REVIEWED: Mamma Andersson: Gooseberry



By Gloria Wiley-Garcia


Established Swedish artist Mamma Andersson (b.1962) is showing Gooseberry, her fourth solo exhibition of new paintings at Stephen Friedman Gallery. Her domestic interiors are balanced with Scandinavian landscapes and surreal imagery. A clear allusion to early Modernist realism, the mysterious scenes are open to interpretation but together they leave the viewer with a sense of unease – an ominous feeling that something dark is lurking in the background. According to the press release, the show’s title refers both to the bittersweet yet aesthetically pleasing fruit and the expression “to play gooseberry” whereby a person is singled out, allowing him/her to observe a scene up close but at the same time, not being part of it. Although the fruity side of the show is rather unclear, a sense of alienation is a common thread in Andersson’s works.


Mamma Andersson, Hello, 2013           
Oil on panel. 114.5 x 166.5cm (45 1/8 x 65 5/8in)
Copyright the artist. Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.
Photography by Stephen White

Mamma Andersson, Goodbye, 2013    
Oil on panel. 114.5 x 166.5cm (45 1/8 x 65 5/8in)
Copyright the artist. Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.
Photography by Stephen White
In the first room, four paintings take the public behind the scenes of what appears to be some random movie or theatre set. In an earthy colour pallet and black, Hello (2013) and Goodbye (2013) depict the interiors of a clock shop where time appears to stand still as it is blurred out from the clocks’ faces. The shop itself is abruptly disrupted by a two-toned image (black & white and black & pink respectively) of a person in an outdoor setting. This juxtaposition makes for an interesting and surreal transition between interior and exterior spaces. Another important element is that the people in both works are Andersson’s relatives - In Hello the man who appears to be moving forward and closer to the viewer is Andersson’s grandfather and in Goodbye the female figure with her back turned against the viewer and who is walking away, is her mother. Both works allude to memory lost or missed opportunities and their composition together with their titles create an ambiguity around the artist’s family that leads to a disjointed narrative, a key feature in Andersson’s practice. 
 

Mamma Andersson, Gooseberry, 2013    
Oil on panel. 122 x 68cm (45 x 26 7/8in)
Copyright the artist. Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.
Photography by Stephen White
In the second space, the colour pallet turns darker thus making the room's aura somewhat sinister. The titular Gooseberry (2013) shows a young woman in the greenish-brown Swedish woods. She is only wearing navy blue flats and skin-toned knickers, which leave part of her bottom exposed. Surrounded by the rough elements of nature, she cuts a fragile and vulnerable figure. The whole image is so cold and disquieting that it can easily make the viewer shiver. It is hard to pinpoint Anderson’s precise intentions, but the painting can easily be read as a kidnap escape scene or possibly an image of an abused girl or woman.
Andersson’s paintings offer the viewer recognisable images depicted with a hidden sensuality and a particular texture that comes from her brush strokes on panels, something that is best admired by experiencing her works in situ. Gooseberry provides the audience with a free-interpretative puzzle waiting to be solved and from a curatorial standpoint, the pieces appear to flow effortlessly throughout the gallery’s spaces, a reflection of the artist’s close relationship with Stephen Friedman Gallery.   
 
Mamma Andersson, Backdrop, 2013    
Oil on panel. 121.5 x 167cm (47 7/8 x 65 3/4in)
Copyright the artist. Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.
Photography by Stephen White
Mamma Andersson, Family Ties, 2013    
Oil on panel. 121 x 166.5cm (47 5/8 x 65 5/8in)
Copyright the artist. Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.
Photography by Stephen White
 
MAMMA ANDERSSON: GOOSEBERRY, STEPHEN FRIEDMAN GALLERY.  London, UK. 27 Apr - 25 May 2013