen.

Behind every great smoke there is a barbeque

For quite some time now Klas Eriksson has been borrowing forms and materials from the supporter culture around football. While borrowing, however, he always only extracts the colors and forms from it, leaving the football semiotics behind. Obviously, these are not only visual forms but also channels for a certain kind of energy seldom put to the service of art. There is a self magnification involved in supportership as well as a particular mode of behaviour and a particular relationship to the surroundings and, of course, the pleasure of making yourself seen and “herd” – maybe after all it is not so foreign to the art world, exception made for the energy with which Klas Eriksson's collective performances time and time again has infused the art scene. The result is a work of art that is difficult to delimit. Merchandises like scarves are of course part of the work, as well as different deeds committed by the participant, but also the photos they take. What concerns the status of the work of that a picture of a performance of his taken spontaneously by someone else can figure as a work of art in its own right, in a Klas Eriksson exhibition actually entails a profound change in the very ontology of the work of art.

Still, it is no easy piece to make the energy of his art efficient in an art space, but now it seems like Klas Eriksson really have found a solution. It's all about making every piece tipping, they must be over the top and face the intemperate. Their tendency is towards a situation where "of course anything can happen." This very illumination further builds up the energy, and that’s more or less the individual task of every piece in his installations. But it wouldn't happen if they were too much “in your face” or overtly violent. Therefore, his paintings have quite a familiar, Turneresque, romantic ­ artistic appearance now, you may even say idyllic when you consider the color splendour of his smoke bomb paintings. At this moment, I also have the impression that Klas Eriksson is maybe beginning to slip from a supporter context towards our idylls, the barbecue evening in the garden and the leisurely working on your summer house – just look at his contorted welding Welcome sign. He's aim is probably not to enhance our idyll with his work, but to access and set free the derailment energy that is there as a situation bound potential. In his Turner similar paintings there are still a smell of gunpowder (which might be good to have in mind even while looking at a Turner); you might first feel like if you we're on a vacation, looking at canonized paintings at an important museum, but it is soon converted to a perception of being in the vicinity of the forces that handles smoke bombs in a contemporary crowd. The aesthetic aspect, pushed over the top, is there to make the viewer discover that good taste is not enough here, that there is a threatening instability contained in the works. A broken flagpole ­ it's almost a symbol for a barbecue party that has got out of hands (I imagine a lonely person gone berserk in relative isolation of his or her little garden). But just as it is the host's duty to keep balance among all guests that tend to go out of control, it is the installation's thing to compensate for the tipping over of each works with another work and establish a state of quasi­ stability. In a text called something like Joie de vivre (Livsglädjen), August Strindberg explains that the very refinement of a cultivated person makes it imperative to go to a summer house ­ or to light the grill on the balcony, because it gives rise to "a need for brutality, a delirious lust to tear off your clothes and go naked, to expose what is not appropriate, to approach the repulsive, to be a happy and cheerful animal! " Everybody wants to be a “professional artist”, but with this quote in mind, I guess Klas Eriksson would rather be a holiday artist.

Lars ­Erik Hjertström Lappalainen